Business Funding reports Venture

The Most Active U.S. Lead Investors: Part One

Illustration of piles of gold coins to represent money

Editor’s note: The first in a two-part series examining the most active lead investors in the United States.

In the cliquish world of venture investors, there are those known for their vast deal volume. Others stand out for the massive checks they write. And then there’s a smaller group, renowned for investing both frequently and expensively.

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In an attempt to ferret out who’s leading the ranks in each of those categories, Crunchbase News assembled a data dive looking at the most active U.S. venture investors* of 2019. We ranked firms by total lead investments, and dollar value of lead investments.

The end result was a fairly definitive list. However, it was also a pretty obvious one. Topping the ranks were long-established brand name VCs like Accel, Sequoia Capital and SoftBank.

To mix things up, we’ll be following up shortly with a data set focusing on more recently founded firms. For this first installment, however, we’re looking at investors of any age.

Most Active Lead Investors

First, let’s look at most active lead investors. We start with this because it gives an idea of who is putting up significant sums across the most rounds.

When we looked at most active U.S. startup lead investors for 2019, this is the resultant list:

This list kind of resembles what we would have guessed off the top of our heads. It’s not surprising to see Alphabet’s GV, backed by a $750 billion corporation known for making crazy, expensive bets on far-out technologies, ranked first.

Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates and Bessemer Venture Partners come next, with 12 lead rounds each. They’re all big, famous firms that have been around for decades. Again, no big shocker. And Tiger Global Management, while comparatively newer, has been an extraordinarily prolific investor for years.

Most Active And Spendiest Lead Investors

Next, we look at the spendiest of the active lead investors. To do this, we sum up the total value of all the early through later stage rounds each firm has led this year.

It’s not an exact science, but it gives us a good idea of who’s putting the most capital to work. In many rounds, the lead investor is the sole backer and put up all the capital. In rounds involving several backers, meanwhile, it’s generally safe to assume lead investors put up a significant, double-digit percentage.

Below is our list of highest-dollar lead investors:

No one in startup-land will be remotely surprised to see SoftBank leading the pack by orders of magnitude. Tiger Global and Sequoia are also pretty predictable picks for second and third place.

Coatue, a hedge fund and heavy unicorn investor, is a less well-known name, but has been moving up the ranks for years. Its founder is Philippe Laffont, a former analyst at Tiger Management, a chief early backer of Tiger Global and onetime employer of its founder.

Singapore’s Temasek, meanwhile, has been an active investor for years, with some 200 known rounds in the Crunchbase database. As unicorn rounds have gotten bigger, Temasek has been writing bigger checks, leading late stage rounds this year for some of the largest funding recipients, including DoorDash, Impossible Foods, and others.

Same Firms, Bigger Checks

Just a few years ago, $100 million venture rounds were a rarity. Now, they’re commonplace. So far this year, roughly 25 U.S. companies have raised so-called “hypergiant” rounds of $250 million or more. And as a result, active investors are closing larger funds and writing bigger checks.

Yet the largest returns in venture still come from early stage investments, and we’re seeing the most active investors heavily involved in small and mid-sized rounds as well.

*U.S. venture investors refers to investors in U.S.-based companies. The firms themselves do not need to be U.S.-based.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.

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