How Big is the Secondary Market for Venture Capital?
“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.
[i] Morgan Stanley, NYPPE and Industry Ventures LLC estimate
[ii] Campbell Lutyens and Industry Ventures LLC estimate
[iii] Pitchbook and CB Insights estimate