Peak venture in Europe? Private markets make for strange numbers

There's little point calling the top of a market. If you're right, you're the harbinger of very bad news. If you're wrong, you're a pessimist.

The news that European venture financing has slowed considerably in Q3 was surprising (VentureBeat based on Dow Jones report, [PDF]).

European VC financing in Q3 according to Dow Jones was $5.2 billion (€4.5 billion), down 21% year-on-year. We already knew the number of financings is falling. This trend is continuing: 9% fewer deals than in the same quarter last year. According to Dow Jones. Which kind of is the operative qualifier here.

If you look at Invest Europe numbers (the association of the venture capital and private equity industry in Europe), the Dow Jones numbers don't make that much sense.* According to them, European venture firms invested $7.4 billion (€6.4 billion) in total in 2017, a ten year high. That would assume international investors make up more than 50% of the market in Europe (I really doubt it). 

Anecdotally, the market in Europe at growth stage is red hot. Lots of new capital, deals happening very rapidly, limited diligence being done. Things have changed dramatically over the last five years.

In Series Seed and early Series A (€2-€5 million), we are seeing more hesitancy and more waiting around for syndicates to emerge. That's a pity, but it's the reality of a market that had a large influx of new funds which are still finding their feet.

Perhaps this is what a peak feels like. Overall Europe is a sleepy backwater compared to China and the US. 

But I hesitate in calling the top of this market. There's still so much potential in Europe and companies can really emerge from places not previously perceived as hubs (see UIPath, Wargaming, Outfit7). 

*If you disagree, please comment. Zero ego here - more interested in the truth and clean data.