Over the past several years, growth equity investing has increasingly been in the spotlight. Minority stakes that usually come toward the end of the last round of financing, growth equity investments offer a safer way to bolster growth in more established companies.
“As a minority investor, what we’re looking for is an alignment of interests with the people leading the company and other shareholders,” says Bill E. Ford, CEO of General Atlantic. “We manage risk not by being in control but by having a shared vision of the company’s future.”
Growth equity differs significantly from leveraged buyouts and venture capital. Leveraged buyouts typically involve mature companies that may be growing less aggressively. The buyouts are typically used to facilitate the assumption of debt. Venture capital investors expect to receive preferred equity positions in young companies, usually sharing control with a group of other investors.
CB Insights analyzed the activity of 13 growth equity investors including General Atlantic, Summit Partners, and Lead Edge Capital, from 2010 through the third quarter of 2015 in order to analyze trends in the sector.
Between 2010 and 2014, growth equity dollars invested grew 376 percent, and deals completed grew 134 percent. From January 1 through October 22, 2015, $8.5 billion was invested across 130 deals, including the selected firms.
Although growth equity investments have been trending upward, 2015 funding numbers were strongly influenced by General Atlantic’s participation in Airbnb’s $1.5 billion round, Technology Crossover Ventures’ investment in Spotify, and Insight Venture Partners’ investment in Zenefits.
Despite these large investments, the median growth equity round size dropped 18 percent from January 1 through Q3 of 2015. In the five previous years, the median had grown 155 percent.
As is to be expected, the internet sector is drawing the lion’s share of growth equity investment at 71 percent of deal share from January through October of 2015. Groups like General Atlantic, Catalyst Investors, and Tahosa Capital invest primarily in technology companies for solid results.
Investment in mobile firms has remained consistent at around 8 percent of growth equity investments. However, investment in software is fluctuating—it declined from 20 percent of the deals in 2010 to 6 percent in 2015. However, in late 2015, software investment dollars were on an upward trend. In contrast, growth equity investment in the healthcare and financial sectors has steadily declined since 2010.
Although growth equity investment dollar amounts may fluctuate from year to year, current analysis indicates it is on an upward trend, perhaps because many venture capital-funded technology startups are coming of age and entering a phase in their lives where they can benefit from additional capital to expand their growth.