When a company that’s never raised money before suddenly closes a humungous Series A round, there’s a strong probability that the firm providing the funding is Accel Partners.
An analysis of the ten largest first-time technology financing rounds of the past year showed that in half of the deals, either Accel or an affiliated fund, such as Accel-KKR or IDG-Accel, was a backer.
Of those, three came from Accel’s internal growth fund. They include Qualtrics, an analytics software provider that raised $70 million in May, Lightspeed Retail, a provider of retail management applications that raised $30 million in June, and Code 42 Software, a cloud-based backup service that raised $52 million in January. Though all those companies were a few years old, none had raised venture capital before.
The strategy of going after successful, bootstrapped companies isn’t a new one for Accel. Two years ago, for instance, the firm invested $60 million in Atlassian Software, the fast-growing Sydney-based provider of software project management tools, marking Accel’s largest-ever investment in the sector.
Yet funding records indicate the mammoth Series A has become increasingly popular for the firm – a trend that Ryan Sweeney, who leads Accel’s Internet and software growth investments, confirms.
“You tend to have a little higher price, but you also have a little less risk,” Sweeney says regarding the company’s recent swath of large first-time rounds. It’s a strategy he practiced also in his former post, at Summit Partners, a growth investor with a long history of backing profitable businesses with no prior funding history. Accel, for its part, has plenty of cash to put to work, too, having closed its $875 million Accel Growth Fund II in June of last year.
Like most venture negotiations that culminate in unusually large financings, these big, first-time rounds tend to be competitive. That’s particularly true since the sought-after companies tend to be already profitable, accustomed to operating on a shoestring budget, and not at all sure they ought to raise money.
“These companies have a lot of options, and there tend to be a handful of other firms that are calling on them,” Sweeney says. Accel has some advantages in that it’s one of the best-known venture capital firms and has deep connections throughout the technology industry. In its more recent investments, the firm has also been open to making investments that include some purchases of shares from founders. But it can still take some wooing.
Partners can rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles in the process, too. Another interesting thing to note is that while Accel may be a quintessential big Silicon Valley venture firm, its growth portfolio is quite geographically dispersed. The growth fund’s last three biggest first-time investments, for instance, are in companies based in Provo, Utah, Minneapolis and Montreal.
That’s by no means an accident, according to Sweeney, as companies further from Silicon Valley are more likely to bootstrap, as their access to venture capital at the early stages of development is more limited.
Following we look at five big first rounds with Accel or an affiliated fund among the investors.
Business: Develops tools for retail sales management.
Funding: $30 million first round in June
Backers: Accel Partners (Accel Growth Fund II)
Image: Accel Partners