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Startups in Washington see solid investment

Rachel Lerman Seattle Times

Washington state startups are in no hurry to go public. That’s become increasingly the trend as venture capital keeps flowing to the region’s companies, enabling them to stay private for longer periods of time.

The money continued to flow in the first half of this year, with Washington companies raising $1.1 billion in venture-capital funding during that period, according to the quarterly Dow Jones VentureSource report.

The second-quarter results show state startups raised $444.5 million, a 6 percent increase from the second quarter of 2014.

And though that represented a decline from first-quarter investments, there were more deals in the second quarter, 34 compared with 30 in the first.

“This is the strongest start we’ve had to a year in the last five-plus years,” said Greg Beams, a partner at Ernst & Young in Seattle.

In the past 12 months, companies raised more than $2.1 billion, a record as far as Beams knows. That proves the continued strong funding in the region is a trend, not just a “flash in the pan,” he said.

That kind of growth in financing is helping tech companies stay private longer than they used to. Companies are now an average of 11 years old when they make an initial public offering, up from an average of 5 years old in 2000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In Washington state, late-stage companies are raising larger and larger rounds. Bellevue’s K2, a business-software company, raised $153 million in April. Adaptive Biotechnologies, which examines the genetic makeup of the immune system to help fight cancer, raked in $195 million in May. And Chef, a Seattle software company that helps businesses manage their technology infrastructure, brought in $32 million in a round that is still ongoing.

Those companies have amassed massive amounts of total funding – in Adaptive’s case that number is nearly $400 million – and show no imminent desire to go the IPO route.

Data from Dow Jones Venture Source show that companies now have a median valuation prior to recent financing of $65 million, up from $18.8 million three years ago. The largest deals nationally in the second quarter were nearly all late-stage financing rounds, including a $278.1 million round from DocuSign, which was founded in Seattle and is now based in San Francisco.

Nationally, businesses took in $19.19 billion in venture capital during the second quarter, a 24 percent increase from the same period in 2014. The number of deals was slightly lower than in the second quarter of 2014.

“What’s happening in Seattle, even though it’s a fairly small ecosystem, mirrors what we’re seeing on a national level,” said Adley Bowden, senior director of research and analysis at Seattle investment research company PitchBook Data. “There are late-stage companies raising significant amounts of money and a healthy number of smaller angel deals.”

Adaptive’s $195 million was the largest deal in the second quarter, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Arivale, a Seattle health care services company, was next at $36 million, followed by digital advertising services company iSpot.tv’s $21.9 million. A later-stage round for Carena, another health care company, followed with $13.3 million.

In Washington, three of the four largest deals from this quarter went to companies in the health or biotech fields, which are industries where IPO activity has continued to stay active.

“We are seeing dollars continue to follow into that industry, which is consistent in terms of where we are seeing IPOs,” Beams said.

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