Unicorn Venture Fund League Table

Image result for unicorn herd

With all the talk recently about unicorn companies (those private tech companies that are able to attract valuations in excess of $1.0 billion), it got me thinking about unicorn venture firms (venture firms that have raised funds greater than $1.0 billion).

From our friends at CB Insights, they tell us that 38 private companies received unicorn status in 2014, and another 16 closing by mid-April of this year. That’s 54 companies in just over 16 months.

Compare that to the data I was able to pull out of Pitchbook for venture firms*, which found that there’s only been 31 venture firms who have been able to raise $1.0 billion funds in the entire history of venture. Some of them were able to do it more than once, so these 31 firms amounted to 53 unicorn funds since 1999. My data set was focused on US only investors, and includes some growth investors like TCV and Oak, but they are still considered venture for this purpose.

The growth folks dominate the league tables, with NEA leading the pack with six vehicles over $1.0 billion, including their close this year of New Enterprise Associates 15 at $2.8 billion. TCV and Oak have both raised four (4) funds over $1.0 billion, and Bessemer and Greylock each have three (3). Interestingly, none of the top five firms are considered Silicon Valley born-and-bred firms, as they all started on the East Coast. At least three of the firms now consider their headquarters in Silicon Valley, but all have significant presence on both coasts.

Vintage dispersion is also interesting, with no year eclipsing the 2000 high water mark of eight fund closings at over $1.0 billion until 2014, when nine unicorn-funds were closed (scary, given all the discussion lately comparing the current environment to the late 90’s exuberance). Many of the recent unicorn funds are familiar names, but in 2014 there were five firms who raised their first unicorn (Accel, Founders, Lightspeed, Tiger Global, and Vivo), with Tiger Global actually raising two unicorn funds in 2014.

I’m sure if I dove further into the data, we’d see that the unicorn funds are likely the ones who are leading/participating in the unicorn company financings, but I’ll leave that analysis to someone else. For now, here’s the breakdown of the league table:

Firm #
Oak 4
Bessemer 3
Greylock 3
Khosla 2
Menlo 2
Norwest 2
Sequoia 2
Tiger Global 2
VantagePoint 2
Accel 1
Andreessen Horowitz 1
Apple Tree 1
Benchmark 1
Founders 1
Lightspeed 1
Matrix 1
Mayfield 1
Meritech 1
Mobius 1
Polaris 1
Redpoint 1
SK Ventures 1
Softbank 1
Sprout 1
TH Lee 1
Vivo 1

* Data from Pitchbook pulled from custom search of US domestic firms that have raised a minimum fund size of $1.0 billion.  My apologies if there’s anyone who was inadvertently left off the list based on my less than perfect search skills.



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Insights and Advice From Some of The Greatest VC Investors of All Time

I was lucky enough to attend the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Gala and Awards Ceremony last night in San Francisco.  The event was an interesting juxtaposition of the venture industry today, with many of the old guard in attendence wearing tuxedos or dark suits, along with some of the new style in the industry with fancy sport coats, open collar ginigham shirts, and jeans.

The program was focused around the three award winners for the night:

  • Josh Green (Mohr Davidow) – Outstanding Service Award (outstanding service as an NVCA Board Member or Director)
  • Robin Richards Donohoe (Draper Richards) – American Spirit Award (showing philanthropic leadership to make a contribution to society)
  • Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital) – Lifetime Achievement Award (instrumental in the formation and growth of the venture capital industry)

Besides Bruce Dunlevie’s (Benchmark) dry comedic introduction of Sir Michael Moritz, the highlight of the night was the final panel featuring John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, Bill Draper of Draper Richards, Dick Kramlich of NEA, and Bill Gurley of Benchmark.  Their discussion was moderated by Moritz, who used his skills as a journalist to deftly guide the discussion.  Some of the highlighted comments that I noted:

