No Seattle VCs made the Midas List. Photo: Mark Herpel

Each year, Forbes ranks the top 100 venture capitalists. The “Midas List” — as the ranking is called — attempts to identify those investors who are building the most valuable technology and life science companies.

It is easy to pick apart any list, especially one related to the nebulous world of venture capital. And this year is no different, with industry watchers such as Fortune’s Dan Primack and GigaOm’s Om Malik disputing some of the choices. Others correctly point out that the list is dominated this year by the lucky few invested in Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve actually called BS on the list in the past myself for forgetting some notable Seattle venture capitalists. And this year, it’s sad to report that not one investor from a Seattle venture capital firm made the top 100.  Even Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain — who ranked 75th last year and 57th in 2009 — fell off the list.

Unfortunately, I can’t really fault Forbes for giving Seattle VCs a big goose egg this year. And it’s not because of a lack of great deals.

It just so happens that some of the top deals involving Seattle area companies in the past 12 months — PopCap’s sale to EA for up to $1.3 billion; Zillow’s skyrocketing IPO; and Double Down Interactive’s sale to IGT for up to $500 million — were not funded by Seattle VCs.

Now, there are multiple reasons for that, from the need for big institutional money in the case of PopCap (Meritech Capital Partners) to the personal connections of Zillow’s Rich Barton to Benchmark Capital. But I’d still argue for the venture capital community to thrive, we’ll need to see Seattle VCs participating in the next blockbusters, making sure they don’t miss a PopCap or a Zillow. (And to the editor’s of Forbes, I would say mentioning those huge standout Seattle successes would be worthwhile as “Big Deals”).

There are certainly some up-and-comers to watch, many of which will be on display at GeekWire’s Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards tonight.  Companies such as Apptio, Zulily, Opscode, Z2Live and Redfin, which have backing from Seattle VCs.

But for now, the Seattle venture capital community will just have to wait a bit longer before they start polishing their gold bars.

Here’s a look at the top 10, and click on the image for the full list.

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  • Michael Schutzler

    I know Jim Breyer and Reid Hoffman. Neither is merely lucky. Jim and I had a raucous debate in 2006 about whether Facebook would have a successful business model. He insisted that scale of audience would drive a viable ad model. I said no way – CTR will be abysmal and unsustainable. IMHO, jury is still out on the operational merits of their revenue model. But, I must concede that as an early VC investment, he was brilliant and tenacious and I was wrong.

    Reid on the other hand worked like a slave for many years to create LinkedIN. He was already financially successful and put his own money into his business idea. Sequoia backed him from day one. It was a long haul to cash break-even. And after some messy years, Reid convinced a brilliant leader – Jeff Weiner – to take the helm and make it a viable operation worthy of going public. LinkedIN is already the sine qua non for professional networking. 

    Both Jim and Reid may appear lucky, but it was damn hard work and took great courage to make the bets when they did. Which is why the Seattle VC gang isn’t doing as well. It has been a very rare event for VC partners in this town to make a bold, early bet on a company with an unproven model or strategy. Remember, neither LinkedIN nor Facebook seemed likely to be successful business operations when they sought VC money. It took a lot of moxie to put more than $1Million into those ideas early on.

    On a related note, Popcap was not financed by a PE firm. Popcap was bootstrapped by three passionate, brilliant founders. They also were humble and intelligent and hired a proven leader in Dave Roberts who helped them for the past 7 years or so convert a game studio into a global gaming platform. The PE firm came in late to provide operating capital long after the venture risk was gone.

    Which brings me to my summary point. Late entry VCs or PE firms are not creative investors. It’s gutsy early investors like Jim Breyer and Reid Hoffman that help to create powerful new companies. Sadly, we have few VC partners in Seattle who will make a big bet on a bold, unproven, highly risky idea. Which means it will be a rare event when our VCs make the top 100 list by anybody’s count.

    • Marcelo Calbucci

      That’s a great point Michael. The Midas List would be a lot more interesting if it only accounted for Series A (maybe Series B) investments, this way it would measure true “Midas touch” vs. just-ridding the waves.

    • Rayburt456

      Thousands of people work hard and are smart and driven and …..but very few get LUCKY and succeed.  THe Midas List is the LUCKY list.  Once thought of that way, it’s easy as heck to understand.

    • Guest

      Focus on improving Livemocha and keeping your flock together instead Mr. Mercenary CEO. 

    • Chris McCoy

      Agree 100%. 

  • cliveboulton

    Confirms. See Seattle VCs to hone the pitch, then fly down to the SFBA. Save time, choose a law firm and bank with strong Bay Area relationships.     

  • Junestarrett

    Seattle VCs are in-bred dullards who just want to invest in “sure things”. Just as everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die…

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