2023 Seed Transactions Deal Points Study

June 11, 2024

Seward & Kissel Study Highlights Rising Seed Transactions for Private Equity and Private Credit Focused Funds

10th Annual Study Also Shows Strong Alignment with Fund Managers and Third-Party Investors as a Key Feature of Deal Structure

Seed investments in hedge funds, private equity funds, private credit funds, and other investment vehicles continued to generate significant deal volume in 2023, according to the tenth annual Seward & Kissel Seed Transactions Deal Points Study. Conducted by the leading law firm to the private funds industry, the study confirms continued momentum for seeding of “closed-end” (illiquid) fund structures in particular—including private credit funds and traditional private equity. The full study is available here.

While overall observed seeding activity remained steady year-over-year, in 2023, seed investments were nearly as likely to be made in illiquid or less-liquid strategies as in liquid products (such as hedge funds). This changing proportion continues a trend observed in 2022 and remains notable considering the historical overweighting of seeding to hedge fund managers.

According to the study, deal terms continue to trend towards greater alignment between seeders, managers, and third-party investors, as seeders increasingly agree to structures that are relatively friendly to fund managers and non-seed investors. Examples include seeders’ agreement both to bear some start-up costs of a new fund and to remain subject to a liquidity profile mirroring that of third-party investors—even in the case of an early termination of a hard lock-up period, where seeders have historically sought accelerated liquidity. Managers have also gained increased breathing room through the rise of three-year lock-ups, which were featured in half of 2023 seeding deals, up from just 10% in 2018.

Additionally, more than three-quarters of observed deals in 2023 included working capital support, a new milestone in what has been a pattern of growth over several years. In 2022, the proportion was 64%, up from 59% in 2021 and 48% in 2018. Assistance with working capital is a critical enabler for new managers in an environment where major allocators increasingly will not consider an investment into a new fund unless institutional-level capabilities and infrastructure are in place.

Other key findings of the Seward & Kissel Seed Transactions Deal Points Study include:

  • Institutional seeders continued to represent an outsized share of observed seed transactions, driving a significant increase in the observed median check size.
  • Geopolitical turmoil—and a relatively unfavorable macroeconomic and fiscal policy backdrop—continued to challenge new funds and managers, but these factors seem not to have restrained the level of seed transactions appreciably.
  • Traditional long/short equity strategies, particularly those focused on defined industries or themes, again attracted a significant portion of aggregate seed investment dollars. Among liquid strategies, multi-strategy managers were especially popular.
  • Mindful of the volatility experienced in 2020, seed investors continued to push hard for protections in the form of narrower performance-related early lock-up release triggers.

For more information about the current state of seeding, or seed transactions generally, contact your primary attorney at Seward & Kissel.

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