About the only good news out of venture fundraising statistics for 2010 is that more new funds were launched than in 2009. Otherwise, the news was grim.

Raleigh-based NovaQuest, which is led by former executives at Quintiles, provided some good news with its first fund totaling $177 million. The firm is looking to raise $500 million. (Read about NovaQuest here.)

Its Healthcare Investment Fund was the largest new round raised in the fourth quarter.

New data out Tuesday from the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters shows that venture funds raised on $12.3 billion last year. That’s the lowest total since the post-2001 recession.

Last week, Dow Jones’ venture arm said VCs raised $11. 6 billion. (Read more here.)

VCs did create 52 new funds, up from 43 a year earlier.

However, since the latest recession began to have a greater impact on the economy in 2008, overall fund raising has plunged.

Year-by-year totals show the decline since 2005:

  • 2005: $30.8 billion across 234 funds, including 54 new ones
  • 2006: $31,9 billion across 235 funds, including 63 new ones
  • 2007: $31.2 billion across 237 funds, including 71 new ones
  • 2008: $26.4 billion across 264 funds, including 64 new ones
  • 2009: $16.3 billion across 150 funds, including 43 new ones
  • 2010: $12.3 billion across 157 funds, including 52 new ones

In the fourth quarter, 49 funds raised $3 billion.

“Given current conditions, a limited number of venture firms will be able to successfully raise new funds in 2011 and many of these will be smaller than previous funds raised,” said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA, in a statement.

“Yet, the continued downsizing of the venture industry has positive implications for investors and entrepreneurs,” he added. “An agile venture capital model likely translates into more capital efficient and fewer duplicative deals in the IT arena as well as less capital intensive deals in the life science and clean technology arenas.”

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