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Funding in U.S. startups reached $99.5 billion in 2018. (CB Insights/PwC Chart)

U.S. startups are raising investment dollars at levels unseen since the dot-com era.

Venture capital funding in U.S. companies reached $99.5 billion in 2018, the highest since 2000, according to the Q4 MoneyTree report from PwC and CB Insights.

Driving the big investment numbers are companies such as Epic Games ($1.25 billion in October); Katerra ($865 million round); Instacart ($600 million); DoorDash ($535 million); Zoox ($500 million); and Magic Leap ($461 million). There were a record 184 deals above $100 million last year, up from 120 in 2017, and a record 53 companies saw valuations creep over $1 billion in 2018.

U.S. VC-backed unicorn births. (CB Insights/PwC Chart)

While investors are putting more dollars behind startups, they aren’t making more bets — deal activity for 2018 reached 5,536 transactions, the lowest since 2013.

This is part of a trend toward fewer, bigger deals. Seed-stage deal share fell to 25 percent; it made up 36 percent of deals in 2013.

CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal said that fewer seed rounds will have an impact on the venture ecosystem.

Here are the top 10 highest-valued startups in the Seattle area

“Investors have traditionally made more bets at the seed stage, and through the Darwinian process that startups go through, many/most of them die,” Sanwal said in October. “But some of them mature to Series A, B, etc. with a very small minority becoming big companies. If we have fewer and declining seed stage deals, it means fewer companies available for those bigger later stage deals in the future.”

In Washington, VC-backed companies raised a collective $2 billion across 175 deals, the highest investment number since 2000 ($3.4 billion). Seattle-area companies such as Convoy ($198 million round) Rover ($155 million), OfferUp ($119 million) Qumulo ($93 million), and Outreach ($65 million) helped draw large amounts of capital into the region.

Washington state’s tally still pales in comparison to the Bay Area, where companies raised a whopping $46 billion last year (includes San Francisco and the South Bay area). But it shows increasing attention being placed on Seattle startups, both from local investors and those elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Chris Seel, a partner with consulting giant PwC, credited the increasing investment levels to a combination of factors, including VC firms raising their own large funds and more IPO activity.

Over the past few years, many tech companies have held off on going public, opting instead to raise money from private investment firms that have plenty of cash to work with. CB Insights previously reported that the median time between first financing and public offering was 10.1 years for companies that had an IPO last year, up from 6.9 years in 2013. There were also nearly six times more $100 million-plus private financings than U.S. venture-backed tech IPOs in 2018.

But 2019 is setting up to be a blockbuster year for tech IPOs, with giants such as Uber, Lyft, Slack, Palantir, Pinterest, Airbnb, Zoom, Postmates, CrowdStrike, Cloudflare, and many others rumored to be gearing up for a public offering. Will any come from Seattle? Check out GeekWire’s list of potential Seattle-area companies that could go public in 2019.

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