Fundings & Exits

The pendulum will swing away from founder friendly venture raises

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

This morning brought fresh economic bad news for the US economy, with over 700,000 jobs lost in the latest report, despite the window of time measured not including some of March’s worst days, and the data itself not counting as many individuals as it might have; the unemployment rate still rose nearly a full point to 4.4%. The barometer generally expected to rise far higher in a month’s time.

Rising unemployment, markets in bear territory, shocking weekly unemployment claims, and some major states just starting lockdowns paint the picture of protracted downturn that has swamped our national and state-led economic response. Some help is coming, but individual payments are probably too small and too late. And a key program aimed at helping small businesses is rife with operational mistakes that will at least delay rollout.

It’s an economic catastrophe, and one that won’t lead to anything like a V-shaped recovery, the vaunted shape that everyone holding equities through the crisis was hoping for. We’re entering a prolonged slump. Precisely how bad isn’t yet known, yes, but it’s going to be bad, with unemployment staying elevated into 2021.

The impacts of the national economic slowdown are going to change the face of venture capital as we’ve come to know it during the last ten years. How so? Let’s talk about it.

After picking through some COVID-19-focused PitchBook data this morning, it’s clear that the era of founder friendly venture terms is heading for a reset. Even more, recent economic and market data, TechCrunch research and select trends already in motion help paint a picture of a changed startup reality.

So this morning let’s talk about what is coming up for the world of upstart companies and risk embracing capital.

Nordic challenger bank Lunar adds €20M to its Series B

Lunar, the Nordic challenger bank that started out life as a personal finance manager app (PFM) but since acquired a full banking license last year, has extended it Series B round with an additional €20 million in funding. It brings the Series B total to €46 million, having disclosed €26 million in August last year.

The Series B extension is led by Seed Capital, with participation from Greyhound, Socii, and Augustinus. In addition, I’m told that David Helgason, founder of Unity Technologies, has joined the round.

The mobile-only bank is also announcing that Ole Mahrt, Monzo’s former head of product from 2015-2019, is joining the company’s board of directors. The other non-executive board seats are held by Henning Kruse Pedersen, former CEO of Nykredit, Tuva Palm, former CTO at Nordnet Bank and Director at Klarna, Gary Bramall, CMO of Zoopla, and Lars Andersen, general partner at Seed Capital.

Having acquired a banking license, Lunar launched its new bank in March, which it says it built from scratch. Accounts are offered for free, alongside a subscription-based service Lunar Premium. In the coming months, the challenger bank says it plans to launch other new financial products including credit facilities, loans and “sustainability driven services,” in a bit to become a fully-fledged alternative to incumbent banks in the Nordics.

Lunar also offers “Lunar Business,” catering for small business banking, including accounting software integrations, loans, and more.

“We are pleased to extend our latest funding round and bolster Lunar’s pan-Nordic play,” says Ken Villum Klausen, founder and CEO of Lunar. “We have a vertical strategy focusing only on the Nordics, allowing us to go deep into the defensive banking infrastructure”.

Meanwhile, Lunar claims more than 150,000 users in the Nordics. The bank has offices in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, and currently has just over 120 employees.

How 6 top VCs are adapting to the new uncertainty

As the global economy grinds to a halt, every business sector has been impacted, including the linked worlds of startups and venture capital.

But how much has really changed? If you read VC Twitter, you might think that nothing has changed at all. It’s not hard to find investors who say they are still cutting checks and doing deals. But as Q1 venture data trickles in, it appears that a slowdown in VC activity is gradually forming, something that founders have anecdotally shared with TechCrunch.

To get a better handle on how venture capitalists are approaching today’s market, TechCrunch corresponded with a number of active investors to learn how their investment selection process might be changing in light of COVID-19 and its related disruptions. We wanted to know how their investing cadence in Q1 2020 compared to the final quarter of 2019 and the prior-year period. We also asked if their focus had changed, how valuations have shifted and what their take on the LP market is today.

We heard back from Duncan Turner of SOSV, Alex Doll of TenEleven Ventures, Alex Niehenke of Scale Venture Partners, Paul Murphy of Northzone, Sean Park of Anthemis and John Vrionis of Unusual Ventures.

We’ll start with the key themes from their answers and then share each set of responses in detail.

Three key themes for raising in 2020

The VCs who responded haven’t slowed their investing pace — yet.

There’s likely some selection bias at work, but the venture capitalists who were willing to answer our questions were quick to note that they wrote a similar number of checks in Q1 2020 as in both Q4 2019 (the sequentially preceding quarter) and Q1 2019 (the year-ago quarter). Some were even willing to share numbers.