Clean tech and energy Cybersecurity Fintech & e-commerce Startups Venture

SoftBank, Tiger Still Lead Pack Of Spendiest Startup Investors In The World

In a wild year for startup funding, one variable stayed constant: The most active investors and biggest check writers are familiar names who’ve been at this a long time.

For 2021, SoftBank Vision Fund and Tiger Global topped the list of largest lead investors globally in venture and growth-stage rounds, according to an analysis of Crunchbase data. Y Combinator, meanwhile, was the busiest investor by round counts, with 642 deals last year, followed by rival startup accelerator Techstars.

Landing at the top of the investor heap was no small feat last year, given the unprecedented sums that went into startups worldwide. Overall, global venture investment in 2021 totaled $643 billion, compared to $335 billion for 2020—marking 92 percent growth year over year. 

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with all-in-one prospecting solutions powered by the leader in private-company data.

Bigger rounds, bigger check writers

Broadly, the rise in funding has been driven by larger round sizes rather than a big spike in the number of deals getting done. While rounds of $100 million and up were once a rarity in the startup sphere, these days they’re an everyday occurrence.

The ubiquity of giant rounds largely results from the rise of investors willing to regularly write enormous checks. An analysis of Crunchbase data shows at least 17 venture investors who led or co-led1 funding rounds of $5 billion or more. We list them below:  

There’s no surprise in seeing SoftBank Vision Fund and Tiger Global in the No. 1 and No. 2 slots, respectively. The two have consistently been leaders in financing the largest rounds in our quarterly reports, and they haven’t been slowing down.

Standout deals for Tiger in 2021 include leading a $1.8 billion Series B for fusion energy upstart Commonwealth Fusion; co-leading a $1.3 billion Series D for cloud security provider Lacework; and co-leading an $800 million Series E for British fintech Revolut (with SoftBank as co-lead).

For SoftBank, the biggest rounds include co-leading a $3.6 billion investment in Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart and a $1.2 billion Series D for senior-focused health care company Devoted Health. Both SoftBank and Tiger were active investors across North America, Europe and Asia.

Search less. Close more.

Grow your revenue with all-in-one prospecting solutions powered by the leader in private-company data.

Coatue, a New York-headquartered firm that invests in both public equities and private companies worldwide, is a lower profile name, but certainly no newcomer. The firm was  significantly more active in startup funding in 2021, participating in over 160 deals, per Crunchbase data, up from 58 in 2020. Coatue was lead investor in about half of its deals last year.

Most active early- and late-stage investors

The ranking of the most active early- and late-stage venture investors also contains the usual suspects. We list those that invested in 30 or more companies in 2021 below:

Insight Partners, which takes the No. 2 slot for most active, really upped its game in 2021, making a mark for both the size and frequency of its investments. The firm backed 164 early- through late-stage portfolio companies in 2021, per Crunchbase data, up from 78 in 2020

Andreessen Horowitz, which principally invests in U.S. startups, is also a perennial chart-topper among most active investors. The firm stayed true to its reputation in 2021, investing in 87 companies, as well as a number of seed deals. It looks like momentum is continuing in 2022, with the firm closing on $9 billion across three new funds earlier this month.

Supercharged seed investors

Seed investors were also prolific dealmakers in 2021. We look at the 20 most active below:

Famed accelerator Y Combinator led the pack, with 633 seed portfolio investments. A majority of those rounds were $1 million and under, but at least 30 portfolio investments were $5 million and up, per Crunchbase data.

Next in the ranks was Techstars, with 381 seed company investments in 2021. While a majority of investments are in U.S.-headquartered startups, the accelerator is active globally, with a sizable number of deals in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Not quite business as usual

While we’ve made much of the fact that the “usual suspects” continue to top rankings across most active investor categories, it would be misguided to walk away with the impression that the funding scene has been static.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed some broad shifts in the typical investor mix. On the later-stage end, growth investors have taken a much more active role, particularly in backing companies at unicorn valuations.

For a while now, we’ve also been seeing an expansion in fund managers at seed, alongside the early-stage funds that used to focus at Series A repositioning to seed. The most active firms at Series A today are multistage venture firms with deep pockets, along with some newer entrants from growth-equity firms.

Further reading

Methodology

The data contained in this report comes directly from Crunchbase, and is based on reported data. Data reported is as of Jan. 7, 2022.

Note that data lags are most pronounced at the earliest stages of venture activity, with seed funding amounts increasing significantly after the end of a quarter/year.

All funding values are given in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted. Crunchbase converts foreign currencies to U.S. dollars at the prevailing spot rate from the date funding rounds, acquisitions, IPOs and other financial events are reported. Even if those events were added to Crunchbase long after the event was announced, foreign currency transactions are converted at the historic spot price.

Glossary of funding terms

Seed and angel consists of seed, pre-seed and angel rounds. Crunchbase also includes venture rounds of unknown series, equity crowdfunding and convertible notes at $3 million (USD or as-converted USD equivalent) or less.

Early-stage consists of Series A and Series B rounds, as well as other round types. Crunchbase includes venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture and other rounds above $3 million, and those less than or equal to $15 million.

Late-stage consists of Series C, Series D, Series E and later-lettered venture rounds following the “Series [Letter]” naming convention. Also included are venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture and other rounds above $15 million.

Technology growth is a private-equity round raised by a company that has previously raised a “venture” round. (So basically, any round from the previously defined stages.)

Illustration: Dom Guzman


  1. Unless an investor is the sole backer in a round, the size of their contribution is typically not disclosed. However, if one sees that a firm is lead or co-lead in a round with other investors, it’s generally safe to presume they put up at least a double-digit percentage of that deal.

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

CTA

Find the right companies, identify the right contacts, and connect with decision-makers with an all-in-one prospecting solution.

Copy link