Forbes released its annual Midas List this week and Seattle-area investors are certainly lacking again.
The list, which ranks the top 100 venture capitalists from around the world, features Neil Shen of Sequoia Capital China in the top spot, thanks to his investment in Alibaba, JD.com, and other top Chinese tech companies.
Coming in at No. 5 is Bob Nelsen of ARCH Venture Partners. Nelsen was a fixture in Seattle’s venture community for years, but recently relocated to the Bay Area due to family reasons. Even still, his strong roots in the Seattle area paid off, where his early investment in Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics propelled the venture capitalist to the top five.
Juno was acquired by Celgene for $9 billion earlier this year in a blockbuster biotech deal. Juno is one of just a handful of companies in the U.S. developing CAR T immunotherapies and received investment from Nelsen, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and others before it went public in 2014.
“Robert Nelsen’s mission is to detect, prevent and eradicate disease; doing so makes him one of the best investors in all of venture capital,” Forbes noted.
In 2016 after he was named to the list, Nelsen told GeekWire: “My philosophy is to bet on great science, take risks with risk takers, tackle big problems, and to ignore convention.” Nelsen maintains an office in Seattle and continues to look for deals in the Pacific Northwest.
Ping Li, general partner at Silicon Valley-based Accel, made the list for his investment in Seattle-based startup Heptio.
But other than Nelsen or Li, the Midas List lacks anyone with deep Seattle connections. No one from top local firms like Madrona, Maveron, Voyager, Frazier, Ignition or Trilogy made the list.
To quality for the Midas List, venture capitalists must have invested in a deal with at least a $200 million exit or venture capital rounds that value a portfolio company above $400 million in the last five years.
This is not a new phenomenon. Seattle investors have not made the list for the past several years. But why is that?
Capital certainly is floating around Seattle, a global tech hub with two of the world’s four richest people. But as GeekWire reported earlier this year, homegrown Seattle-based venture capitalists are not responsible for the bulk of the money — meaning entrepreneurs in the region often need to hop on a plane for Boston, New York or Silicon Valley.
“Seattle is always in need of more local firms,” Nelsen told GeekWire today, noting that companies in the city “still seem to have no problem attracting money for the bigger deals.”
The tide could change. Seattle investment firms are investors in Smartsheet (backed by Madrona) and DocuSign (backed by Ignition). If they fare well in the public markets, we could see a Seattle VC or two named to the Midas List. Both companies filed for IPOs last month and are poised to go public as Wall Street warms to enterprise software businesses.
This year’s Midas List had the most VCs from outside of the U.S., and a record-high nine women. Here’s a look at the top 10: