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Meet The Expert Series: Matt Trotter of Stifel Bank on the state of the venture debt market, and how investors & startups should approach the credit markets today

Meet The Expert Series: Matt Trotter of Stifel Bank on the state of the venture debt market, and how investors & startups should approach the credit markets today

Episode 121

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Follow me @samirkaji for my thoughts on the venture market, with a focus on the continued evolution of the VC landscape.

On this special meet the expert episode, we are discussing the venture debt market with Matt Trotter, a Managing director within Stifel Bank’s Venture division.

Stifel Bank was established in St. Louis, MO in 1890 and is an independent investment bank with the mission to help individuals pursue financial goals, businesses and organizations raise and protect capital, and communities offer a higher quality of life.

Given the dislocation of the regional banking market in early 2023, we discussed how venture investors and companies should think about the supply of venture debt, the proper uses, and what we should expect moving forward.

About Matt Trotter:
Matt Trotter is a Managing Director and Member of the leadership team at Stifel Bank. He focuses on providing commercial banking and flexible lending solutions to high-growth technology companies in the U.S.

Prior to joining Stifel, Matt was a Senior Market Manager and Head of Frontier Technologies and Climate Technology and Sustainability at SVB. In this position, he focused on building products to support the evolving business models and capital-expenditure needs for companies creating disruptive technologies in the transportation, industrials, aerospace, energy, agriculture, food, and hardware infrastructure sectors.

In this episode, we discuss:

(01:15) Matt shares his background and discusses changes in venture banking and lending markets
(01:57) Explanation of venture debt and its history within venture capital
(03:11) Discussion on today's applications of venture debt, like runway extension and equipment purchases
(03:59) Strategic uses of venture debt for various business needs
(04:14) Overview of venture debt terms including non-formula loans, typical costs, and eligibility
(05:10) Shift from equipment leasing to a more general-purpose financing model in venture debt
(05:32) Challenges in underwriting venture debt for early-stage companies without revenue or product
(06:26) Insights into the venture debt underwriting process and considerations
(07:18) Role of warrants in balancing the risks and rewards of venture debt
(08:15) Discussion on balancing loss rates and successful investments in venture debt
(09:19) Ideal circumstances for a company to consider venture debt
(10:24) Potential risks and considerations when opting for venture debt
(11:43) Impact of market dynamics on companies with significant debt
(12:05) How market shifts affect the demand and supply of venture debt
(13:00) Importance of collaboration between equity investors and lenders during financial challenges
(14:35) High demand for venture debt amid market uncertainties and banking disruptions
(15:14) Underwriting challenges with companies having high valuation overhangs
(16:53) Adjustments in underwriting approaches by banks and venture debt funds in current market
(17:59) Use of debt tranching tied to company performance milestones
(19:01) Differences between bank-provided venture debt and venture debt funds
(20:21) Strategies, incentives, and focus of venture banks versus venture debt funds
(22:57) Factors for companies to consider when choosing between bank loans and venture debt fund loans
(24:22) Managing the balance between raising capital and working with banks in financial tight spots
(26:07) Emphasis on trust and open communication between lenders and borrowers
(27:27) When venture debt from banks or funds might be more suitable for a company
(29:24) Assessing various debt products and understanding their true costs and conditions
(30:14) Matching the debt product to a company's specific needs and circumstances
(32:20) Need for reliable debt facilities for cashflow negative businesses
(33:14) Reflections on the impact of changes at Silicon Valley Bank on the venture debt landscape
(34:58) Outlook on the venture debt market's evolution post-SVB
(36:58) Importance of lenders' long-term commitment in venture debt

I’d love to know what you took away from this conversation with Matt. Follow me @SamirKaji and give me your insights and questions with the hashtag #ventureunlocked. If you’d like to be considered as a guest or have someone you’d like to hear from (GP or LP), drop me a direct message on Twitter.

About Meet the Experts:
Meet the Experts is a sub-brand of Venture Unlocked and talks with vendors and other non-GP or LP members of the Venture Community. There may be business relationships in place and appearance fees paid to participate.

Podcast Production support provided by Agent Bee