Some Venture Funds Hit ‘Pause’ on Big Deals

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SAN FRANCISCO—Over the past year, Marc Andreessen invested in a series of high-profile Web companies, including Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Groupon Inc. Now the Silicon Valley venture capitalist is hitting the pause button on such big-name deals.

Since participating in a $112 million funding of Web darling Airbnb Inc. in July that valued the online room-rental company at more than $1 billion, Mr. Andreessen said his venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has “taken a step back.”

With some deals for private companies “definitely on the expensive side” amid a choppy stock market and concerns over a European debt crisis, Mr. Andreessen said he is looking to invest in fast-growing tech start-ups that aren’t as well known and where “pricing is still under control.”

Mr. Andreessen is the most visible of a group of venture capitalists dialing back on certain deals after a breathless year of venture investing that had some comparing 2011 to the late 1990s dot-com bubble. Many venture capitalists said they now are increasingly passing on companies seeking frothy valuations, and some are trying to get off the beaten path to find cheaper deals.

While there still is clamor to invest in the best-known and priciest start-ups—human-resources software-maker Workday Inc. and online file-sharing start-up Dropbox Inc. commanded valuations of more than $1 billion each in recent months, people familiar with the matter have said—there is a change from 2011 when “investing was indiscriminate,” said Todd Chaffee, a venture capitalist at Institutional Venture Partners.

“Now it’s definitely slowed some, and investments aren’t as thoughtless as they were,” Mr. Chaffee said.

As a result, some tech companies on the hunt for new cash have had to reduce the prices they are seeking. Several venture firms passed on investing in security-tech company LifeLock Inc., which has been looking to raise funds at a valuation that some investors considered too high, people familiar with the matter said. One person said LifeLock was asking for a valuation of around $600 million, which it has since brought down to around $500 million.

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