In the latest display of corporate clout in the venture capital arena, a division of Chase Manhattan Bank invested the most money in entrepreneurial companies during the first three months of the year. New York-based Chase Capital's venture capital investments totaled $289 million during the three-month period ended March 31, according to PricewaterhouseCooper's quarterly "Money Tree" survey, scheduled to be released today.
Chase Capital spread the seed money among 45 different investments, primarily in companies developing technology for the Internet, said David Britts, a general partner for the firm. "The earlier we can get involved in a company, the better."
The venture capital arms of two other big U.S. banks, Wells Fargo and BancBoston Capital Ventures, also ranked among the 10 most active investors identified in the survey. Norwest Equity Partners, part of Wells Fargo, invested $119 million during the quarter and BancBoston placed $115 million, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
"I think big banks and companies are here to stay," said Tracy Lefteroff, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers' managing partner specializing in venture capital.
Banks and corporations are forming venture capital divisions because of the huge payoffs generated in recent years by Internet start-ups after they sold their stock in initial public offerings. In the first quarter, for instance, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo recorded an $885-million gain on its previous venture capital investments.
Established technology giants such as Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. also are providing venture capital to start-ups.
Stewart Alsop, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates in Menlo Park, Calif., said traditional venture capitalists are even facing competition from entrepreneurs that made a killing in the stock market on their other businesses.
New Enterprise invested $186 million in the first quarter and isn't pulling back, despite the choppiness in the stock market since March 31. "We feel very confident and are continuing our pace of investment," Alsop said.