Experts at finding and funding tech's next big idea. View as a gallery.
Though Paul Graham launched his career as a computer programmer, creating the first application service provider, Viaweb, in the mid-'90s, Graham developed a fan base as an author: his essay “How to Start a Startup” is required reading for wannabe tech entrepreneurs. In 2005 he cofounded the seed-capital firm Y Combinator with his Viaweb partners and future wife. The firm's program, recently dubbed “an unmatchable entrée into the otherwise closed world of high stakes Internet entrepreneurship,” has nurtured startup darling hosting service Dropbox, news site Reddit, and social publishing site Scripd.
Combined score: 83.4
Ron Conway is known as one of the Valley's "super-angels," a crew of investors capable of pouring millions into startups and delaying the need for venture capital. He was an early investor in Google and PayPal, as well as today's social media heavyweights Facebook, Twitter, and social image-sharing site Pinterest. He's also known for investing in every graduate of Paul Graham's Y Combinator program. He invests through SV Angel, the company he started with David Lee.
Combined score: 82.6
Perhaps best known as the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman has been a Silicon Valley investor for more than 15 years. His enviable portfolio includes nearly every social-media startup, including Facebook, Zynga, Digg, One Kings Lane, and Flickr. He joined Greylock Partners in 2009, where he oversees the firm's Discovery Fund, which invests up to $500,000 in seed-stage companies. Before Greylock, he was an executive vice president of PayPal. His board memberships include Web browser Mozilla and game maker Zynga.
Combined score: 78.2
Another investor with a knack for words, Ben Horowitz has a blog that's a must-read for entrepreneurs—for the rap lyrics as well as the business insight. He established himself in the Valley with Opsware, a software company he founded with business partner Marc Andreessen in 1999 and operated until Hewlett-Packard purchased it in 2007. The duo went on to invest in several startups and formed Andreessen Horowitz in 2009. Horowitz currently sits on the boards of mobile product designer Jawbone, camera company Lytro, and virtual networking business Nicira, among others.
Combined score: 74.2
Marc Anderessen is a vaunted figure in the world of venture capitalism, but he was a manager and founder first. He was co-creator of the Mosaic browser that launched the modern Internet era in 1993, and went on to hold leadership roles at Web browser Netscape, social network Ning, and software maker Opsware. He cofounded the VC shingle Andreessen Horowitz with Ben Horowitz in 2009; the firm has invested in Skype, Twitter, and LinkedIn. He also serves on the boards of such high-profile tech companies as Facebook, eBay, and Hewlett-Packard.
Combined score: 72.8
Peter Thiel cofounded PayPal in 1998 and made $60 million when the company was sold to eBay in 2002. Three years later, he launched the hedge fund Clarium Capital, and established the VC firm Founders Fund with five other partners. By 2010 he'd created his now-famous "20 under 20" fellowship, which gives would-be students under 20 years old two years and $100,000 to pursue entrepreneurship and research rather than going to college. A close adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, he was an early Facebook investor and sits on the social-media company's board.
Combined score: 67.2
Doug Leone has been a partner at Sequoia for nearly two decades. He's led the firm's Chinese and Indian expansion. Recent investment successes include mobile network manager Aruba Networks and hosting company Rackspace, which went public five years ago, as well as data intelligence firm Netezza, which was acquired by IBM in 2009, two years after its IPO. Another investment, customized gift maker CafePress, went public in March.
Combined score: 64.4
Josh Kopelman founded Half.com, an online market for secondhand goods, in 1999. After selling it to eBay for $250 million in 2000, he started his angel-investing career and established the nonprofit angel organization the Kopelman Foundation. Via First Round Capital, the firm he started in 2005, he invests in fashion, consumer tech, and enterprise software endeavors. Current investments include vintage clothing shop ModCloth, home-décor flash-sale site One Kings Lane, social-network company Path, and content-suggestion engine StumbleUpon.
Combined score: 64.0
A German computer engineer, Andy Bechtolsheim staked his claim to fame as a cofounder of Sun Microsystems. He left Sun to found several other ventures, including server vendor Kealia, which was acquired by Sun in 2004. With two Sun colleagues, he founded HighBAR Ventures in 1995. He was among Google's first investors; His $100,000 initial investment was worth nearly $2 billion in 2010.
Combined score: 63.2
Jim Breyer's firm owns an 11 percent stake in Facebook, making it the largest stakeholder next to Mark Zuckerberg. Also a Facebook director, Breyer favors ventures that focus on technology's development of media and entertainment. But Breyer's board allegiances are just as noteworthy, with perches at Walmart, Dell, News Corp., and Easy.
Combined score: 59.6
The notion of venture capitalism barely existed in 1965 when Silicon Valley elder statesman Sanford "Sandy" Robertson arrived in California. There he tried, without much success, to convince his employer, Smith Barney, to invest in the nascent technology field. Fueled by frustration, he went out on his own. During the next four decades, heading a succession of investment firms, he demonstrated an extraordinary eye for picking innovative winners (Pixar, E*Trade), in the process becoming one of the principal architects of the California tech boom.
return to top ^