While investments may have declined sharply in the quarter, one silver lining may be that many of the deals went to early-stage companies, suggesting that the region is still churning out startups.
Washington state, which generally ranks among the top five states in venture-capital investments, dropped to No. 12 during the fourth quarter.
Startups in the state raised $165.7 million in 25 deals during the quarter, a 57 percent drop from the same period last year, when $389.6 million was invested in 29 deals, according to the MoneyTree report being released Friday from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters.
The decline may be disappointing to startups and investors, but the number of deals suggests an upside, said Stephen Sommerville, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Seattle.
Many of the deals went to companies in the early stages of business, suggesting the region is still churning out growing startups.
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For the year overall, Washington remained strong, ranking No. 4 in investment totals, trailing California, New York and Massachusetts.
Washington companies raised $1.2 billion in 116 deals in 2015, compared with $1.3 billion raised in 2014.
Nationally, companies experienced a dip in the fourth quarter. They raised $11.3 billion in 962 deals, compared with $15.7 billion in the same period last year.
Part of the dip may be seasonal. The holidays can slow activity, said Geoff Entress, a venture partner with Voyager Capital in Seattle and co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs.
The bigger reason may be hesitation over so-called “unicorns,” or privately held companies valued at more than a billion dollars, and how well they will perform on the public market, Entress said.
Both Box and Square — two highly valued Silicon Valley companies that had initial public offerings in 2015 — performed worse than expected. Many think that has caused investors to hesitate when it comes to investing in later-stage deals.
The MoneyTree report differs quite a bit from year-end data from Seattle’s PitchBook Data, which reported that Pacific Northwest companies raised $2.4 billion in 2015.
The discrepancies come mainly from methodology and timing; some deals may be recorded in different years, depending on when the research firms get the information.
Both reports showed the same general trend. Amounts for the full year remain strong, but the fourth quarter was hit hard.
For the Washington state results, another reason for the up-and-down results may be a few big deals can swing results one way or another.
The third quarter received a big boost from a $71.5 million round to Avvo and a $41 million round to PicMonkey, but the fourth quarter had only one large round.
“In Seattle, we have a smaller number of these later-stage high-valuation companies,” Entress said. “Especially if companies raised as much money as we saw early in the year, they likely weren’t going out again at the end of the year.”
Endogastric Solutions, a medical-device company in Redmond, was the single late-stage round during the fourth quarter.
The company raised $50 million in December, the first large fundraising round to go to one of the region’s medical-device companies in more than a year, Sommerville said.
Twelve-year-old Endogastric creates surgical devices for acid-reflux procedures. The company has raised more than $100 million total and plans to use the latest round to hire employees and work with insurance companies to get reimbursement plans for the procedure, CEO Skip Baldino said.
Endogastric’s technology has been used in more than 17,500 procedures, and the company plans to focus on further commercializing it this year.
According to MoneyTree, Seattle startup Dolly, which arranges for pickups on demand to help people move, had the state’s second-largest round of the quarter, with $13 million.
It was followed by energy-storage company UniEnergy Technologies, which raised $12 million (the company says the complete round was $25 million); training app Mazlo, which raised $10 million; and sales-tracking startup Outreach, which raised $9.2 million.