SAN FRANCISCO — Taking their cue from the skittish stock market, venture capitalists continue to scale back their fund-raising efforts for future investments, according to industry figures released Monday.
Venture capitalists raised $1.7 billion in the third quarter, a 76 percent drop from the same time last year when the industry collected $7 billion from investment partners, said Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association.
The slowdown continued a retrenchment that began after the dot-com investment bubble burst 2 1/2 years ago.
As the Internet business woes spread throughout the high-tech industry, the stock market turned a cold shoulder toward most of the unprofitable startups financed by venture capitalists.
The frigid investment conditions have saddled venture capitalists with the worst losses in the industry’s history and made them more reluctant to finance other startups. Venture capitalists invested $16.9 billion during the first nine months of this year, a 50 percent drop from last year, according to Venture Economics.
“If the market is ugly, why should you raise more money and risk losing even more? It’s better to wait until things get better,” said Wes Raffel, a general partner with Advanced Technology Ventures in Palo Alto.
Like a lot of venture capital firms, Advanced Technology is still sitting on a pile of money raised during the boom times. An estimated $90 billion in venture capital still needs to be invested, lessening the need to raise more money.
Most of that money poured into venture capital during the Internet frenzy of 1999 and 2000, when the industry raised $159 billion.
The industry’s surplus is so large that venture capitalists refunded $2.7 billion during the second quarter. An insignificant number of refunds occurred in the third quarter, said Jess Reyes, a vice president for Venture Economics.
Based on the patterns of past industry slumps, Reyes expects the venture capital drought to last at least six more months.
This already shapes up as the industry’s driest year since 1993, when venture capitalists raised $3.7 billion. Venture capitalists this year are on pace to raise $7.3 billion, slightly below the $7.8 billion collected in 1994, according to the National Venture Capital Association.
Some venture capitalists think the industry should throttle back even more.
“We are still raking in too much money,” said Mark Saul, general partner with Foundation Capital in Menlo Park. “There are still too many venture capitalists chasing after a limited number of good deals.”