“15 Tech Venture Capitalists Worth Knowing” -Alison Diana, SMB

“15 Tech Venture Capitalists Worth Knowing” -Alison Diana, SMB

Venture capitalists make a huge contribution to the funds that go into tech innovation. In this article, Alison Diana, a writer for “Technology for Small & Midsize Businesses”, give 15 of the top venture capitalists that anyone looking for funding should know about.


There are tales of venture capital success, including the early dollars that funded Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Then there are stories VCs may tell less often, of money that disappeared as programming and reality never met, or marketers who couldn’t turn dreams into consumer spending. And then there are the ones that got away–the companies that knocked on the door, only to be rejected and, subsequently, evolve into another VC’s big hit. No matter who is doing the telling, however, venture capitalists are spending: Last year, the top 30 VC firms spent an aggregate deal value of $8.67 billion, according to CB Insights.

Although venture capital funding dropped to a five-quarter low of $5.4 billion in the third quarter of last year, with 715-plus deals, deal activity recorded its second-highest tally in eight quarters, CB Insights found. The lack of any megadeals hurt the average amount, the report said. Early-stage funding for Internet companies was the strongest in the last quarter than it’s been over the past five quarters, according to the study. “The primary reason for optimism is the quarter’s deal strength indicating venture investors are opening their proverbial wallets,” the report said. “The emergence of seed VC deals across a variety of sectors, not just Internet, also indicates a healthy early-stage investment environment.”

Social media continues to garner a lot of attention from venture capitalists, as consumers’ thirst for communication and sharing continues apparently unabated. Several investors also are supporting green technologies, both here and abroad, while others are investing in healthcare enterprises.

Consider our list of today’s intriguing technology VCs–and the innovations that they’ve backed.

-John Doerr

President Barack Obama tapped John Doerr for advice. And so have countless hopeful business executives, programming whizzes and MBAs in Doerr’s three decades as a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Doerr led early investments in household names such as Amazon, Google, and Netscape, as well as Zynga and the two-year-old $200 million iFund for iPhone developers. But technology start-ups are not the only thing near-and-dear to Doerr’s heart. The VC also is passionate about green tech innovation, a “third wave” of disruptive mobile and social ventures, and is backing entrepreneurs working on global warming, job creation, public education, and global poverty/health, according to his company profile. Recently, Doerr informed the Amazon board that he would not run for re-election.

-Tim Draper

Tim Draper, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson–serves on the board of Glam, Kyte.tv, Meebo, ShareThis, SocialText, Wigix, and DFJ Plug ‘N Play–in addition to investing in Skype, Overture.com, Baidu, Parametric Technology, Hotmail , PLX Technologies, Preview Travel, and Digidesign. Draper has served on the California Board of Education; is the course creator and Chairman of BizWorld, a 501c3 organization built around simulated teaching of entrepreneurship and business to children;, and serves on the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors.

-Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki, managing director of early-stage venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures, and former fellow at Apple, also is a prolific author, writing having written nine books, including his newest offering, Reality Check. In addition, Kawasaki is co-founder of Alltop, “an online magazine rack.” Garage Technology invests in companies involved in software, services, clean technology, and material sciences (not life sciences). Kawasaki, with partners Henry Wong and Joyce Chung, have invested in companies such as Business Layers, Case Stack, WhiteHat Security, Tripwire, Cisco-acquired Psionic, and Pandora

-Cindy Padnos

Having provided management consulting for companies such as Apple and Boeing and launching her own Software as a Services (SaaS) company, Cindy Padnos believed the time was right to enter the world of venture funding, and so she founded Illuminate Ventures. Before founding Illuminate, Padnos was one of three investment professionals responsible for allocating the firm’s $140 million fund. Like many VCs, Illuminate focuses on early-stage, high-tech investing, but the company also likes to support women in business. Illuminate’s portfolio includes Bright Edge, CalmSea, Red Aril, Wild Pockets, and Xactly. Padnos serves on the advisory board at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, where she received her MBA.

-Michael Moritz

Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, was one of the earliest investors in what became the dot.com boom–and he has continued to parlay his financial acumen into Web 2.0 start-ups. The Welsh-born Moritz was an early investor in Yahoo and Google, and sits on the boards of businesses such as 24/7 Customer, Agile Software, Flextronics, Google, Red Envelope, Saba Software, WebVan, and Yahoo. Recently, Sequoia has sunk funds into social media, and healthcare-related businesses such as Jive Software, AirStrip Technologies, and Evernote.

-Ram Shriram

Ram Shriram, who was born in India, is founder and managing partner of Sherpalo Ventures. He, who worked at Amazon after founding and selling database technology firm Junglee to Amazon in 1998. Shriram is on the board of 24/7 Customer and Google, and Sherpalo Ventures has supported businesses such as Netscape, Tellme, Plaxo, Mint, Amazon, and Google.

-Alan Patricof

With a 40-year career in private equity and $35 billion under management, Alan Patricof of Greycroft LLC has plenty of doors open to him. Patricof, who serves as a board member of both the New York Small Business Venture Fund and New Jobs for New York Association, as well as the Board of Trustees of Columbia University Graduate School of Business, also sits on the boards of TechnoServe, Trickle Up Program, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and the Global Advisory Board of Endeavor. He also is a board member of the Millennium Challenge. As founder and managing partner of Greycroft, Patricof and his team have built a portfolio that includes Apple, AOL, the Huffington Post, Joyent, Sportgenic, HealthPlanOne, and Sometrics.

