SVB: Grew from the Business Start-Up Ecosystem

By Staff Reporters



DEFINITION: Startups are young companies or ventures that are founded to develop a unique or innovative product, service, or platform, and bring it to market. They are typically in the early stages of their development and face high uncertainty and failure rates. They are usually self-funded by the founders or seek external funding from investors or loans. They aim to grow large beyond the solo founder and disrupt existing industries or create new one.


SVB rooted in the startup ecosystem

SVB was relatively small—it had 40,000 customers compared to JPMorgan Chase’s 66 million—but it claimed to bank nearly half of all US tech and life sciences startups last year, including household names like Etsy, Roblox, and Roku. The cultural cachet of having a relationship with SVB as a venture-backed startup was like sporting a New Yorker tote at Whole Foods.

But the reason its loss will leave such a gaping hole in the startup community isn’t that it was cool to name-drop at a networking event. Because the bank was created in 1983 specifically to cater to venture-backed startups, it helped them in ways that most banks can’t—or won’t.

SVB chill loans: According to the MorningBrew, SVB would offer loans to startups more readily than large banks, basing the loans on a company’s ability to raise venture capital funds, not to turn a profit. SVB was also known for being flexible—even if startups breached their loan terms. “They were the easiest money for an unprofitable, early stage to mid-stage tech company,” Irving Investors founder Jeremy Abelson told The Information. And, even small startups received hand-holding services, such as guidance on how to set up their financial infrastructure. Its bankers personally called startups when they secured their first rounds of funding, according to The Information.

Startups now have to deal with big banks

Several founders who previously banked with SVB told Bloomberg that they’re moving their money to Chase and Bank of America, banks considered “too big to fail.”

Startups’ experience at big banks won’t be like their time at SVB. Not only is Jamie Dimon unlikely to call a startup to congratulate them on their Series A, but big banks are also expected to be more tight-fisted with their loans. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a regulator that oversees large US banks, disapproves of loans to companies that are further out than one year from profitability, according to Crunchbase.

The loss of SVB is therefore expected to have a chilling effect on loans to venture-backed startups, aka “venture debt,” which SVB handed out more of than any other bank.



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