Private company securities are also highly illiquid and there is no guarantee that a market will develop for such securities. Accordingly, investing in private company securities is appropriate only for those investors who can tolerate a high degree of risk and do not require a liquid investment. That said, it’s not a guarantee that all dry powder will make its way into private market investments. Many investment funds like to keep a cash buffer, and it’s possible that their strategy would shift from, say, investing in startups to investing in real estate, depending on the investor. A high level of dry powder also protects the company when it anticipates the demand for its product and services to fall. This means that the company will experience a decline in the annual revenues and, hence, net profits.

  • Dry powder is an informal term used for describing highly-liquid marketable securities, cash reserves, or any other securities that can be utilized for investment opportunities, future obligations, and operational expenses.
  • This usually done in a market that is either too competitive or has grown overvalued.
  • A common consensus is that having so much capital chasing a relatively steady quantity of opportunities will inevitably lead to higher price multiples being paid by investors.
  • In private equity, dry powder is essentially funds kept in reserve to act as a buffer against financial setbacks or a means of flexibility for quick investment.

Information provided by Titan Support is for informational and general educational purposes only and is not investment or financial advice. Back then, weapons like cannons and guns relied on dry gunpowder to function properly. Soldiers would try to maintain a certain amount of reserve dry powder on hand so they could either defend themselves or take advantage of an opportunity to attack. Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the fund before investing.

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Holding enough dry powder can keep the company afloat during periods of financial distress. If comparable businesses do not keep cash reserves, they may be unable to meet their obligations, and they may be forced to close shop. Similarly, if an investor expects the IPO market to gain, he may keep some capital on hand to provide additional funding to his portfolio when the need arises. Dry powder is defined as capital committed by the limited partners (LPs) of investment firms – e.g. venture capital (VC) firms and traditional buyout private equity firms – that remains undeployed and remains sitting in the hands of the firm.

Advantages of Dry Powder

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While many private ventures might face uncertainties and challenges as the full effects of 2021 and 2022 upheavals continue taking root, dry powder provides the ability and flexibility to tap into new opportunities. Having dry powder on hand can provide investors with an advantage over others who may be holding less liquid assets. For example, a venture capitalist might decide to hold a substantial strategic amount of cash on hand in order to take advantage of private equity investments that may present themselves for immediate funding. This cash would colloquially be referred to as the venture capitalist’s dry powder.

With startup valuations still normalizing, it could be an ideal period for investors to increase investments in tech startups that have shown some success despite the rocky past years. Many tech startups funded when valuations were lower have achieved great success, and their investors achieved great financial returns. In 2023, tech startups should be prepared for more funding from descending triangle breakout venture capital firms. In this context, the term similarly refers to cash reserves but may also encompass other liquid assets, such as money market funds that an investor may set aside for investment purposes. This is because all venture capitalists want adequate cash on hand to either invest in a new opportunity or provide additional funding to portfolio companies to fuel growth.


Cash is called dry powder based on its analogousness to dry powder used for historical military purposes, e.g., to fire a cannon. Stockpiled dry powder doesn’t necessarily do anything immediately, but when put into action at the right time, it can be powerful. Try Titan’s free Investment Calculator to project your potential investment returns. The outbreak of COVID-19 has negatively affected the worldwide economy, individual countries, individual companies and the market in general. The future impact of COVID-19 is currently unknown, and it may exacerbate other risks that apply to the Fund. Leading up to the pandemic, concerns of a competitive market, overvalued risk assets, and an abundance of capital were already widespread.

Divestopedia Explains Dry Powder

Diversification does not guarantee investment returns or eliminate the risk of loss. According to reports, the private equity market has amassed a record-breaking level of “dry powder” of approximately $1.5 trillion. To my other point, the proxy of dry powder becomes a poor one when, in fact, that’s not the only capital at my disposal.

Dry Powder in Private Equity Funds

Under the specific context of the private equity industry, dry powder is a PE firm’s capital commitments from its limited partners (LPs) not yet deployed into active investments. Like the dry powder used on cannon ships centuries ago, dry powder in the cash form is waiting to be used by the investors at the right time to strike. Although company’s of all types maintain dry powder, private equity investors and venture capitalists particularly favor this practice because the fledgling startups they invest in are more vulnerable than established companies.

Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Private-equity firms have an enormous amount of dry powder, but the vast majority is held in newer fund vintages. Below is the amount of capital left in each vintage year of private-equity funds back to 2012. The key to successful private equity investing is to wait for lucrative opportunities where the fund manager can add value through the implementation of a business plan. The term “dry powder” originated from the ancient days in military battles when soldiers used dry powder in their guns and cannons.

Asset prices were generally high, as the stock markets stayed in the bull market and the high-interest junk bonds and emerging marketing debts were seen as overvalued. Due to the reduced profitability of their investments, investors turned to exchange-traded funds in a bid to achieve additional returns, pending the normalization of the markets. In mergers and acquisitions, the term refers to the amount of capital available to financial buyers for investment in portfolio companies, strategic acquisitions, and add-on acquisitions.

In private equity, dry powder is essentially funds kept in reserve to act as a buffer against financial setbacks or a means of flexibility for quick investment. Dry powder usually consists of assets like cash and public stocks, which can be readily sold. Illiquid assets like real estate or investments in privately held companies are generally not considered dry powder because they can’t be quickly converted into cash. The tech industry has remained resilient due to growth in crucial trends like AI and cloud solutions. The shift in how we work has compelled investors to inject more capital into upgrading digital processes and infrastructure.

However, the term is commonly used in the context of private market investors like PE and VC funds. Dry powder is useful in case a fund manager sees an investment opportunity it wants to how to invest in natural gas capitalize on quickly or if a company finds itself in financial trouble. The downside of dry powder is that it does not generate returns as high as those of a private equity investment.

Typically, mounting dry powder is perceived as a negative sign, because it serves as an indication that prevailing valuations are overpriced. With so much public discourse around dry powder, it can be difficult to separate the noise from the insights. Kison Patel is the Founder and CEO of DealRoom, a Chicago-based us overnight markets diligence management software that uses Agile principles to innovate and modernize the finance industry. As a former M&A advisor with over a decade of experience, Kison developed DealRoom after seeing first hand a number of deep-seated, industry-wide structural issues and inefficiencies.