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If you’re thinking of starting an ecommerce business, don’t let the macroeconomics of it scare you. Despite falling valuations of public and private companies, it’s still possible to raise money from venture capital firms.
Jon Sakoda is a founder of Decibel Partners, a venture capital firm specializing in infrastructure software, and he’s worked in the industry for more than 15 years. Ahead, hear Jon’s insights about starting a company—and getting it funded—in 2023.
There is no bad time to start a company
During his career, Jon has started his own companies and invested in others through several difficult times: the bust of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, 9/11, and the 2008 financial crisis.
“With the fullness of time, most people would say that there really isn’t a bad time to start a company,” Jon says. “The challenge is you have to survive the short term in order to get to the long term.”
Jon finds there’s often an emotional element that pushes founders toward starting a business. “I don’t think founders are wholly rational,” he says. “I think there is a part of you that really feels like, even though maybe there’s something safer to do, you still want to take the riskier path.”
Venture capital is still growing
There are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic about raising money this year. According to Jon, there are still about 1,000 active venture capital firms in the US, and they’re on track to invest in 12,000 to 15,000 companies this year.
Jon’s optimism comes from the data on the venture capital industry’s “dry powder” (the amount of capital in funds that is set aside to invest in startups). “The industry has just been growing bigger and bigger and has healthier balance sheets,” he says.
Jon also notes that venture capitalists are eager to make investments, even when the economy isn’t in an upswing. “We try not to pay attention to macroeconomic conditions when we’re making new investments in new companies,” he says. “In general, the smaller you are, the macroeconomic conditions, in theory, don’t affect you as much because you are focusing usually on technology or product.”
The future of ecommerce and AI looks bright
In terms of new business, some industries look even more promising. One emerging technology has taken hold of the conversation in consumer and business products lately: AI. “What has been many years of research is now being open sourced and made widely available through APIs to everybody and productized in ways that we have not yet seen,” Jon says.
And he remains bullish on the future of ecommerce. “I can’t think of a lot of industries where you’re adding a trillion dollars of net new market every couple of years, like ecommerce does,” Jon says. “If you’re a founder and you’re trying to break into a new market, this is one of the more obvious places to spend one’s time.”
To hear more about Jon’s research on the venture capital market and his thoughts on being “a recovering entrepreneur,” listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.