Trends in Pre-Seed, Seed, and Early-Stage European VC: A Pre-Seed Funded Founder’s Perspective

John Mecke
5 min readMay 14, 2024

The venture capital (VC) landscape is ever-evolving, marked by shifting trends and emerging opportunities. As a pre-seed funded founder, understanding these trends can be pivotal in navigating the competitive and dynamic environment of pre-seed, seed, and early-stage funding. In this blog post, we will explore the current trends in these stages of VC funding, drawing insights from recent reports..

The Resilience of Pre-Seed Funding

Increasing Valuations and Deal Sizes

Pre-seed funding continues to demonstrate remarkable resilience, even amidst broader market fluctuations. According to the Q1 2024 European VC Valuations Report, pre-seed valuations and deal sizes have shown significant growth. The median pre-seed pre-money valuation increased to €4.6 million in Q1 2024, up from €2.5 million in 2023​​. This uptick reflects investors’ confidence in early-stage startups’ potential to innovate and disrupt various industries.

Focus on High-Quality Startups

The trend towards higher valuations and larger deal sizes indicates a focus on high-quality startups. Investors are becoming more discerning, supporting startups with robust business models, clear value propositions, and scalable solutions. For founders, this means that securing pre-seed funding requires a compelling narrative and solid groundwork in terms of product development and market validation.

Seed Stage: Steady Growth and Strategic Investments

Growth in Valuations and Deal Sizes

Similar to pre-seed, the seed stage has experienced growth in both valuations and deal sizes. The median seed valuation increased by 17.6% in Q1 2024, reaching €5.7 million​​. Seed deal sizes also grew, with a median deal size of €2.0 million. This growth reflects a healthy investment climate where startups that have moved beyond the initial idea phase and have shown some traction are attracting significant investor interest.

Strategic Focus on Longevity and Scalability

Investors at the seed stage are increasingly looking for startups with a clear path to scalability and long-term viability. This strategic focus means that founders need to demonstrate not only current success but also a well-thought-out plan for future growth. Metrics such as customer acquisition cost (CAC), lifetime value (LTV), and early revenue streams become critical in convincing investors of a startup’s potential.

Early-Stage VC: Navigating a Competitive Landscape

Increasing Deal Sizes and Valuations

Early-stage VC funding has seen substantial increases in both deal sizes and valuations. The median early-stage deal size rose to €2.0 million in Q1 2024, up from €1.3 million in 2023, with valuations increasing by 35.8%​​. This trend underscores the competitive nature of early-stage funding, where investors are willing to commit larger sums to startups that demonstrate strong growth potential and market fit.

Emphasis on Innovation and Market Disruption

Early-stage investors are keen on startups that can disrupt existing markets or create entirely new ones. Sectors such as AI, fintech, and SaaS continue to attract significant interest due to their transformative potential. For founders, this means that innovation is not just an advantage but a necessity. Demonstrating how your startup can fundamentally change or improve existing processes can be a key differentiator in securing early-stage funding.

Key Trends Influencing VC Funding

The Role of Nontraditional Investors

Nontraditional investors, including corporate venture capital (CVC), private equity (PE), and hedge funds, are playing an increasingly prominent role in the VC landscape. In Q1 2024, nontraditional investor participation in European VC deals reached 85.5%​​. This influx of capital from diverse sources is providing startups with more opportunities for funding, albeit with different strategic interests compared to traditional VCs.

The Importance of Liquidity and Exit Strategies

Liquidity and exit strategies remain critical considerations for investors. The demand for secondary marketplaces, where shares of private companies can be traded, is growing. This trend is driven by the need for liquidity among investors and founders, especially as companies stay private for longer periods. Platforms like Forge are expanding into Europe, offering new avenues for liquidity​​. For founders, understanding and planning for potential exit strategies, including IPOs and acquisitions, is crucial in the long-term planning of their startups.

Sector-Specific Trends

Certain sectors are witnessing more robust growth and investment activity. For instance, fintech and climate tech have seen significant increases in median deal sizes and valuations. In the early stage, fintech leads with a median round size of €3.3 million, followed by cleantech at €2.9 million​​. This sector-specific interest indicates where investors see the most potential for growth and impact, guiding founders on where to align their innovations and market focus.

Navigating the VC Landscape as a Founder

Building a Strong Foundation

As a pre-seed funded founder, the journey to securing further funding is built on the foundation you establish in the early stages. This includes developing a solid business model, achieving initial market validation, and creating a compelling narrative that aligns with current market trends. Building relationships with potential investors early on and continuously updating them on your progress can also be beneficial.

Leveraging Market Insights

Staying informed about market trends and investor interests can significantly enhance your fundraising efforts. Reports like the Q1 2024 European VC Valuations Report provide valuable insights into what investors are looking for and how the market is evolving. Leveraging this information to tailor your pitch and strategy can give you a competitive edge.

Emphasizing Innovation and Scalability

Investors are looking for startups that not only solve current problems but also have the potential to scale and disrupt markets. Emphasizing the innovative aspects of your startup, along with a clear plan for scaling, can make your venture more attractive to investors. Highlighting how your solution addresses pain points in growing sectors like AI, fintech, and cleantech can also align your startup with investor priorities.

Conclusion

The VC landscape for pre-seed, seed, and early-stage funding is dynamic and full of opportunities. As a pre-seed funded founder, understanding these trends can help you navigate the complexities of securing further funding and scaling your startup. By building a strong foundation, staying informed about market trends, and emphasizing innovation and scalability, you can position your startup for success in the competitive world of venture capital.

The journey from pre-seed to early-stage funding is challenging but also rewarding. With the right strategies and a keen understanding of the evolving VC landscape, you can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and success.

Originally published at Development Corporate.

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John Mecke

John has over 25 years of experience in leading product management and corporate development organizations for enterprise firms.