  • Bill Gurley admitted that his biggest mistake in venture was that he didn’t chase the deal hard enough with Google after Larry and Sergey came and presented to their partnership (Doerr and Moritz were the beneficiaries of that blunder);
  • Both Doerr and Moritz regret not doing Netflix; in particular, Doerr noted how much respect he has for founder Reed Hastings as a person, and that he would love to have worked with him;
  • The panel was almost unanimous (Doerr abstained) in their belief that China will lead  the growth and innovation economy within the next 10 years (my comment:  maybe they already are);
  • Gurley and Kramlich both feel like the venture market is showing similar signs to the 1999/2000 era, with Gurley noting the additional concern that there’s actually no liquidity today as companies are not going public at the same rate that they were in 1999; and,
  • Doerr and Moritz seemed less concerned, with Doerr noting Mary Meeker’s comments that we’re in the early stages of a sustained boom economy.  See her most recent market comments here at WSJ Online.

NVCA Gala 2015The final question posed to the panel was particularly interesting for those with children or mentoring young adults:  “What advice would you give to young folks looking to enter the venture capital industry?”  The responses were great:

  • Doerr – pick two fields, and get to know all you can about them.  Then network like crazy in those two areaa; be humble; don’t get confused about competence or skill, because venture is a lot about luck.
  • Draper – ask questions and be curious (much like a jounrnalist); work at a small business for a couple of year before going into the investment side.
  • Kramlich – be alert and able to change as the environment changes; take your time to listen to those with experience.
  • Gurley – have a passion for the industry; be insanely curious (2nd time the word “curious” came up); don’t assume that the game will always stay the same; bet heavy on your strengths as an individual.
  • Moritz – remain alert, protective, eager, curious (3rd mention), and hard charging.


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Battle Royale – Hawaii vs NorCal

The late morning air in Vancouver, Washington felt heavy on the skin, as the pressure for Pleasanton’s 14 year-olds to advance in the Western Regional came down to one game against Ewa Beach, Hawaii. The sting of Friday’s fiasco against Idaho was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and no one was quite sure how the team would respond to their first adversity of the summer.

Ptown Blue would bat first, and it was obvious from the start that this game would be different that the previous day’s contest. An error, two hit batsmen, and singles by Jimmy Kaufman and Quinn Brinnon gave Pleasanton a quick 2-0 lead and knocked their starting pitcher out of the game. With Mitch Benson on the hill, the team felt confidence about their chances. A quick bottom of the first proved to the young Ptowners that they could play with the white-uniformed team from Ewa Beach.

Despite the incessant tribal chants from the kids and parents from Hawaii, Pleasanton kept the pressure on in the second inning, with the big blow being a 2-run rocket to left-center that left Mitch Benson standing on third base, and the dugout of blue clad boys whooping and smiling at their early success. Nate Lau followed with a sharp single to center, and suddenly the boys were up 5-0.

No one expected the Hawaii team to fold their beach towels and head home from the beach early, particularly their boisterous parents and fans. They came back to score four in the bottom of the second, and another in the third, and the game was tied after three complete innings. The teams traded single runs in the fourth, and the game took on the feel of a heavy weight title fight, except the only swings were coming from these still-developing 14 year old boys (with a couple extra swings thrown in by the Hawaii team).

Breakthrough came in the sixth inning for the powder blue wearing Ptowners. The rally started with lead-off hitter Max Lander lining a ball back through the pitcher and into centerfield for a base hit. Justin Lavell’s two-strike, chopping single to right just over the glove of Hawaii’s beamoth first baseman set up Trevor Wallace’s single to plate Lander and give the team the lead. An intentional walk to Mitch Benson with runners on first and second, a tactic usually reserved for Barry Bonds, loaded the bases for Nate Lau. This brought the Hawaii infielders in tight, their spikes firmly set on green grass of the Columbia River infield. Nate Lau made them pay, as he got a ball through the infield plating another run. Another hit batsman (Hawaii plunked four Ptown players on Saturday), would push across another, and the score stood at 9-6, with Pleasanton needing six more outs for the win.

