Venture firm Norwest raises $1.5 billion fund, its largest ever

By Heather Somerville

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Silicon Valley firm Norwest Venture Partners has raised its largest fund to date, a $1.5 billion pool of money, joining a wave of record fundraising as venture firms jockey for deals in the competitive field of startup investing.

The new fund, announced Wednesday, comes just two years after Norwest raised a $1.2 billion fund, which was at that time the firm's largest. Norwest Venture Partners was founded in 1961 and is on its 14th fund.

The firm plans to back startups creating technology to transform the real estate, insurance, ecommerce and medical device industries. Wells Fargo & Co is a major investor in Norwest's fund.

The rapid pace of funding reflects both robust interest in technology startups and the growing size of investments commanded by companies that are staying private longer.

"The pace of innovation has not slowed down," said Jeff Crowe, Norwest's managing partner. "Meanwhile, the deal size is larger."

Last year, venture capital firms raised more than $32 billion, with nearly $7 billion of that going to funds larger than $1 billion.

While fundraising is down from its peak in 2016, there remains a large supply of eager investors such as family offices and sovereign wealth funds. Fewer venture firms, just 14 percent, missed their fundraising target last year than in any previous year, according to data firm PitchBook Inc.

The average size of U.S. venture funds is at its highest since 2011, according to the data.

Norwest's investments include health care technology firms, software startups and consumer businesses such as Uber Technologies Inc and Spotify. In the last two years, it made 130 investments, and roughly two dozen of its startups got acquired and five went public.

Crowe said the recent stock market correction has not rattled him.

"Mankind has always had financial cycles and we will have financial cycles both in the public and private markets," he said. "Things do not go up and to the right forever." (Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

2018-02-14 14:30:00

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