The two reports offer different totals, but the results are not a surprise to venture capitalists and those trying to strike deals for money.

The VC drought continued through the first quarter of 2003.

Funding for deals dropped 12 percent from the fourth quarter of a slow 2002, to $3.8 billion, according to National Venture Capital Association, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Thomson Venture Economics. That’s the lowest quarterly figure seen since the third quarter of 1997.

Funding has fallen for 12 consecutive quarters since the dot com bubble burst, according to the report which was first cited today by Dow Jones.

The drop is worst if one looks at figures compiled by Ernst & Young and Venture One: $3.4 billion, a 21 percent drop from 2002’s final three months.

The national figures mirror the trend Local Tech Wire has documented for VC deals in the Carolinas and Georgia.

An investment in biotech startup Metabolon recently is the 26th venture funding for the year in the region, totaling about $215 million. That compares with more than $300 million in 41 deals at this point a year ago.

North Carolina firms have raised some $100 million, Georgia $64 million, and South Carolina $63,5 million — the New South Communications deal.

Several people cited in the studies attributed the Gulf War and other world events as being reasons for the VC decline.

On a bright note, Don Williams, a group leader in venture capital for E & Y, noted that deals did increase 43 percent from January to February and 40 percent from February to March.