March 23, 2016
Written by Bruce Upbin
FORBES first published the Midas Listof the world’s smartest tech investors two and a half bubbles ago. Many of the people on that inaugural list of 2001 we once knew and loved are now either semi-retired (Bob Kagle, Dick Kramlich) or no longer playing the game at the level they once did (you know who you are). Gone also are the non-VCs we used to include to acknowledge the company-building contributions of power lawyers like Larry Sonsini and Jim Gaither, or tech bankers such as Michael Grimes, Brad Koenig (now a startup CEO) and Frank Quattrone. Midas became a pure VC list by 2006.
But some people endure no matter what. These are the Hall of Famers, people on the list for at least 10 years, and they’re listed below. Give them a hand. Ask them for money. Two have been on the list every year since its inception. That’s pretty amazing given the volatility of tech markets and the vicissitudes of life in the fast lane.
John Doerr. 15 years on the list. The legendary investor (four-time no. 1 on the list and never ranked below 30) continues his winning streak with lucrative bets on transportation darling Uber, much hyped augmented realty firm Magic Leap, email rival Alack, and neighborhood network Nextdoor. The Intel alum joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 1980. Early bets on Compaq, Netscape, Google and Amazon have earned him a $4.4 billion fortune.
Michael Moritz. 15 years. Moritz’s track record may even be better than Doerr’s. Apart from this year’s no. 28 rank, Moritz has been consistently in the top 20 for a decade and spent 6 years straight (2006-2011) at either no. 1 or no. 2. As honcho of Sequoia Capital, he made legendary bets on the likes of Google, Paypal and Yahoo, and his more recent high-profile investments include Instacart, Klarna and Stripe. Sequoia was the only institutional investor in WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app acquired by Facebook in 2014 for nearly $22 billion in cash and stock. Moritz ceded daily control of Sequoia to fellow billionaire Douglas Leone in 2012 due to an incurable, undisclosed illness. The Welshman and former journalist, Moritz wrote an influential biography of Steve Jobs in 1984 before turning to investing. Moritz was knighted in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth for his investing success and charitable giving.
Jim Breyer. 14 years. The early Facebook investor, who was no. 1 on the list from 2011-2013, now runs his own Breyer Capital after a 28-year run at Accel Partners. His new firm has stakes in Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, digital currency firm Circle, secure communication app Wickr and build-and code-your own computer maker Kano. He tells FORBES he is now “immersing myself in artificial intelligence breakthroughs that can make profound differences in media, healthcare and financial services.” Breyer also invested in Etsy, the online crafts market that went public in April 2015, and Legendary Pictures, which is being bought by Wang Jianlin’s Wanda Group for $3.5 billion.
Promod Haque. 12 years. Haque has bounced around the Midas ranking but he’s stuck around better than almost anyone else. He debuted at no. 24 on the inaugural list in 2001 and was no. 1 in 2004. The senior managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners focuses on enterprise and healthcare IT and his investments in more than 60 companies have produced more than $40 billion in exit values, and he’s had more than 20 portfolio companies go public and over 30 been acquired. His most notable recent deal was cybersecurity company FireEye, which had the second-best performing IPO in the US in 2013. His recent investments include Dtex Systems, Palerra, Shape Security, Health Catalyst, and CareCloud. For investors, Haque thinks the important thing is to be discerning about investing in rapidly growing industries. “Any time when a given sector gets hot, there’s a lot of me-too companies that show up,” Haque says. “Over the years we’ve been critical about the fact that if there are already three or four companies tackling the same problem, you don’t need a lot more.”
And now the newcomers to the Hall of Fame (10 years or more on the list):
Danny Rimer. 10 years. Rimer is a maestro of online marketplaces, and jumped this year from no. 33 to no. 24 thanks to the success of sites such as Viagogo and Farfetch. He’s also on the boards of Nasty Gal, 1stdibs and Good Eggs. He was early into Etsy and, while its shares got whacked post-IPO, the online artisan goods marketplace still has a market cap of more than $1 billion. Looking to the future of investing, Rimer is optimistic about what is to come. “This is when everyone gets more professional—entrepreneurs clearly get more focused, and investors get more professional about what advice they’re providing and how committed they are to building companies,” he says.
David Chao. 10 years. Chao is cofounder and general partner at DCM Ventures, which invests across the U.S., China and Japan. He invested in online lending startup SoFi (currently valued at $4 billion), which is hoping for a 2017 IPO that would raise the company’s valuation to the $8 billion to $10 billion range. Chao invested early in Chinese payment company 99Bill, which was acquired in 2015 for $380 million by Wanda, Chao also was involved in 58.com, which IPO’d in 2013 and now has a market cap of $8 billion. He is chairman at 51job and also sits on the board at Eaze, Renren, SoFi, Yikyak and others.
Scott Sandell. 10 years. Sandell has now served for two decades at NEA, but the former Microsoft product manager hasn’t lost his touch. He posted big wins with enterprise software firm Workday (IPO 2012), and was also the lead investor in Playdom, which sold to Disney in 2010 for $563 million (plus a $200 million earn-out). He was the largest shareholder in Fusion-io, with NEA holding a 39% stake at the time of its 2011 public debut. NEA also participated in a $130 million round for Bloom Energy in January 2015, and a $15 million round in February 2015 and a $35 million Series B for Branch Metrics. Other investments include Tableau (IPO 2013) and Green Chef. Outside of work, one of his favorite things is to mountain bike in the hills south of San Francisco.