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This South African lost 40% of his savings overnight – and is now one of the world’s top investors

This South African lost 40% of his savings overnight – and is now one of the world’s top investors


Forbes has released its annual Midas list for 2019, looking at the world’s most successful venture capitalists.

To make the list, investors are ranked by their portfolio companies that have gone public or been acquired for at least $200 million over the past five years, or that have raised additional funding at a valuation of $400 million or more.

Forbes said that it placed a premium on newer exits, as well as early-stage returns.

The Midas list is produced after reviewing the submissions of hundreds of partners across dozens of firms each year, it said.

As in previous years, the 2019 list was dominated by American and Chinese investors with Alibaba remaining the top driver of value for Midas List investors following its $174 billion IPO.

Sequoia China’s Neil Shen, retained the number one spot after backing leading Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and JD.com and e-commerce site Pinduoduo.

He’s joined by a record number of Chinese investors this year – 21 all told – including top-ranked newcomer Kathy Xu (Xu Xin). Xu is one of 12 women on the 2019 Midas list, a record number.

Rounding out the top three is chairman on Benchmark’s Peter Fenton, and Bill Gurley – one of Uber’s best-known and most controversial venture capital investors.

Top 10 venture capitalists

# Name Company Notable Deal
1 Neil Shen Sequoia Capital China Alibaba
2 Peter Fenton Benchmark Elastic
3 Bill Gurley Benchmark Uber
4 Jim Goetz Sequoia Capital WhatsApp
5 JP Gan Qiming Venture Partners Meitu
6 Kathy Xu Capital Today JD.Com
7 Hans Tung GGV Capital Wish
8 Mary Meeker Bond Capital Spotify
9 Neeraj Agrawal Battery Ventures Coupa
10 Eric Paley Gounder Collective  The Trade Desk

Top South African investor

South African-born Roelof Botha was ranked at 23rd on this year’s Midas List.

The former PayPal CFO-turned-venture-capitalist celebrated as one of his largest investments, ticketing event platform Eventbrite, which went public in September 2018.

That followed exits including MongoDB, which went public in October 2017, and Square, which has performed well on the market since its November 2015 IPO, with a market capitalisation of more than $30 billion as of March 2018.

Square bought another of Botha’s companies, website builder Weebly, in January 2019 for $365 million.

Taking an early risk on YouTube, Botha has continued to invest in startups with a ‘clear-eyed vision’ including personal genetic testing company 23andMe and bio company BridgeBio.

Botha also spearheaded the launch of Sequoia AMP, a 10-week intensive for portfolio company founders to accelerate company growth.

As a grad student at Stanford, Botha stumbled into the role of entrepreneur when he was running low on cash and decided to join PayPal.

Botha became CFO at PayPal while earning his MBA at Stanford University. He negotiated PayPal’s sale to eBay for $1.5 billion and then jumped ship to Sequoia Capital where his most notable deal is in credit card processing business, Square.

Botha has said he ended up at PayPal in part by chance.

He came to the US in 1998, right after an emerging markets currency crisis that caused him to lose 40% of his savings overnight.

In need of a job, he joined the payments processing company and hasn’t looked back since.


Read: The story behind Michael Jordaan’s decision to start Bank Zero





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