2022’s Startup Layoffs Will Result In 2023 Startup Wind Downs

Too Many Existing Companies Merely Delayed ‘Cash Out’ Dates Without Yet Changing Their Fates.

Hunter Walk

--

woman standing at the beginning of a very long suspension bridge, digital art [DALL-E]

If 2022 was the year of the startup layoff, 2023 is going to be the year of the wind down. It will suck — for team members, for founders, for customers of these companies, and for their investors — but by the end of the year we’ll have gotten through the toughest part of the correction.

I wrote this paragraph because we’re all coming back to work after a holiday break and wanted to preemptively address one of the two questions that seem to be taking 5–10 minutes at the start of every meeting. (Regarding the second question: yes, it was a very nice time with family).

My POV isn’t derived from a sophisticated macro analysis of the financial markets since that’s not my specialty. And isn’t accompanied by any universally applicable strategy that all teams should follow. That’s not how early stage venture is done IMO — each company has its own reality and as investors we should service founders to their needs, not some overgeneralized advice. But asserting we’re heading for increased pace of closures comes from a few on-the-ground observations:

  • 2022 Layoffs and cost cutting have preserved already raised capital but in a significant number of situations this has just kicked the ‘are we investable’ ball down the road.
  • In 2023 there will be a number of Series A-D companies that cannot clear that bar. And not enough venture investors willing to provide ‘bridges to nowhere’ (low growth, middling margins, no natural acquirers, team attrition ongoing, and so on). Think of it this way: add up all the anticipated 2023/24 capital needs of existing startups not in the top 10% of performance. It’s going to be larger than the ‘dry powder’ private investors are allocating to deploy into second decile performers.
  • And there’s still quite a bit of valuation compression that needs to occur in order to reconcile private marks with public stocks. This might not deter all venture investors, but it will deter crossover funds.

I say this all very much being a technology optimist. There are many startups accelerating their growth right now, and…

--

--

Hunter Walk

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .