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股市下跌,创业企业的冬天来了?

更新时间:2015-8-25 19:55:52 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Hot Tech Start-Ups May Face a Long and Bumpy Fall
股市下跌,创业企业的冬天来了?

SAN FRANCISCO — As stock markets have tumbled, public company shareholders were not the only ones wondering what would become of their portfolios. Venture capitalists also began fretting about whether the plunge — which resulted last week in the worst week for American stocks since 2011 and a renewed sell-off on Monday — would cool the heady market for shares of private companies, especially in Silicon Valley.

旧金山——股票市场暴跌以后,不是只有上市公司股东在考虑自己的投资组合会受什么影响。风险资本投资者也会开始担心,股市大跌是否会让正使人飘飘然的私有企业估值市场降温,尤其是硅谷的科技创业公司。上周已创下自2011年以来最大跌幅的美国股市,本周一又再度下挫。

There is reason to worry: The number of start-ups valued at $1 billion or more has jumped to at least 131, up from less than a dozen in 2010, according to the research firm CB Insights. The total amount of venture money invested has also more than doubled, to $50 billion in 2014, from $23 billion in 2010, with venture funding in the second quarter exceeding $17 billion for the first time since the end of 2000, according to the National Venture Capital Association. All of that froth has some wondering if it’s time for Silicon Valley’s heat to cool off.

人们有理由担心:据调研公司CB Insights统计,估值达到10亿美元及以上的创业公司的数量,已经从2010年的10家左右,增长到至少131家。美国国家投资风险协会(National Venture Capital Association)的数据显示,风投资本总额也增加了一倍多,从2010年的230亿美元,达到2014年的500亿美元。今年二季度,投资额自2000年以来首次超过170亿美元。所有这些泡沫让人怀疑,硅谷是不是到了该降温的时候。

Yet those anticipating a collapse in start-up land will probably have to wait. Any adverse effect on venture-backed companies is likely to be uneven and more complicated than a straight bust. Instead, the effect of a stock market rout is set to move slowly across the start-up landscape, creating a gulf between well-run companies with achievable business plans and those that were funded as part of the back-everything frenzy that began earlier in the decade. But once negative sentiment takes hold, a more widespread downward spiral could quickly unfold.

但那些预测创业公司大面积倒闭的人可能还要再等一等。对于有风险资本支持的企业的任何不利影响,可能都不会是整齐划一的,而且不是直接破产那么简单。事实上股市大跌将会缓慢地波及整个创业领域,而且会大大拉开两类企业的差距,即那些运营良好、有可行商业计划的创业公司,和那些被2010年代开始的什么都投的疯狂投资潮裹挟,顺带拿到投资的企业。不过,一旦负面情绪占主导,一种更大范围内的螺旋式下降可能也会很快展开。

The reason that there will most likely be no uniform start-up deflation is rooted in the pricing of private company stocks. The prices for start-up shares, which are closely held by small groups of investors, generally reset only when the founders go into the market to raise money. (In contrast, public stock prices rise and fall every day in response to a company’s performance and market sentiment.)

创业公司不太会出现整齐划一的萎缩现象,其根本原因在于私有企业股份的定价方式。它由一小群投资者牢牢掌控,一般只有在创始人进入市场进行融资时才会有所调整。(相比之下,上市公司股票每天都会随公司业绩和市场行情变化而上下起伏。)

Over the last few years, start-up share prices have gone up nearly every time a private company has raised money. Investors were largely optimistic and generous because they assumed that a variety of factors — including low interest rates, a strengthening American economy and the growing Chinese middle class — would keep the markets positive. Spending more to help a start-up grow into a huge company seemed like a reasonable bet.

