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Venture capitalists have been investing enormous sums-$7 billion in 1998 alone, much of it into new Internet and telecommunications companies. Will these heady days for startups continue? Yes, almost inevitably, say experts, citing two and a half years of record-breaking fundraising by leading venture capital firms. According to market research firm VentureOne, venture funds this year are set to meet or exceed 1998 levels, when they collected $15.7 billion from limited partners (the corporations, pension funds and wealthy individuals whose money they invest). That was more than double the 1996 figure of $7.7 billion.

“There is a considerable pent-up pipeline of investment money,” says PricewaterhouseCoopers analyst Larry Buchsman. Because it typically takes several years to spend a newly raised fund, the effects of surging commitments to venture funds that began in 1997 are starting to be felt as venture firms channel these windfalls into startup companies. Says Paul Zigman, a partner at Ampersand Ventures of Wellesley, Mass.: “It’s a good time for entrepreneurs.”

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