IoT start-ups receive record funding despite VC cool down

  • March 2, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

The average amount of investment in IoT companies is at an all-time high in Europe and the highest in over a decade in the USA, according to analysis by Avnet Abacus.

IoT companies raising funds in 2022 pulled in $15.9m on average, up 30% from the previous year, reveals the research by electronics distributor Avnet Abacus. The engineering firm analysed Crunchbase data for companies listed under the IoT to provide insight on the level of investment activity happening within the IoT.

“The amount of funding companies receive in any product category gives an indication of how investors view the future for that technology,” said Sara Ghaemi, Avnet Abacus’ technical director. “Despite venture capital generally cooling off due to current economic conditions, the research reveals investor confidence is higher than ever for the long-term prospects of companies developing products in the IoT.”

The average size of funding round or deal size for companies in the IoT reached $15.9m in 2022, the highest point in 19 years. Matching the global trend, American start-ups in the sector also saw the highest average deal size in 19 years at $16.2m.

Meanwhile, European IoT companies drew in their highest average funding round ever at $16.7m.

The industrial IoT sector also experienced a record year in 2022, where the average funding round reached $16.1m, more than double the average investment of $7.3m in 2021, and the highest since 2006, a year in which there was only one deal on record.

To provide insights on industrial IoT, Avnet Abacus analysed Crunchbase data for companies listed under both the IoT and industrial automation.

Acquisitions of companies in IoT worldwide were at their second highest ever in 2022 with 116 companies snapped up, marginally down from the peak of 117 companies in 2021. In the USA, 48 IoT start-ups were purchased in 2022, down from an all-time high of 58 in 2021.

Europe fared even better than previous years with 41 acquisitions making 2022, the continent’s highest year ever for IoT exits.

In both 2018 and 2021, five companies in the industrial IoT were acquired, while 2022 took that to new heights with seven start-ups in the sector purchased last year.

While the total amount raised by IoT start-ups globally dropped from $5.6bn in 2021 to $4.3bn in 2022, the money invested in early-stage start-ups was on the rise.

The investment into early stage IoT start-ups – those seeking funds in venture rounds A and B – reached the highest amount on record last year at $2.45bn, up 12% from $2.19bn the previous year.

Meanwhile, the total investment for late-stage IoT ventures was $1.08bn, down 54% from $2.36bn in 2021, and 36% lower than 2020’s figure of $1.70bn. Angel and seed investors in the IoT were also proceeding more cautiously last year, providing funds of $261m in 2022 compared with $404m in 2021.

When investing in later stage start-ups, venture capitalists are looking to make a return in the near future via an exit, when the company is either acquired or floated on the stock exchange. As start-ups approach these later stages, there is an expectation of a large pay out, and company valuations increase as the anticipated payday approaches.

In the current economy, however, investors are less optimistic about short-term performance and are reluctant to invest at such high valuations. This has resulted in venture capitalists pulling back from these later stage investments.

Despite a huge decrease in the total amount of VC funds going into IoT companies last year, all the reduction came from late-stage ventures, with the average investment rising for early-stage start-ups.

“There is strong evidence pointing towards a future where we will have more and more connected devices, communicating wirelessly, and providing timely and relevant insights from these new sources of data,” said Tim Bassford, IoT specialist at Avnet Abacus. “This provides great potential for companies to operate more efficiently and provide new value to customers and, as a result, the IoT will continue to grow.”

Ghaemi added: “For years it seemed the IoT only existed in the words of market analysts, consultants and commentators, but we’ve now moved well beyond the hype with significant numbers of companies delivering real business value and venture capitalists putting their money behind them. While the current economy is creating challenges for many start-ups, investors remain confident in the IoT and are placing larger sums than ever before in early-stage start-ups who are developing the connected products of the future.”