Trending: Amazon Go automated retail store handles a crowd on opening morning — and the only line was outside

Source: CB Insights. Click on chart for larger view.

Raising big piles of venture capital doesn’t always guarantee success. In fact, it often puts more pressure on entrepreneurs to produce eye-popping returns for their investors.

A much more desirable path is to raise a small amount of capital or no capital at all — and then produce a huge return. That keeps more of the ownership (and control) in the hands of the founding team. Here’s a look at 25 of the most capital-efficient companies over the past five years.

Source: CB Insights
Source: CB Insights

The list, compiled by CB Insights, is led by cloud-based life sciences software company Veeva Systems. The Pleasanton, Calif.-based company raised just $4 million, and was worth more than $4 billion at the time of its IPO. (Now worth $2.5 billion).

Facebook’s jaw-popping acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion comes in second place, with the Sequoia-backed messaging app having raised just $60 million before the buyout.

Seattle-based Tableau Software, which went public last year, cracks the top five. It raised $15 million, money that the company never touched on its path to the public markets. Tableau, a maker of data visualization products, now is valued at $3.9 billion.

“I think it is very important for young missionary, driven entrepreneurs to avoid venture capital as long as they can, and if you can,” said Tableau CEO Christian Chabot at the GeekWire Meetup last year.

zulily-ipo-mo_111513_hires-3PopCap Games and Zulily also make the list. The founders of PopCap famously bootstrapped the company before taking on some late-stage capital from Meritech Capital. It sold to Electronic Arts for as much as $1.3 billion in 2011. Zulily raised about $138 million before going public last year. The daily deals site is now valued at $4.4 billion.

In fact, Washington state is well represented on the list, accounting for 12 percent of the value creation. Of course, Silicon Valley leads at 54 percent. And the region — despite being the HQ of venture capital — had 14 of the top 25 most capital efficient exits.

U.S.-based tech exits on the list saw an aggregate valuation of $157.9 billion, with those companies raising a combined $3.35 billion.

CB Insights looked only at companies over the past five years at the time of exit with valuations of $100 million or more. Full report is here.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.