RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The amount of money raised by venture capital funds in 2006 dipped more than $600 million below the 2005 total, ending a four-year streak of increases, Dow Jones VentureOne reported on Tuesday.

The number of firms raising funds also dropped – by a total of 29.

However, for the second consecutive year the funds that were raised had a median topping $200 million for the second straight year. In 2006, the median was $205 million, up from just over $200 million a year ago.

In the Carolinas, Intersouth led the fund-raising with one of $275 million.

Southern Capitol Ventures added a $15 million round.

The Aurora Funds and NC IDEA are in the processing of closing rounds estimated to top $100 million and $16 million respectively.

Overall, U.S. venture funds raised $24.33 billion in 2006. That’s down from the $24.94 billion raised in 2005.

Dragging down the year was a very slow fourth quarter. VCs raised $4 billion, the lowest amount since the $2.7 billion generated in the first quarter of 2005.

“The entire private equity industry has been supportive of larger funds being raised by established firms with positive track records over the past two years, so it’s not surprising that the venture capital market has fallen in line with that trend,” said Stephen Harmston, director of global research for VentureOne, in a statement. “It remains to be seen whether the slowdown in 4Q will prove to be a sign of a curtailment of that trend, or just a short-term pause for venture capital funds. What is true is that venture capital funds in 2005 and 2006 have kept a very close pace with the amount of investment that is occurring.”

Of the funds raised, some 16 percent were for $500 million or more. That’s the biggest percentage since VentureOne began keeping statistics in 1992.

Bigger certainly was better. The 34 percent of funds netting less than $100 million was the lowest on record.

Venture fund raising by year, according to VentureOne:

1996: $11.994 billion

1997: $17.25 billion

1998: $26.66 billion

1999: $57.43 billion

2000: $83.18 billion

2001: $49.99 billion

2002: $13.08 billion

2003: $9.88 billion

2004: $18.38 billion

2005: $24.93 billion

2006: $24.33 billion