Optimism fades as venture capitalists head into 2012

Half-full glass (Kurt Schlosser photo)

Generally speaking, venture capitalists and startup CEOs are kind of half-glass-full kind of folks. But even these optimistic groups are uncertain about the economic environment in 2012.

According to the sixth annual predictions survey released today by the National Venture Capital Association, venture capitalists and startup CEOs are not as bullish as they were at the start of 2011 about M&A deals, IPOs, venture fundraising and the overall economy.

Only 48 percent of the venture capital respondents predicted an uptick in IPO volume in 2012, which compared to 67 percent who thought the market for public offerings would blossom in 2011. In terms of acquisitions, 69 percent predicted increases. And while that’s a good sign, it is not as optimistic as the predictions leading into 2011 when 82 percent of VCs forecast more deals.

Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA, said it is incredibly difficult to predict the state of the venture capital ecosystem in 2012 because of the large number of market and political factors at play.  “Despite the fact that venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are well positioned to thrive, externalities are keeping optimism at bay,” he said.

In regard to the general economy, 53 percent of startup CEOs and 47 percent of VCs indicated improvements in 2012. That compared to 63 and 64 percent who felt the economy would get better at the beginning of 2011.

In terms of politics, 64 percent of CEOs and 56 percent of VCs are predicting a second term of President Barack Obama.

What do you think? Will the venture capital, IPO and M&A market look better or worse in 2012?

Previously on GeekWire: Kindle Fire will outsell iPad, Windows Phone will rebound, and six other tech predictions for the coming year