Whether it’s embracing the new normal or returning to pre-pandemic routines—the dust is beginning to settle after years of unexpected volatility in work and life. In tandem, the lasting trends brought on by the pandemic are revealing themselves with greater clarity, as are the trailblazing investors able to see through the chaos. 2021 was a record year with respect to dollars invested, deal volume, exits, unicorns, and even decacorns, with nearly every sector across geographies seeing outsized growth. The newcomers on this year’s Midas List were at the forefront of this growth, joining the highest ranks of VCs based on their ability to capitalize on a few different investment areas we observed this year, including burgeoning overseas startups, the ongoing payments revolution, and of course, companies helping us simplify our post-pandemic lives.
Following last year’s nearly record-breaking number of newcomers to the Midas List (23 out of 100), this year we welcome 15 new faces to the ranks from a mix of lower-profile and well-known VCs. Read on to learn more about the newest inductees to the Midas List.
International regions, including Asia and Europe, were a crucial source of industry-leading returns that put investors on this year’s Midas List, with nearly half of newcomers joining at least in part due to returns made on international investments. Even more notably, a third of newcomers made the List through bets on South Korea-based Coupang or China-based Kuaishou.
E-commerce giant Coupang, often dubbed the “Amazon of South Korea,” closed out 2021 with record revenue of $18.4 billion—so it’s no surprise the company helped four new VCs join the Midas List: Greenoaks Capital’s Neil Mehta (#9), Founder Collective’s David Frankel (#11), Primary Venture Partners’ Ben Sun (#65) and Entree Capital’s Avi Eyal (#66).
Mehta, founder of Greenoaks Capital, has long backed Coupang, earning a seat on the Board in 2010. Mehta famously pulled off a $430 million convertible debt deal in 2018, just weeks shy of SoftBank’s massive $2 billion investment in the company. Following this momentum, Coupang’s successful $80 billion IPO in 2021 not only boosted the fortunes of Greenoaks (given its 16.6% stake worth nearly $14 billion at the time), but also landed Mehta a spot as this year’s highest ranked newcomer at #9. Mehta’s other notable investments include Stripe, Checkout.com, Robinhood, Toast, Kavak, Oya Rooms, and Deliveroo.
Frankel, co-founder and managing partner at Founder Collective, led his firm’s seed investment in Coupang in 2010 after a personal invitation from Coupang CEO Bom Kim. In 2021, Coupang’s massive IPO led to it becoming, at that point in time, the second largest company to emerge from the Founder Collective portfolio.
Sun, co-founder and general partner at Primary, has been active in the New York City tech community for over 20 years, focusing on consumer-facing companies. Sun met Coupang CEO Bom Kim in 2008 while playing a weekend game of pickup basketball, and they became good friends in the months that followed. Together, they formed the idea for Coupang, and Sun participated in the Seed round, earning him a spot on the Board in 2010 and leading to massive returns in 2021 when the company hit the public markets with a splash.
Also on our list of newcomers taking their rightful spot on this year’s Midas List from an early bet on Coupang is Eyal. He may be a newcomer to this year’s global Midas List, but Eyal was recognized on Forbes’ 2021 Midas List Europe for being a part of Israeli startup Monday.com’s success story—he was an early investor in the productivity software maker, which went public in June 2021. The company was one of five public offerings that propelled Eyal up into the top three of the Midas List Europe, including Coupang, Deliveroo, Riskified, and Cazoo.
Consistent with the trend of new List members coming from Asia, 5Y Capital’s Elwin Yuan (#78) notched impressive returns following popular video-sharing mobile app Kuaishou’s record 2021 IPO. Yuan, who joined 5Y Capital (previously Morningside Venture Capital) in 2011 as an associate impressively rose through the ranks to his current role, leading consumer internet-related investments as a partner at the firm. His other notable investments include China-based social networking app Soulgate and Sensors Data, a China-based professional service provider of big data analysis platforms.
Finally, also seeing her success boosted by investments in ex-US companies, Seedcamp’s Reshma Sohoni (#94) made this year’s list in part for being one of Romanian-founded UiPath’s very first investors in 2015, when it was a little-known services business with 10 employees. Sohoni’s eye for spotting and backing great European companies goes well beyond her seed investment in UiPath, as she is also an early investor in Revolut, Wise, and Hopin. This was also the first year for Sohoni to make the global Midas List after being recognized on the Midas List Europe.
New Ways to Pay
With its disruption starting long before the pandemic, the payments landscape has fundamentally transformed to match evolving customer expectations, and technology has been a foundational force driving change in the sector. This year’s Midas List features three newcomers who benefited from their early investments in companies either building the technology powering the payments revolution or helping retail investors access new asset classes: DST Global’s Tom Stafford (#31) for his investment in Brazil-based Nubank, DFJ Growth’s Barry Schuler (#60) for his early backing of Coinbase, and Point Nine’s Pawel Chudzinski (#92) for his investment in Revolut.
The digitization of payments hit warp speed when the pandemic began taking its full effect, and crypto has steadily become more mainstream in the eyes of consumers and investors alike—helping both sectors drive investor returns for heavyweight VCs.