The final outs of a baseball game can often be difficult to find, as players find themselves griping the ball a little tighter, and accumulating a bit more sweat in their finger tips. Special players can calm those nerves, and preserve through difficult and harrowing times. Two such players stepped up for Ptown on Saturday, with Trevor Wallace coming in for relief of Mitch Benson, and defensive leader Cal O’Loughlin deftly scooping up balls at shortstop. In the end, Wallace allowed only one base runner, and O’Loughlin accounted for five of the last six outs, including the turn of an amazing 4-6-3 double play to end the game and end the chorus of chants from the highly competitive Hawaii team.

There’s no doubt that we will likely face this Hawaii team again, as they are talented and spirited. All those in attendance on Saturday were exhausted, drained, and thoroughly entertained by the young men on the field. People often throw out terms like “The best I’ve ever seen,” so I’ll avoid such hyperbole, but I know that the trek to Vancouver, Washington to watch 14-year old boys play baseball and represent Pleasanton was all made worth it by the way our team carried themselves on Saturday. Congrats to the players and coaches, and thank you for making the summer of 2014 so memorable for all that are involved and rooting for you, for playing the game the right way, and for reminding us all how to have fun while succeeding at the highest level of competition.


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Disappointment on the Columbia River for the Pleasanton Juniors

Dubbed the “Columbia River Meltdown” by many of the local baseball aficionados, Ptown’s 8-3 loss to the underdog potato farmers from the Pacific Northwest was a shock to everyone but the kids from Idaho. The boys quickly felt the weight of this potentially costly defeat, as they faced the specter of not making it out of pool play, with a lone game left on their four-game slate against an undefeated Hawaii team.

The Western Region Junior tournament of 2014 was proving to be a grouping of “Have” and “Have Nots” as there were six teams with one or less loss after four days of play, and five other teams largely eliminated from the tournament. With 2 days remaining of pool play, six teams were fighting for 4 playoff spots. While the Friday loss didn’t eliminate Ptown, it certainly tested their resolve as the reality for these 14-year old boys that they weren’t invincible was a big blow to their young egos.

However, their coaches, led by Dave Lander, Bob. Kaufman, and Eric Benson, used the loss as a teaching moment, and found light where there seemed so little. A Saturday win against the team from Ewa Beach, Hawaii had to be expected by the boys, and the coaches worked furiously into the early Saturday morning watching game film and playing with different lineup and pitching scenarios. The foundations of confidence can disturbed by the slightest erosion at the base, but come Saturday morning, it was obvious that this team wouldn’t allow a random bump in the soil to affect how firmly their feet would bury into the Columbia River shoreline field.

A loss to Hawaii would include a one-way ticket back to Pleasanton, and a heavy feeling of unfulfilled promise. A win, and all prior transgressions could be erased. It would be a tough battle, and one not to be miss. You’ll learn in my next post what happened on that Saturday afternoon against Hawaii.

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The Battle for Oxford Suites Supremacy (non-fiction)

20140722-230143-82903156.jpgIt was an eerily cool and breezy summer night in the far northern reaches of California on Tuesday evening. Interstate 5 has been a well worn path of anxious families and fans to the teams playing in this talent rich youth baseball tournament, although most of the teams young ballplayers are lodging in Redding for the week. Tonight marked the culmination of a long weekend of baseball for the sturdiest teams playing through the winners bracket – Pleasanton and Rocklin.

After five days of sharing the beautiful confines of the Redding Oxford Suites (a fine stop for those traveling through Northern California to the annual Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon) these two titans of Northern California youth baseball were able to square off in the baseball equivalent of a UFC cage-match at Foothill High School outside of Redding.

The Pleasanton team started quickly with Jimmy Kaufman dominating the first inning, shutting down the Rocklin hitters with his poison filled darts of pitches, while whipping a fierce double to score Mitch Benson to take a 1-0 lead after the first inning.

The starting pitching for both teams cruised through the second, but it was the Rocklin pitcher that blinked in the third inning, giving up a sharp hit to center to Justin Lavell, and walked two to load the bases. A confident Nate Lau stepped into the batters box next, and after getting down in the count 1-2, found some open greenery for the baseball in right field. The right fielder made a valiant diving effort for the sinking liner, but after the dust settled, Lau was standing on third base and the boys from Ptown had a 4-0 lead. Insurance came shortly after, as another walk, a failed pick-off attempt, and two errors, led to two more runs and a 6-0 lead after three innings complete.

