It’s no surprise that the value of tech startups is falling. With the deepening recession, even the stocks of highfliers such as Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) have tumbled more than 50%. Still, this is a sharp reversal for a generation of companies that seemed poised to inherit the mantle of leadership in the tech industry. Top Web 2.0 companies such as Digg and Facebook, which built their business on persuading users to participate in their Web sites, were showered with attention and millions of dollars in investment based on the expectation they would be able to cash in by creating the next blockbusters of the Internet. Now those high hopes are coming back to earth.
Declining valuations are throwing a wrench into the gears of Silicon Valley’s wealth machine. In the worst cases, the money dries up and startups are shut down. But even for fortunate companies such as Digg that can still raise money, complications abound. Falling prices can make it harder to attract the best and brightest. Morale can suffer, and workers with stock options underwater may be less likely to stick around. Such pressures can force companies to grant new options at lower prices or reprice existing options, which can infuriate venture capitalists backing the company.