As for venture capital, after hovering below $30 billion for the past four years, total venture capital disbursements could reach $36 billion this year if 2014’s Q1 numbers continue, according to National Venture Capital Association (NCVA) data.
But the lack of growth in VC funds the past few years doesn’t lend much hope for an influx of new money available to startups. These data seem to indicate money isn’t as easy to come by as we would probably see if we were in a bubble.
Indeed, in December 2012, CB Insights predicted 1,000 startups would die because they wouldn’t be able to raise a series A round. There is still little data to determine whether the research company was correct, but the fact such a shortage was even predicted indicates money may not be as readily available as it would be if we were in a bubble.
Yo and the Future
Not surprisingly, the data show a mixed picture about the possible future of the app and tech economy. While we see some typical characteristics of a bubble—prices are rising and interest rates are low—money isn’t as easy to come by as one would think based on Yo’s easy raise.
Given the average angel investment was $350,000 last year, Yo’s $1.2 million seed round doesn’t just seem high—it is high. It bucks the trend, and could either be viewed as an anomaly and not representative of app companies’ ability to raise and receive funds, or as the beginning of a new norm for the app economy.
Bowman was surprised by the Yo raise, but also sees the side of the investors.
“My bet is the investors believe there is real monetization potential. Or don’t want to miss out on the next Snapchat or Instagram,” he said. “Maybe what’s a little more surprising is that the founders decided to raise a large round in the first place here.”
After all, how much money do you need to grow a business based on one simple message?
Why you should care
Following all the bubble talk can be exhausting and time-consuming—every week, a new expert has an opinion on whether we’re in one.
And unfortunately, I can’t definitively say we are or are not in a bubble.
But what I can confidently say, and have heard Bowman say in a lecture to UNC students, is that most goods and services hit a ceiling at some point. And so it’s reasonable to predict that, regardless of whether the app or tech economy is in a bubble, apps and their distribution and some parts of the broader tech sector could eventually hit a ceiling.
When I asked Bowman how Appia would respond to a big change in the economy, he said, “We have transitioned from a content distribution network in 2011 to a leading mobile user acquisition network today. We remain focused on solving the mobile monetization and discovery challenge, but the definition of that changes quickly. We have set ourselves up to be agile enough to pivot with it.”
As a side note, Bowman allegedly also keeps a Magic-8-Ball sitting on his desk, which right now says, “Signs point to yes.” So whatever their future holds, Appia has an 8-ball on its side—do you?
In all seriousness, is your company ready to pivot or reinvent yourself if the app economy reaches its peak?
If not, it could be time to start thinking about what and how you would transition if the app economy hits the ceiling. Checking in on the bubble talk occasionally is important because it could help keep your feet on the ground, and enable you to quickly change course if need be.
Hopefully, Yo is just a flash in the pan and isn’t evidence of a decline in the app or tech economy. But it’s always good to prepare—the last thing I think anyone wants is to be left standing holding a bunch of worthless tulip bulbs.