14 Mar Top Start-Up Investors Are Betting on Growth, Not Waiting for It
SAN FRANCISCO — For the last few years, the spotlight in start-up investing has largely shone on those who poured money into a company when it was already well along on a growth path. It turns out that spotlight may have been misdirected.
While some investors are throwing giant sums into more mature start-ups like Uber and Airbnb at soaring valuations, it is the venture capitalists who identify a promising company at its infancy and bet on its growth who often come out on top.
Known as early-stage investors, they dominate a list of the top 20 venture capitalists worldwide that was recently created by the research firm CB Insights. About three-quarters of the top 20 are investors who put money into start-ups during their early rounds of financing. Only a handful on the list are focused on investing at a later stage in a company’s life.
CB Insights generated the list using criteria such as how big a return an investor was able to produce when his or her investments went public or were acquired. CB Insights focused on the performance of investors since 2008 for the list.
The top 20 includes Peter Fenton of Benchmark, who invested in Twitter when the social media company had only 25 employees and was trying to fix its once-common service failures; the company went public in 2013. The list also includes Jim Goetz at Sequoia Capital, who was one of the few to invest in the messaging service WhatsApp before it was acquired by Facebook, and Jenny Lee of GGV Capital, who was among the earliest investors in 21Vianet, a Chinese data center services provider that has since gone public.
The idea that early-stage investors can generate much larger returns has long been a core principle of venture capital: Get in early and grab a bigger stake in a company, with more opportunity for a larger return later, the thinking goes.