Joining DST Global in 2011, Stafford hit the ground running, opening an office in London and driving the firm’s investments in some of the top payments and fintech companies globally, including Revolut, Stripe, Klarna, Robinhood, and Checkout.com. Most notably, Stafford led a Series D in Sao Paulo-based Nubank in 2016 to help the fintech company improve service levels, reduce e-commerce payment friction and lower costs. Five years later in 2021, Nubank hit the public markets in a successful IPO that valued the company at $41 billion.
Schuler of DFJ Growth—who realized in the early days that the biggest barrier to the mainstream success of crypto was how it changed hands—saw incredible value in Coinbase’s platform early on. Schuler led the company’s $75 million Series C funding round in 2015 at a valuation of about $500 million, becoming Coinbase’s first Board member in the process. By the time Coinbase went public in 2021, Schuler was up almost 120-fold on his original investment.
Lastly, rounding out our list of newcomers betting big and earning bigger in the payment space is Point Nine’s Chudzinski for his investment in European fintech heavyweight Revolut. Chudzinski is no stranger to Midas, having made the Midas List Europe three times previously in part due to his investments in other fintech and crypto companies such as Chainalysis and Mambu. Hailing from Poland and now living in Berlin, Chudzinski works closely with European startups focusing primarily on early-stage investments. Having raised €99,999,999.99 in 2020—a fitting number for Point Nine—Chudzinski’s firm is well positioned to continue making early fintech bets.
All Out on ‘Stay-at-Home’
With the tremendous growth of startups driven by pandemic-era trends, it’s no surprise that many of this year’s entrants include those who have backed the companies that capitalized on changing consumer and enterprise trends to take their businesses to new heights.
Snowflake, a buzzy and popular cloud-software company known for helping its customers store and analyze internal data, last year unveiled its ambitious plans to build a massive data cloud where anybody with a Snowflake account can plug in. The company held its blockbuster IPO in 2020, priced at $120 and later peaking at $429 in December of the same year. It’s no wonder three new names on this year’s Midas List can attribute at least a portion of their success to this company.
Dragoneer Investment Group’s Marc Stad (#22) co-led a $479 million growth funding round in Snowflake just months before its epic IPO. While Dragoneer may be a newer VC on the scene, the firm is certainly making a splash early, investing alongside far more established firms. Stad has been a key driver of the firm’s recent successes, having made slam dunk pre-IPO investments in Spotify and Uber.
John Curtius (#64) of Tiger Global also made the list for his Snowflake backing, as well as leading other investments into cloud and Web3 software companies such as Toast, UiPath, Procore, Confluent, and Databricks. As head of Tiger’s software-investing practice, Curtius is well known by private software companies hunting for their next capital infusion.
Finally, Brad Gerstner (#95) of Altimeter Capital saw returns most VCs dream of: a stake worth around $4.4 billion at Snowflake’s IPO after leading the company’s $79 million Series C in 2015. As Chairman and CEO of Altimeter, Gerstner was able to launch his firm into the mainstream with his Snowflake stake. Shortly thereafter, Altimeter made headlines again by spearheading a deal to take Indonesia’s ride hailing and delivery giant Grab public through a reverse merger with Altimeter Growth—at a $40 billion valuation, this represented the largest-ever listing for a Southeast Asian company.
Another data company helping propel an early backer onto the Midas List is Confluent, a full-scale data streaming platform that enables customers to easily access, store, and manage data. Eric Vishria (#59) of Benchmark invested in Confluent just one month after joining the firm and before Confluent was even officially incorporated. Altogether, Benchmark invested $12.5 million in Confluent, gaining ownership of 15.3% of the company before the IPO, leading to a 129x return over a seven-year period since Vishria’s initial investment.
Even as companies begin a full or hybrid return to work, they recognize the gains that have been made in productivity and working across remote teams over the last two years. Companies seeking to support enterprises in these areas saw tailwinds during Covid lockdowns and continue to build on that success as life opens back up and companies recognize the ongoing importance of these critical productivity tools.
CRV’s Max Gazor (#81) has looked to support this space as a lead investor in several productivity software startups. Gazor is an early-stage investor focused on the areas of SaaS, cloud infrastructure, and cybersecurity. Hailing from Oracle and Cisco where he helped identify acquisition targets, Gazor is more than qualified to seek out companies with strong technical foundations building products that are ahead of the market in anticipating trends—a skill that led to the firm’s investment in Airtable.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Online food delivery has become a massive global market, mainly due to the introduction of user-friendly apps and tech-enabled driver networks—with many restricted from their usual dining out habits over the past few years, these startups continued to see outsized growth. Beyond the pandemic, the trend toward convenience has grown more pronounced with younger generations preferring the convenience of prepared meals—leading many to believe the recent growth of food delivery platforms will continue as normalcy returns.
Index Ventures’ Martin Mignot (#100) joined this year’s Midas List partially on the strength of his investment in Deliveroo. Mignot first invested in Deliveroo when the company was just half a dozen people covering a small group of restaurants in London’s Soho neighborhood. His strategic investment not only earned him massive returns, but also a Board seat on one of Europe’s fastest growing tech companies, which rapidly expanded far beyond Soho.
2021 was a breakout year for these 15 newcomers, and there is good reason to believe many will make a return in the coming years. We look forward to watching their continued success and seeing what portfolio companies they bet on in the future.