That would be all the boys from Pleasanton would need, as Jimmy Kaufman pitched a complete game, and the Ptown Blue crew held on for a stirring 6-4 win over the game team from Rocklin.

Their next game will be Thursday, with the winners of Wednesday night’s consolation game needing to beat Pleasanton twice on Thursday to claim the Northern California crown. A tall order for any team against the gritty Pleasanton boys. The stands should be packed for Thursday’s finals, so get there early to secure good seats. There’s free hot dogs and Coach Lander bobble head to the first 5 fans who mention this article at the snack shack.


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Pleasanton Advance to Winner’s Bracket Final of Nor Cal Juniors Tournament

The 14-year old boys from Pleasanton kept on their winning ways at the Northern California Division tournament this weekend in Redding, California.

The winner of the Division tournament represents Northern California in the Western Regional in Vancouver, WA.  Teams from the seven sections in Northern California were represented in Redding: Pleasanton, Oakland, Porterville, Gridley, San Jose, Manteca, and Rocklin.

The Ptown Blue team jumped out quick in the sweltering Redding heat to beat Manteca (Spreckles Park) 6-1 in the opening game. Behind a strong pitching performance by fireballer Jimmy Kaufman, and big hitting from Kaufman and Quinn Brinnon, the team took the early lead and never looked back. The big hit came in the third inning, with the bases load when Trevor Bergman laced a sharp single to left that scored two, and gave the team a comforting 5-0 cushion. The team from Manteca wouldn’t go down without a fight though, as it took some spectacular defensive plays by John Harrington at second base in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, a diving catch on a low liner by Colin Dixon in left field, and a laser throw by catcher Quinn Brinnon to pick off a runner in the final inning to secure the win.

Sunday’s game against the team from San Jose, Branham Hills, was a nail biter.  The Branham Hills pitcher had many of the boys off-balance, but Pleasanton was again able to score first, taking the lead in the third inning on strong hitting from Justin Lavell and Mitch Benson.  Defense really ruled the day for Pleasanton on Sunday, as their pitchers (Trevor Wallace and Benson) were helped by four double plays in the game, including the game ender as Branham Hills was rallying in the 7th.

The team advances to the winners bracket final on Tuesday, where they’ll face a tough Rocklin team (Tri City).  Game time is set for 5pm on Tuesday, with the winner advancing the championship game on Thursday, while the loser moves down the finals of the loser’s bracket.

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Pleasanton 14YO Boys Baseball Qualify for Northern California Little League Tournament

After representing the Tri-Valley in the inaugural Intermediate Little league World Series (LLWS) last year for 13-year olds, the boys from Pleasanton are back at it, as they look to qualify for the Junior level LLWS for 14-year olds in Troy, Michigan this year.

Getting through their District, the team from Pleasanton relied on great pitching from Mitch Benson, Anthony Steller-Harter, and Trevor Wallace to shut down their opponents in their three District level games. In the finals, they were able to hold off a tough San Ramon team on the strength of five home runs from five different players (Justin Lavell, Anthony Steller-Harter, Jack Sanderson, Nate Lau, and Mitch Benson) and qualify for the Sectional tournament.


Getting through the tournament is no easy feat, as District 57 is widely considered one of the toughest Little League Districts in the country, comprised of teams from San Ramon, Danville, Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore. Winning this level sent them the the four-team Sectional tournament, comprised of District winners from Half Moon Bay, Fremont, and Hayward.

Once agin, the Ptown Blue team was able to rely on strong pitching, as well as timely hitting from Trevor Wallace, Jimmy Kaufman, Nate Lau, and Mitch Benson to take home another banner for Pleasanton. Winning Sectionals puts them in the Northern California Divisional finals tournament in Redding, California July 19-24. Being crowned Northern California champs would advance the team into the Western Regionals in Vancouver, Washington, where they would face-off in a field of 8 teams from the Western US that includes perennial powers Hawaii and Southern California.


You can follow the team here on GameChanger.

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