Data Diversity

David, Michael, and John: The Ten Most Common First Names For VC Partners In The U.S.

Let’s say you wanted to raise your (current or future) kid to be a venture capitalist. To be sure, this is a very dubious goal on your part, but let’s roll with it, for the sake of this tongue-in-cheek introduction.

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So how would you set your sweet precious kid up for success? Research by Crunchbase News has some of the answers. Step one: go to college at Harvard or Stanford or UPenn — you know, somewhere fancy.

In school, they should study something technical. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll go to graduate school. Many pursuing any post-bachelor’s education will pick up an MBA along the way, though they might find it to be a necessary but insufficient stamp on the ticket to the other side of the table. Once there, your kid can enjoy a career rife with risk, but with the potential of yielding unfathomable wealth, if only they can move numbers from their firm’s balance sheet onto that of the next Facebook or Google.

If you want your kid to feel right at home in the world of venture, however, make sure they’re named something like “Jeff.” Then buy them their first vest when they’re five and don’t look back.

Out of nearly 6,400 U.S.-based investment partners listed in Crunchbase at the time of writing, an astonishing 8.15 percent of them are named either “David,” “Michael,” or “John.”

This doesn’t include the many abbreviations and variants for each of these names. There are, for example, 50 Jonathans, 32 Daves, and the 67 Mikes already displayed in the chart.

And, because no article like this would be complete without a rundown, here’s the low-down on the highest-flying investors on the list.

  • The Most-Invested David is David Tisch, who has made 83 personal investments and 242 partner investments on behalf of BoxGroup, according to Crunchbase data at time of writing.
  • The Most-Invested Michael is Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel, who has 23 personal investments and five partner investments listed in Crunchbase.
  • The Most-Invested John is Kleiner Perkins chairman John Doerr who has six personal investments and 64 partner investments listed in Crunchbase.
  • The Most-Invested Mark is Mark Cuban with 132 listed personal investments and three listed partner investments made out of his family office, Radical Investments LP.
  • The Most-Invested Scott is Scott Belsky, who has 64 personal investments and five partner investments listed. Belsky is currently a venture partner at Benchmark and the Chief Product Officer at Adobe Systems.
  • The Most-Invested Paul is Paul Buchheit who currently has 149 listed personal investments and three partner investments. Buchheit is the managing partner of Y Combinator.
  • The Most-Invested Chris is Chris Sacca, who has 34 personal investments and 29 partner investments listed in Crunchbase. Sacca was founder and chairman of Lowercase Capital.
  • The Most-Invested Peter is Peter Thiel, with 54 listed personal investments and 78 partner investments. Thiel is the founding partner of several investment firms including Founders Fund, Valar Ventures, Mithril Capital Management, and Thiel Capital.
  • The Most-Invested Brian is Brian Lee, who has 29 personal investments and two partner investments listed in Crunchbase. Lee was co-founder of LegalZoom and is managing partner of BAM Ventures.
  • The Most-Invested Mike is Mike Maples Jr. with six listed personal investments and 33 listed partner investments. Maples is the co-founding partner of Floodgate.
  • The Most-Invested Robert is Robert Nelsen, with 33 partner investments and four personal investments listed. Nelsen is the co-founder and managing director of ARCH Venture Partners.
  • The Most-Invested Andrew is Andrew Boszhardt Jr., with 11 personal investments and 138 partner investments made on behalf of Great Oaks Venture Capital, the firm he co-founded and runs.

To be clear, we’re kind of joking about all of this, but we’re also kind of not. Despite a deluge of recent diversity and inclusion efforts, VC is still mostly a white dude’s game. Is that fair? No. Will that change? Hopefully. Are investors leaving returns on the table? Absolutely.

Crunchbase News has extensive reporting on diversity statistics in startup fundraising. Data from our Q3 diversity report shows, at the time, only about 13 percent of capital invested in 2019 went to companies with at least one female founder. All-women founding teams raised just 3 percent of all venture capital worldwide in 2019 through Q3.

Achieving gender and racial parity in startup fundraising starts by achieving gender and racial parity on the other side of the venture table. That means more Black and Latinx people, especially women, need to be brought to the partner level at existing firms. And limited partners need to invest in emerging managers who aren’t named David or Michael or Jeff, who didn’t go to Harvard undergrad and Stanford for b-school, who show extraordinary promise but not in the ordinary ways.

In venture, incumbency is often an advantage. It’s going to take a long time for the list of most common names among partners to reflect the diversity efforts being pursued today. The venture industry seems to be moving faster these days, though, hopefully all the quicker to break the status quo.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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