SAN FRANCISCO — Venture capitalists invested more money in U.S. startups during the first three months of 2010 compared with a year earlier, a sign of increasing optimism that the economy is improving.
Last year, the sluggish economy made it harder for startups to find buyers or complete initial public offerings. That meant venture capitalists had a harder time seeing returns on their investments, so they had been less likely to invest in new companies.
But a study scheduled for release today found that startup investments in the January-March period, while down 10 percent from the previous quarter, rose 38 percent from a year earlier to $4.7 billion. The amount invested was divided among 681 startups, a 7 percent increase from the same three months in 2009.
"I think that we are likely to see at least moderate pickup in investment activity as we go through the year 2010," said Bill Wiberg, a general partner at Advanced Technology Ventures.
He said that growth should happen across different sectors, including clean technology and information technology. He also predicted that the market for acquisitions and IPOs will improve, which would breed optimism and help lead to new investment activity.
The study was conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters.