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Something Ventured Venture capital funding hit an all-time high in '98. Here's what it means to you.

By Stephen B. Sherretta

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The high-powered world of venture capital has done it again. Total venture capital invested last year soared 24 percent to another record high of $14.3 billion. That's a 78 percent jump in just two years, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP's Money Tree Survey, which tracks some 630 U.S. venture capital funds on a quarterly basis. Other key measurements in 1998 fell in line accordingly: The average investment jumped 16 percent to $5 million, and more projects were funded than ever before - 2,856.

James D. Atwell of PwC's Global Technology Industry Group in Boston, the survey's sponsor, says, "1998 should have been declared the `Year of the Entrepreneur.'" He's got a point. An estimated 40 percent of all venture funds distributed last year went to companies that were no more than 2 years old.

But, of course, there's a hitch. While venture capitalists are ravenous to underwrite start-ups and expansions of small businesses, they continue to have highly discriminating tastes. Recipients of their largess had better be technology-based and must have an aggressive growth strategy with plans for an initial public offering, merger or acquisition within the next five years, says Kirk Walden, national director of the survey. Think exit strategy.

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