How Big is the Secondary Market for Venture Capital?

October 25, 2019
In Blog By Hans Swildens, Victor Hwang, and Nick Laszlo

By Hans Swildens, Victor Hwang, and Nick Laszlo

“How big is the market?”, a question we are commonly asked due to our investments in the secondary venture market. This can be difficult to answer for a variety of reasons, the main one is confidentiality. Most sales/investments are not publicly announced.

Our estimates are not only based on our internal pipeline of investment opportunities, but also on volume estimates published by brokers (only a portion of the market is brokered). The number of different investment types in the market also make estimating its size difficult. However, we believe the majority of the transaction volume is in direct secondary investments (sales of individual company shares and portfolios of shares) and limited partnership interests (the investment made into venture funds). Other sub segments of the market include fund restructurings, loan agreements and forward contracts.

In aggregate, we estimate that the market will grow to over $50B this year, versus $35B last year. The bulk of the volume being in the secondary direct market ($38B estimate[i]) and the secondary limited partnership market ($7.5B estimated [ii]). A breakdown of these markets and historical growth rates are below.

We believe the secondary direct market’s supply of shares is primarily driven by the combination of venture funded companies staying private longer and also by the growth in valuations (i.e. the number of unicorns – companies with $1B+ of enterprise value). There are currently over 187 unicorns with an estimated aggregate valuation of $600 billion[iii].

This dynamic is also driving the supply of limited partnership interest sales as some limited partners are also selling partnership interests to lock in gains or relieve unfunded liabilities.

In summary, we believe the market is larger today than ever before (over $50 billion) and will continue to grow in lock step with the primary market. We also think that the secondary market may increase in size if the public stock markets in the US experience volatility in the coming years.

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The views set forth herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Industry Ventures. The information and views expressed are generic in nature, and is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase interests in any investments or services. Certain information contained in this article may constitute “forward-looking statements.” Any projections or other estimates contained herein, including estimates of returns or performance, are “forward looking statements” and are based upon certain assumptions that may change. Due to various risks and uncertainties, actual events or results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. There can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements made herein will prove to be accurate, and issuance of such forward-looking statements should not be regarded as a representation by Industry Ventures, or any other person, that the objective and plans of Industry Ventures will be achieved. All forward-looking statements made herein are based on information presently available to the management of Industry Ventures and Industry Ventures does not undertake to update any forward-looking statement that may be made from time to time by or on behalf of Industry Ventures.

This material does not constitute financial, investment, tax or legal advice (or an offer of such advisory services) and should not be viewed as advice or recommendations (or an offer of advisory services).

Certain information contained in this article (including certain forward-looking statements and information) has been obtained from published sources and/or prepared by other parties, which in certain cases has not been updated through the date hereof. While such sources are believed to be reliable, neither Industry Ventures and any general partner affiliated with Industry Ventures or any of its respective directors, officers, employees, partners, members, shareholders, or their affiliates, or any other person, assumes any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such information

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[i] Morgan Stanley, NYPPE and Industry Ventures LLC estimate

[ii] Campbell Lutyens and Industry Ventures LLC estimate

[iii] Pitchbook and CB Insights estimate

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