Midas 2017: Meet The 100 Best Venture Capitalists In The World
To break into the top echelon of the world’s best tech investors requires the kind of special return that most venture capitalists spend a career chasing. For Founders Fund’s Brian Singerman, Stemcentrx has proven just such a golden outcome. Singerman is the biggest mover at the top of the Midas List, the definitive ranking of the world’s best venture capitalists, joining an elite group of investors who’ve backed some of technology’s most transformative companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Instagram. Singerman did it in style, vaulting from #36 in 2016 all the way to #5 on the 2017 list, by having the conviction — and the audacity — to invest a combined $300 million into the cancer stem cell-targeting drug maker Stemcentrx. When AbbVie agreed to purchase the company in April 2016 for $10.2 billion and even more in potential earn outs, Singerman scored his firm a fund-making $1.4 billion in pure profits.
It’s the type of bold and decisive bet that separates the good investors from the great, but there’s still none better than #1 Jim Goetz. The Sequoia veteran’s $60 million combined bet on messaging app WhatsApp turned into $3 billion when Facebook acquired the company in 2014. That deal alone has kept Goetz in the top perch for several years, but the Midas List is ripe for change.
In January 2017, Goetz announced he was stepping back from his role at top firm Sequoia Capital. And as Facebook’s IPO fades into the pages of Silicon Valley history, 2017 could be the last ride for a group of investors who remain largely intact at the top. While two early Uber investors, Lowercase’s Chris Sacca and Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, comfortably keep their slots in the top 10, waiting for Uber to exit, and Gurley’s colleague Peter Fenton even inches up from #4 to #3 on the strenght of portfolio companies such as Docker, the Midas makers of the past are changing over: Fenton recently revealed through a filing that he’s leaving the board of Twitter, historically one of Midas’ great movers.
Early Instagram backer Steve Anderson continues to sit pretty in the top 5, sliding back to #4 but with more emerging wins around the corner through Stitch Fix and SoFi. Top-ranked woman and Internet trend specialist Mary Meeker holds her own with a portfolio that includes Facebook, Airbnb, Spotify and Chinese site JD.com at #6, but another investor cracks into the top 10: biotech expert Carl Gordon of OrbiMed jumping all the way to #8 as acquisitions fly fast and thick in the health space.
For longtime prominent investors such as Sir Michael Moritz, Reid Hoffman and Marc Andreessen, the great victories of the past are becoming just that — making way for newer faces to rise in the ranks, from Battery Ventures’ Neeraj Agrawal cracking the top 20 for the first time to Andreessen’s own colleague Jeff Jordan and China-U.S. joint specialist Hans Tung. While Twitter still accounts for 12 Midas investors and Facebook another 10, they’re now making way for Snap, the social app that went public in February 2017, and its eight investors in the 2017 Midas ranks.
Enterprise investors are having a moment in 2017. From AppDynamics’ shock $3.7 billion acquisition by Cisco before it could go public in January to IPOs from Nutanix, MuleSoft, Okta and Twilio, it’s never been a better time to bank on the predictability of software-as-a-service revenue. Just ask newcomer John Vrionis of Lightspeed Venture Partners, or his colleague Ravi Mhatre and Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter, both returnees after an absence from the list.
And while firms such as Sequoia, Benchmark, Greylock and Accel continue to score multiple members on the list, new firms are starting to break out. Floodgate’s Mike Maples Jr. is joined this year by his partner, Ann Miura-Ko. General Catalyst is fielding three list members, as is Lightspeed. Then there are investors like Theresia Gouw and Kirsten Green, who lead a Midas class of more women than ever before, and both of whom left mainstream investment careers to launch their own firms.
It’s a Midas List with nine newcomers and six returnees, twelve billionaires, ten China-focused investors and standards that raise the bar higher than ever before. Look closely and you’ll see a new guard of VCs emerging alongside the names already baked into Silicon Valley lore.
With hundreds of funds considered across even more partners and thousands of deals, it’s never been tougher to crack the Midas List. Forbes and TrueBridge Capital Partners collect data from publicly available sources as well as through many direct submissions from the firms themselves. Midas provides a five-year look-back at a partner’s portfolio, with exits by IPO or acquisition of $200 million or more and private holdings that raised money at valuations of $400 million or more over that time period (with a discount for the unrealized return). Midas’ formula favors earlier, bigger bets that return high multiples on an investor’s initial money, though a string of later successes can still make a Midas portfolio. (More information can be found at our submission page for Midas here.)
For 2017, the average top 10 list members had 12 such companies to their name; the last 10 members had an average of 7. Across the entire list, the typical Midas Lister for 2017 scored 9 eligible portfolio companies.