过去几年,每次有一家私有企业拿到融资,创业公司的估值几乎都要跟着涨一轮。投资者多半很乐观,也比较慷慨,因为他们想当然地认为有各种各样的因素——包括低利率、逐渐增强的美国经济和日渐增多的中国中产阶级消费者——会让市场保持这样的积极势头。投入更多资本帮助创业公司发展为大型企业,似乎是一个合乎情理的赌注。

It is only when companies absolutely need to collect new financing that the rubber may hit the road — that’s when investors may want more reassurances that the start-ups can survive without the crutch of venture money to subsidize growth. If a start-up cannot provide those reassurances, or if a company has burned through all of its money from previous funding rounds without reaching agreed-upon goals, that could spell trouble.

只有在企业极其需要新融资的时候,才会面临真正的挑战,这种时候投资者可能更想确认创业公司是否能不依赖烧钱促增长,而是自己活下去。如果一个创业公司不能确保做到这一点,或者它用完之前几轮融资的钱之后没有实现之前约定的目标,那就意味着,麻烦来了。

So in the immediate future, a downturn that spreads to Silicon Valley start-ups “will affect those companies that need to raise capital,” said Matthew Rubin, the director of investment strategy at the asset management firm Neuberger Berman. He said it could take several months for a market collapse to affect the valuations of high-flying private tech names.

所以,不久的未来,市场衰退波及硅谷创业公司时候,“将会影响到那些需要融资的公司,”资产管理公司纽伯格伯曼(Neuberger Berman)投资策略总监马修·鲁宾(Matthew Rubin)说。他表示,市场暴跌可能要在几个月后才会影响到高居不下的私营科技公司估值。

Bill Gurley, a prominent venture capitalist, raised the issue of changing fortunes for start-ups last week when he voiced his fears of about a slowdown on Twitter. “Investors are likely to refocus on business model viability and path to profitability,” he wrote. “This will seem like an abrupt sea change to many.” He wondered how many entrepreneurs would be prepared for such a shift.

上周,在Twitter上表达自己对市场衰退的担心时,知名风险投资人比尔·格利(Bill Gurley)提到了可能会改变创业公司命运的问题。“投资者有可能会将注意力重新放在商业模式可行性和盈利途径上,”他写道。“这对很多企业来说可是巨变。”他怀疑很多创业者对这样的转变是没有准备的。

Start-ups that cannot adapt to a world that prizes profit over growth may ultimately be forced to raise money at the same or lower valuation than in the past, something referred to as a “down round.” Those can be debilitating: Employee stock options usually become less valuable when a company’s valuation falls, making it harder to retain people. If a company has raised many rounds of capital, later investors often have protections that guarantee a specific cash payout or return on investment. In a down round, those protections are paid for out of the returns that would have gone to earlier investors and employees.

在一个看重盈利胜过增长的世界里,无法适应的创业公司最终会被迫以与过去一样或更低的估值融资,即“贬值融资”(down round)。这些情况往往会给公司带来打击:当公司估值降低,员工手上的股票期权往往也变的更没有价值,也就更难留住人。如果公司已经经过多轮融资,投资者往往会在后期的融资中加入一些保护性条款,以保障自身能拿到一定数额的一次性现金,或让公司返还一部分投资。在进行贬值融资的时候,公司就得拿出这些保护性条款约定的金额支付给早先的投资者和员工。

As those companies flounder, however, others that have been prudent stewards of capital and can show a path toward profit will still attract capital, especially as billions of dollars held by venture and sovereign wealth funds have not yet been invested.

但是,在这些公司陷入困难的同时,其他一些在资本使用上比较谨慎而且能找到盈利途径的创业公司却还能继续吸引投资,尤其是风险和主权财富基金还有数十亿美元资金没有投出去的情况下。

Since 2014, venture firms including Norwest Venture Partners, Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz and Institutional Venture Partners have each raised at least $1 billion for new funds. Temasek, Singapore’s state investment company, and other sovereign funds have also begun putting more money into private tech companies.

