VC investments drop in ’09

Venture capitalists invested $17.7 billion into 2,795 deals for U.S.-based companies in 2009, according to the MoneyTree survey released on Friday by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week). That’s a 37% dollar decrease and 30% deal decrease from 2008, and represents the lowest volumes since 1997.

It actually gets a bit worse. All but one industry sector experienced double-digit dollar declines. And the one exception, chips and networking, still dropped by five percent. In addition, although several of the largest deals of the year involved cleantech, including solar panel maker Solyndra, and Silver Spring Networks, a provider of energy-efficiency technology, VCs invested $1.9 billion invested in 185 cleantech deals, a plunge of 52% from the year before.

However, the investment totals increased in both the third and fourth quarters, suggesting that there’s evidence that the first-half chill began to thaw as public equity market conditions improved. The MoneyTree reports that venture capitalists invested about $5 billion into 794 deals in Q4, compared to $5.1 billion into 689 deals in Q3.

Interesting to note that the MoneyTree opted not to include a $180 million round raised in December by social gaming company Zynga Game Network Inc., although that round could be included when MoneyTree updates its numbers in future quarters. —Dan Primack