-Esther Dyson

Esther Dyson, who some have called the most powerful woman in computing, is principal of EDventure, and sits on the board of several organizations, including Boxbe, 23andMe, Yandex, Meetup, and Eventful.com. “I spend most of my time exploring new space, health care and IT start-ups and technologies, writing about them and actively (and with full disclosure) investing in some of them,” she said in her LinkedIn profile. “I love what I do and I love all the travel it entails!” Dyson’s investments include Fluidinfo, Yandex, and Personal Genome Project. Many of her current investments involve areas such as space, healthcare, and genetics, and she is a founding member of Space Angels Network, a network of accredited investors focused on aerospace-related opportunities.

-Mike Maples

Mike Maples’ $25,000 personal investment in Twitter four years ago, has multiplied more than 25 fold–and his once apparently ill-fated venture capital career is blossoming. Maples, 42, headed to Silicon Valley from Texas after stints at Tivoli Systems, Silicon Graphics, and co-founding Motive–a broadband software company, eager to become a venture capitalist. But none of the six companies he met with would hire Maples, so he used his own money to invest in start-up businesses. However, Maples did not jump at the chance to invest in Zynga, developer of the popular Farmville games. With successes such as Twitter, Digg, and text book rental firm Chegg notched on his belt, doors once closed now open for Maples. Maples, who is managing partner of Floodgate, sits on the board of Dasient, Swifftest and ModCloth.

-Ron Conway

One of the investors behind Google, PayPal, Twitter, and Facebook, Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway has spread his wings to the East Coast, backing about 10 Big Apple start-ups, including Foursquare, Stack Overflow, and BankSimple. Since his first Internet investment in 1994, Conway has provided seed money and critical introductions to many companies that make the web hum. The investment he regrets not making? Salesforce.com, according to one report. Now good friends with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, the top executive at the cloud CRM provider frequently brings up the blown opportunity, Conway told the The Wall Street Journal.

-Mark Cuban

Arguably the most colorful member of the VC community, Mark Cuban is well-known outside the often tight-knit world of financiers, in part due to his ownership of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, his headline-making role as a dot-com billionaire, and his willingness to share his opinions. In 1983, Cuban founded MicroSolutions and developed it into one a of the leading systems integration firms in the U.S., before selling it to CompuServe in 1990. Later, Cuban became president of Radical Computing, a venture capital and investment company specializing in high high-technology companies. In 1995, Cuban co-founded Broadcast.com, which Yahoo acquired four years later. Although not a formal venture capitalist, Cuban has said he would create his own stimulus plan for fellow entrepreneurs. “I will invest money in businesses presented here on this blog. No minimum, no maximum, but a very specific set of rules,” he wrote on his blog last year.

-Samwer Brothers

In 1999, brothers Alexander, Marc, and Oliver Samwer founded Alando.de, which became the market leader of Internet auctions in Germany. The brothers later sold to eBay and worked for the online auction giant, turning eBay Germany into the most profitable international site of eBay worldwide. A year later, the trio founded Jamba! AG, which became the market leader for wireless content, such as music, pictures, games, and videos for mobile phones. In 2004, Verisign acquired Jamba! AG and, then two years later, News Corp. acquired 51% of the company. As European Founders, the brothers leverage their expertise to work with early- and later-stage investments in technology companies, especially with an Internet, software, or wireless focus. To date, European Founders has invested in businesses such as LinkedIn, Facebook, HomeAway, and Sport1.

-Andrew Chung

Andrew Chung, a principal at Lightspeed Ventures, covers the clean-tech, Internet, and software sectors, as well as education, genomics, and bioinformatics. Chung chairs the Cleantech Advisory Board for The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), serves on the Advisory Board for Stanford Energy Crossroads, and is an advisor adviser for the Clean Tech Open. With operations in the U.S., China, India, and Israel and capital commitments of more than $2 billion, Lightspeed Ventures has invested in a host of companies. Its portfolio includes Apptera, DoubleClick, GreenTech Media, Kongregate, Playdom (Disney), and Serious Business (Zynga). The firm launched the Lightspeed-Gemini Internet Lab, a joint initiative with Gemini Israel Funds to seed Israel-based Internet companies.

-Vinod Khosla

Vinod Khosla founded the Khosla Ventures in 2004, after his time as a general partner at Kleiner Perkins and founding Sun Microsystems. Although Khosla’s firm continues to invest in technology start-ups involved in the Internet, computing, and mobile Khosla Ventures also is looking to partner with entrepreneurs involved in “breakthrough scientific work in clean technology areas.” Companies that have received funds include AppNexus, Evolv, MokaFive, K2 Network, and ZocDoc. Khosla is a charter member of TiE, a not-for-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals founded in 1992 that now has more than 40 chapters in nine countries. A native of India, Khosla is a founding board member of the Indian School of Business, and he supports many microfinance organizations in India and Africa. In addition, Khosla recently lured former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to work as a public policy adviser to the firm’s portfolio of green portfolio companies.

-Mark Suster

A two-time entrepreneur and client of GRP Partners, Mark Suster joined the firm in 2007. The British native also joined the boards of several businesses, including Ad.ly, Bedrock, Burstly, GumGum, and Ring Revenue, and is a board observer of Qualys. Since 1982, GRP has built its capital, and now manages more than $1 billion on behalf of more than 150 limited partners in North America and Europe. Its portfolio includes Overture Services, acquired by Yahoo; Bill Me Later, acquired by eBay; lastminute.com, acquired by Travelocity, and Starbucks. Suster founded Koral, later acquired by Salesforce.com, and founded BuildOnline, which was bought by SWORD Group of France.

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