Jan Hammer, a partner at Europe’s biggest venture capital fund Index Ventures, says we may have just passed the peak for tech valuations, which have been spiralling ever higher this year.
Rocketing valuations of tech companies — particularly in the US — have led some to worry that we could be in the middle of an inflating tech bubble. Uber is often held up as a prime example — the company is now worth over $50 billion (£33.2 billion) but is thought to be unprofitable.
Revered Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Moritz recently slammed a boom in “subprime” unicorns — private tech businesses worth over $1 billion (£660 million) — and Fortune’s private equity and venture capital investor Dan Primack reported an atmosphere of fear in the Valley.
Hammer told Business Insider: “You can look back and say maybe that was the top. We’re not seeing valuations continue to escalate upward from maybe where they were one-quarter ago.
“We have really had somewhat of a correction, certainly in the public markets, and in a number of instances we’ve actually seen already a slight correct in private markets.”
High profile tech companies such as Snapchat and Zenefits have both seen their paper valuation reduced in recent weeks by mutual fund Fidelity. In one particularly brutal case, Fidelity reduced the value of its investment in e-cigarette company Njoy from $9.5 million (£6.3 million) to just $12 (£7.97).
But, despite valuations losing momentum, Hammer doesn’t actually think we’re in a bubble. He says the “opportunity has never been bigger” for both investors and entrepreneurs, thanks to the rise of mobile — which makes reaching a big audience easier — and cloud computing — which brings the cost of setting up a startup down.
Hammer told Business Insider: “The bubble may be if you’re seeing “me too!” investments, with investors piling indiscriminately into the third, and fourth, and fifth, and sixth copy of the same thing.
“What we spend our time doing is trying to find really original thinking entrepreneurs who come up with really disruptive ideas.”
Index Ventures is the biggest venture capital investor in Europe and has backed success stories including Asos, BetFair, Etsy, Funding Circle, and Just Eat, as well as Facebook in the US.
Hammer says fluctuations in paper value don’t actually matter all that much to private investors like Index.
“Our business is really to separate amazing companies from the good one or OK ones,” he says. “That job doesn’t really change. Here at Index we spend most of our time trying to work out who are the winners and valuation is kind of a consequence of that.”
Hammer specialises in fintech (financial technology) and has backed companies including multi-billion dollar Dutch payment startup Adyen, international money transfer service TransferWise, and US bitcoin processing company BitPay.
He calls out Adyen as a prime example of the kind of “amazing” company he and his colleagues look for, saying: “There are hundreds of payments companies but they [Adyen] are the only one that have built the full stack.
“They provide what banks do (what is called merchant acquiring), they provide the transaction processing, which is what FirstData and these large $25 billion companies do, and then they provide payment acceptance — you go on a website or mobile and pay with your card or PayPal.
“People do each of the slices but there’s only Adyen that does all three across Europe, America, and Asia. So that’s pretty Unique.”
Read a full interview with Jan Hammer on fintech, the state of European technology, and what Index is excited about on Business Insider tomorrow.
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