Privately held start-up technology companies have been all the rage over the past few years, with 115 of them now valued at $1 billion or more, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Those companies are known as "unicorns," named after the mythical horned beast. But now these beasts may be losing their horns. The plunging stock market puts them at risk. The S&P 500 index has dropped 11 percent from its May 20 record high.
, a managing director at Menlo Ventures, told The New York Times that start-ups have been spending money like drunken sailors recently.
"There is already a chill in the late-stage funding market," he said.
Start-ups have turned to mutual funds to finance much of their cash needs. “If you see down rounds and mutual funds report losses on private companies, then things will spiral downward very fast,” he said. “Like in ‘Game of Thrones,’ winter is coming.”
It is mainly institutions, of course, that invest in venture capital. As for the retail side of the investing world, the stock market's slide could help drive individual investors away from equities for years, says ace hedge fund manager Doug Kass
, president of Seabreeze Partners Management.
He lists several factors that could repel investors from equities in a commentary on TheStreet.com:
- "The Ongoing Bear Market." The stock drop was preceded by a plunge in commodity prices that has sent major indices to 16-year lows. Gold prices hit five-year lows, and oil prices cratered to six-year lows. "Big Oil and others hit by this bear market are often mainstays in retail investors' accounts," Kass writes.
- "A Broken Market Mechanism. The market's mechanism has been virtually destroyed by increased and more-costly regulatory burdens," Kass says. "These serve to limit dealer inventories in numerous asset classes and impair market liquidity, creating a vacuum that's taken up by leveraged ETFs and high-frequency trading strategies." The ETF market has encountered liquidity problems of its own during the market tumble.
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