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Q1 VC Numbers: Oh, The Horror

As we warned a few days back, the first quarter was not kind to venture capitalists. Actually, it’s more that venture capitalists weren’t kind to entrepreneurs. Or perhaps the economy wasn’t kind to limited partners, which caused venture capitalists to hoard their (still-considerable) cash. No matter how you pick your posit, the end result is that venture capital investments were shockingly low over the first three months of 2009.

Venture capitalists invested just $3 billion into 549 companies last quarter, according to data released this morning by the MoneyTree three (PwC, NVCA & Thomson Reuters). That’s a 47% dollar drop from the $5.7 billion disbursed in Q4, and a 61% drop from the $7.74 billion disbursed in Q1 2008. The number of companies funded didn’t decrease quite as dramatically — suggesting that lowered valuations partially helped drive down the dollar numbers — but still were off 36% and 43.8%, respectively.

Every major industry sector experienced double-digit declines, while the percentage of first-time fundings stayed constant at around 20% (although the value of such deals fell by 48%).

The quarter’s largest deal was a $50 million Series E round for Anacor Pharmaceuticals, which came from Aberdare Ventures, Care Capital, GlaxoSmithKline, Rho Ventures, Schering and Venrock Associates. Twitter ranked ninth with $35 million. If you’re looking for a tiny silver lining, there already have been at least two larger deals in Q2 (FleetCor and A123).

The quarter’s busiest firm was Oak Investment Partners, which made 12 investments. Other (quasi) busybodies included SV Life Sciences (11), Draper Fisher Jurvetson (11), Venrock (11), Highland Capital Partners (10), Menlo Ventures (10) and Polaris Venture Partners (10).

I’ll have more thoughts on Monday, including some related takeaways from a talk NVCA president Mark Heesen gave yesterday in Chapel Hill to the VCIC finalists. Until then, here’s your data dump: