Investor Survey – Insights on COVID-19 Impact

The ScaleUp Group COVID-19 Scaleup Investor Survey reveals most early-stage Funds are still investing in new opportunities but guardedly and 100% will look to back current portfolio too.

Commenting on the poll ScaleUp Group Executive Chair, John O’Connell said ”No doubt each reader will extract the conclusion which suits them best. However, it is clear that any Company which does not reassess as a matter of urgency and drastically its business model is running the risk of either oblivion or being discarded as an Investment potential by Funds, or both, from ‘burying their heads in the sand’. I would like to take the opportunity to thank each of these funds for responding as they have, grappling as they are with some severe challenges.”

One Fund manager summed it up by saying ”Some companies will benefit from the current crisis and the focus on remote working. I suspect these companies will get lots of attention and premium valuations. […] But a number of companies will fail. Many of which had failing business models but the CV and weakening of the capital markets will accelerate their failure.”

ScaleUp Group remains committed to supporting clients in developing and executing their scaleup growth plans during the current COVID-19 crisis in line with our mission Grow Global Champions.

To gain insights into growth investor sentiment, ScaleUp Group took a poll of Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) and non-VCTs focused on investing in early-stage Series A and up businesses from 20th-23rd March 2020. For expediency, the survey was limited to only 5 questions, requiring a YES or NO.

Here are the full survey Questions, Results & Comments from Fund Managers

1. Has CV stopped you from making new investments with new opportunities?
   NO – 80%

2. Has CV stopped you from making new investments with current portfolio companies?
    NO – 100%

3. Has (or will) the Crisis lowered valuations significantly, across the board?
    YES – 90%

4. Especially for certain sectors such as Hospitality, Travel, Sports, Leisure?
    YES – 80%

5. If you are continuing to invest in new opportunities will the Crisissignificantly lengthen the process of diligence?
    NO – 90%

Comments from Fund Managers

“Cash preservation is king; all portfolio companies are being told to assume no new funding for at least a year so cut costs or slow down; assume customer orders will be reduced.”

“We’ll know a lot more in 3 months, so are holding off on any short term decisions unless necessary. Looking after our portfolio is a priority, followed by late-stage commitments.”

“For most of our companies, we take a long term view of their potential, so really the issue is working capital/funding over the next 24 months and the likely lack of new equity that will be available, or at least on acceptable terms. So weathering the medium-term storm is a priority. Some investment processes have been aborted or postponed”

“We haven’t undertaken a revaluation exercise in the last two weeks since the situation deteriorated most significantly. We have seen valuations on some quoted opportunities significantly fall. In particular, in those sectors (Hospitality; Travel) where fundraises have also been put on hold.”

“In some situations, we need to move more quickly if businesses urgently need growth capital. In others we might slow the process down to get a better sense of the impact of C19, in particular, if there is a significant money-out component or if the business would be better to delay a scale-up phase of investment until the situation becomes clearer”

“We are still very much open for business but we understand some other investment funds may be pausing their strategy for a few months.”

“Revaluation, I think the private market is taking a bit to adjust as founders build updated business plans & fundraising plans”“Our view is that you need to factor in the new environment we are in(Re Completion timescales) Unclear as of now. One question is also if we would be comfortable executing a deal all via video calls, without meeting management F2F. And I think the answer is no”

“Q1 bar will be higher. On VCY side we will prioritise larger, more stable assets with more evidence of ROI. On buy-out/replacement capital sidebar will also be high.
Q2 but in practice, most are digesting the impact. Acquisitions are likely to be opportunistic
Q3 yes. It should do. The valuations have been at times ridiculous for the last 2-3 years.
Q4 Not all sectors. Always a premium for a good business in a good market.
Q5 DD shouldn’t lengthen, but it will be completed properly”

“Re Q3, I think valuations will come down, reflecting the lowered expectations of financial performance for most businesses. I also think that CV-19 will have precipitated the much-awaited correction in tech valuations. Re Q4, I think new investing in these sectors will drop off dramatically until the end of the current crisis is in sight.”

“Some companies will benefit from the current crisis and the focus on remote working. I suspect these companies will get lots of attention and premium valuations.”

“A number of companies will fail. Many of which had failing business models but the CV and weakening of the capital markets will accelerate their failure.”

“Currently lobbying Government to see if VCT rules can be removed to allow for investments in older companies and via short term loans. I wouldn’t hold your breaths.”

“Broadly, we will be doing new investments but are in no hurry to do them. This is partly us in terms of focus on the portfolio. However, there is a large part of the potential investee too – they need to adjust their plan to the developing situation just the same way we are doing in the portfolio. It’s unthinkable that we will back a plan that was written 3 weeks ago at this juncture. There is also a question of valuation – we know that valuations have reset significantly across the board, but need to understand what the valuations we transact should be. We expect to be supporting our portfolio and have substantial cash to do this as per our strategy. I don’t think DD itself will lengthen but we are not going to be in a rush to go hard on anything.”

“My personal take is that we’ll see a couple of weeks of growth companies holding their valuations until they realise it’s become a buyers’ market and then they will start to fall. Deliverability will soon become the most important element of a term sheet. It is very dependent on the sector and business model.”

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