自2014年以来,包括诺维斯特风险投资(Norwest Venture Partners)、创始人基金(Founders Fund)、安德森-霍洛维茨(Andreessen Horowitz)和机构风险合伙公司(Institutional Venture Partners)在内的多家风投机构,已经分别募集至少10亿美元资金。新加坡国有投资公司淡马锡(Temasek)和其他主权基金也已经开始向私有科技公司投入更多资金。

Venky Ganesan, a managing director at Menlo Ventures, said the phenomenon of high-valuation tech start-ups and a market awash in easy money encouraged companies to spend at breakneck speeds.

门罗风投(Menlo Ventures)常务董事文奇·加纳森(Venky Ganesan)表示,科技类创业公司估值高的现象和这样一个易于融资的市场,会鼓励企业以极快的速度花掉融资。

“There is already a chill in the late-stage funding market,” he said. That’s partly because start-ups have become dependent on mutual funds and other public market investors for cash. Every quarter they can mark down the value of their private holdings, which could cast doubt on the valuations of start-ups in the same lines of business. “If you see down rounds and mutual funds report losses on private companies, then things will spiral downward very fast,” Mr. Ganesan said. “Like in ‘Game of Thrones,’ winter is coming.”

“在晚期融资领域,已经能感觉到几分寒意,”他说。部分原因在于,创业公司已经对共同基金和其他公开市场投资者的资金产生依赖。他们可以每个月标低私人持有股份的价值,这会让人对从事同类业务的创业公司的估值产生怀疑。“一旦发现有贬值融资,共同基金报出在私有企业的投资出现损失,接下来的螺旋式下降会非常快,”加纳森说。“就像《权力的游戏》(Game of Thrones)里一样,冬天就要来了。”

Kevin Mak, the director of Stanford’s Real-Time Analysis and Investment Lab, said financing was still readily available for young companies. He is also an adviser to a three-year-old commerce start-up called Massdrop that closed a $40 million investment two weeks ago.

斯坦福大学实时分析与投资实验室(Real-Time Analysis and Investment Lab)主任凯文·麦(Kevin Mak)表示,资本仍然乐意向年轻创业公司投资。他同时也是成立三年的商务类创业公司Massdrop的顾问,该公司两周前刚刚完成一笔4000万美元的融资。

“We started the fund-raising process two and a half months ago when the market was falling and it didn’t have a major effect,” Mr. Mak said. “When and if we see the market fall 20 percent or more, it will filter through more. But it will primarily be the frothiness of the market coming down.”

“我在两个半月前开始进行这轮融资,当时股市在跌,但并没有对我们产生太大影响,”马克说。“如果跌幅达到20%或更多,会过滤掉更多公司。但它主要是市场下降过程中滤掉的泡沫。”

It is probably not a bad thing if some private companies stumble, since the start-up market lately has been like Lake Wobegon, a place where all businesses have been above average. Any venture capitalist will also say that the majority of start-up investments lose money and the few bets that pay off offset the losses. So it may be better to identify ailing companies, especially among the enormous $1 billion valuation club, earlier rather than later.

有一些私有企业倒下未尝不是好事,因为最近的创业市场已经有点像沃贝贡湖(Lake Wobegon),一个所有公司生意都好于平均水平的地方。任何一个风险投资人也都会说,大部分投资项目都是亏钱的,少数下对赌注的也不过换来盈亏相抵。所以,能由此辨别出境况不佳的公司可能更好,尤其是位列10亿美元估值梯队的公司,早发现比晚发现好。

“Lots of founders today weren’t around in 1999 and they don’t know a thing about financial markets beyond what’s happened in the last 24 months,” Mr. Gurley said in an interview. “To them that’s how this game is played, money is cheap and everything goes up. That’s why we have cycles.”

“如今的很多创业者,并没有经历过1999年的情况,除了过去两年的情况,他们对金融市场一无所知,”格利在接受采访时讲到。“对他们来说,金融市场就是那样,钱来得容易,所有公司估值都在往上涨。所以才会有这样的循环。”

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