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In 2011, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote “software is eating the world,” and added that disruptors were “invading and overturning established industry structures.” Private equity firms were taking notes. Over the past decade, technology investments have steadily grown as a percentage of the global buyout market. In 2021, $284 billion in technology deals were closed, accounting for 25% of total buyout deal value and 31% of total buyout deal count — the largest share of any sector. Of that $284 billion, software deals comprised $256 billion. And while capital has flooded the sector, increasing competition for these businesses and driving up multiples, superior performance has continued, both in terms of lower loss rates and higher upside of outperforming deals.
Additionally, the value creation levers being pulled by private equity firms in the technology space appear sustainable. According to DealEdge, in fully realized global buyout deals between 2010 and 2021 with more than $50 million in invested capital, 71% of the value created in technology deals (excluding software) and 55% in software deals was driven by EBITDA growth, relative to 44% for all other sectors. These compelling return characteristics are due in large part to the operating models of these businesses — asset light, scalable, with high margins, and, in most cases, sticky, recurring revenue.
Despite the sector’s broad appeal, technology has proven to be a domain for specialists within the buyout market. The complexity of these business models, constant evolution in the technology landscape, and the need for expertise to lead these businesses at scale lends itself to investors who focus exclusively on the sector. LPs appear to share this sentiment, with more than $270 billion raised by technology-focused private equity firms in the past five years, equivalent to 13% of total global buyout capital raised during that time.
While technology and software stocks in the public arena have suffered over the last year-plus amid rising rates, private companies have not been subject to the same mark-to-market risk. The sector remains a driving force in innovation and economic value creation, and we expect exciting opportunities for private equity firms to persist.
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