venture capital

Memo to tech startups: If you want money, raise it now

April 18, 2014: 5:00 AM ET

The frothy fundraising market may dry up soon.

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FORTUNE -- If it feels like every startup you've ever heard of is rushing to drum up large rounds of funding, that's because they probably are. It's hard to miss the string of massive rounds from recent months: Lyft raised $250 million from Alibaba Group and Third Point. Airbnb is raising $450 million to $500 million. Dropbox raised more than $500 million. Insight Venture Partners invested $250 million into Campaign Monitor.

Quora raised $80 million from Tiger Global Management. Squarespace just raised $40 million. Paperless Post raised $25 million. Betterment raised $32 million. Learnvest raised $28 million. Julep Beauty raised $30 million. Crittercism raised $30 million.

Beyond that, Blue Apron is raising $50 million at a $500 million valuation. Birchbox is raising $50 million at a nearly comparable valuation. Bonobos is raising a sizable new round. Automattic is raising between $100 million and $150 million.

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Perhaps more meaningful than the news of each particular raise is the pattern they're creating. Many of these companies know they're going to need capital at some point this year. Many of them have been advised to raise now, because the market for big financings might not be so friendly in the coming quarters.

In short, startups are bulking up for a long 2014. They've read the headlines: Public tech stocks have had a volatile two weeks, peaking last week after a five-year-market rally.

The shrinking market caps of public tech stocks are expected to trickle down to private company valuations. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the selloff spells trouble for upcoming and recent tech IPOs. Bloomberg noted that the selloff was "restoring some rationalization" to the startup fundraising frenzy of late.

And the selloff in public tech stocks isn't necessarily over, according to Fortune's Steve Gandel. Their average price-to-earnings ratio of 18 is rich compared to that of the S&P 500, which has an average P/E ratio of 16.

Still, since the private market is sticky, it takes longer to adjust to falling valuations and investor fears, according to Deven Parekh, a managing director at Insight Venture Partners. "It takes prolonged volatility to make that happen," he says. But he notes that startups are already hustling to get their rounds closed just in case.

"We are already seeing pressure on later-stage large rounds in a few sectors based on the shakiness of the public markets," says David Pakman, a partner at Venrock. "Many of our later-stage companies are closing rounds quickly to gather as much capital as possible in case they need to weather an upcoming storm of uncertainty in the later-stage VC markets."

MORE: Why investors are pouring millions into crowdfunding

Judging by the daily deluge of funding announcements (and the back channel of those in the works), the uneasiness hasn't fully trickled down yet. In the meantime, companies are grabbing what they can.

"I think anyone who is invested in companies that need to raise big rounds this year should get it done now," says Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners. Mo Koyfman, a partner at Spark Capital, notes that good companies will always be able to raise money, but that "it's always wise for companies to raise capital when the funding markets are good, as they have been recently, and to raise enough money so they can have the time to execute and withstand any potential downturns."

Indeed, there's a famous VC saying about raising money while the market's hot.

Right now, the market is hot. Venture funding in the first quarter of 2014 was at its highest level since 2001. But it might not be for much longer.

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