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Meet The Top Women Investors Of The Midas List In 2019

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Women are still a minority among the most successful venture capital investors, but their presence is growing. Twelve female investors made it onto this year’s Midas List, a record for the annual ranking and an increase from nine women a year ago. The cohort includes three female newcomers, one of whom, Kathy Xu, is the highest-ranked woman on the list.  

The Midas List ranks venture capital investors based on the number and dollar size of exits and highly-valued private companies over the past five years, with a premium on bolder early-stage deals. Produced in partnership with TrueBridge Capital Partners, the ranking counts only exits (public offerings or acquisitions) that are over $200 million or private investment rounds valuing companies at $400 million or more. 

Newcomer Kathy Xu, founder and partner at Shanghai-based firm Capital Today, joins the list at the very lofty No. 6 spot, thanks largely to her prescient bet on JD.com, China’s No. 2 online retailer, plus investments in Chinese gaming company NetEase and discount e-commerce site Meituan-Dianping. Capital Today was just a year old when Xu bet on JD.com as its only Series A investor.

After the e-commerce site went public in 2015, she had a career-making win. Her $18 million check returned $2.9 billion to Capital Today and its investors. Xu began her career as a bank clerk in China, then worked at Hong Kong investment firm Peregrine and Baring Private Equity Asia before founding Capital Today in 2005.

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Xu dethroned Mary Meeker, who was the highest-ranked female on the Midas List for the past three years. Meeker lands at No. 8 this year. After eight years at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Meeker left the firm in late 2018 to start a new fund with former members of Kleiner Perkins’ digital growth team. Her new fund, Bond Capital, launched in January 2019 and focuses on high-growth Internet companies.

Her Kleiner Perkins portfolio had five exits since our last Midas List: Turkish commerce site Trendyol (acquired by Alibaba in June 2018), DocuSign (IPO in April 2018), Spotify (direct listing in April 2018) and Ring (acquired by Amazon in March 2018).

Meeker is known in the tech world for her annual Internet Trends Report and was a managing director at Morgan Stanley covering public technology companies before she shifted into venture capital in 2010. 

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Beth Seidenberg, No. 59 on the list, also recently started her own venture investing firm. After 14 years at Kleiner Perkins, Seidenberg, a physician by training, founded Los Angeles-based Westlake Village BioPartners, which plans to focus on early-stage firms and to incubate life sciences companies.

The firm launched its first fund with $320 million of committed capital in September 2018.  During her tenure at Kleiner Perkins, the ex-chief medical officer at Amgen incubated eight companies and made big deals including Flexus Biosciences, which was acquired by pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2015 for $1.25 billion. Another notable exit: cancer drug maker Tesaro, which was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline for $5.1 billion in 2018.

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Other Newcomers

Two other newcomer female VCs debuted on our list. Nisa Leung, managing partner at Qiming Venture Partners, ranked at No. 54, leads the Chinese firm’s health care investments.

Notable deals include the acquisition of cell analysis instrument company ACEA Biosciences by Agilent for $250 million in November 2018, and the September 2017 initial public offering of drug developer Zai Lab. Before joining Qiming, Leung cofounded Biomedic Holdings, which invested in medical devices, pharmaceuticals and health care services.

Outside of her venture role, Leung is a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School and a member of the government of Hong Kong’s Committee on Innovation and Technology Development and Re-Industrialization.

Another newcomer: Anna Fang, partner and CEO of ZhenFund, an early-stage China-based firm that has backed more than 600 startups. Fang, who oversees the fund’s investments, portfolio management and operations, secured the No. 89 rank thanks in part to her investments in lifestyle and shopping site Xiaohongshu, also known as Red, which said it had more than 200 million users as of January 2019. Fang, who is based in Beijing, started her career as an investment banker at J.P. Morgan in New York covering consumer and retail companies.

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Repeat Appearances

In addition to Meeker and Seidenberg, six other women who were on last year’s Midas List are back again, including Jenny Lee, founder and partner at GGV Capital (No. 19); Ann Miura-Ko, cofounder and partner at Floodgate Fund (No. 57); Theresia Gouw, cofounder and partner at Aspect Ventures (No.65); Rebecca Lynn, partner at Canvas (No. 80); Aileen Lee, founder and partner at Cowboy Ventures (No. 82); Sonali DeRycker, partner at Accel Partners in London (No.83); and Kirsten Green, founder and managing partner at Forerunner Ventures (No. 95).

Two of these women jumped up quite a bit in the ranks since last year. Jenny Lee of GGV Capital rocketed up to No. 19 from No. 74 a year ago thanks to five initial public offerings in the past year: credit card service startup 51credit in July 2018, language platform LingoChamp in September 2018, scooter startup Niu in October 2018 and smartphone maker Xiaomi in July 2018, a personal investment.

Lee, who has been a Midas lister since 2012, also led GGV’s fundraising efforts last year, culminating in $1.88 billion of new funds in October 2018. Twenty of her investments are valued at more than $400 million and seven have reached unicorn or “megaunicorn” (multi-billion dollar) valuations.  

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Gouw, cofounder and managing partner of Aspect Ventures, moved up to No. 65 from No. 89 a year ago following two notable acquisitions of companies she’d backed: Slack picked up smart email assistant Astro in September 2018, and Airbnb said it would acquire Hotel Tonight in March 2019 for $465 million. Gouw tells Forbes this year that she continues to focus on investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning “despite all the hype.”   

An Imbalanced Industry

It’s common knowledge that the venture capital industry and the startup and investment ecosystem skew heavily male. Globally, only about 17% of investment-level positions at venture firms are held by women, according to PitchBook data this year.

What’s more, the overall surge in venture capital funding in recent years hasn’t benefited female founders at the same rate as male founders, according to PitchBook. The total amount of capital going to female U.S. founders is increasing— barely.

Companies founded solely by women claimed 2.3% of total capital invested in venture-backed startups in the U.S. in the last year, according to PitchBook in February, up from 2.2% a year earlier. Not much, but an uptick of 0.1% is better than a move in the opposite direction.

-Kathleen Chaykowski; Forbes Staff

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Comedian Jim Gaffigan Rakes In $30 Million By Ditching Netflix And Betting On Himself

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Gripping a lukewarm Heineken, Jim Gaffigan hunches his six-foot-one frame over a peeling table in the green room of the An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, Ireland. Summer nights are never terribly hot in these parts, but this one is warm enough to need some air conditioning, which the theater almost never uses. It’s hardly a glamorous moment. But then again, glamour isn’t really his thing.

“There’s nothing sexy about Jim Gaffigan,” he says, sweat dotting his brow. “I’m not young. I don’t have a full head of hair. I’m out of shape. I don’t talk about having dinner with Kanye.”

Fortunately for him, he is funny. Just ask the more than 300,000 people in 15 countries who’ve paid an average of $56 to see his latest routine. For the 53-year-old father of five, it’s been a grueling schedule: more than 75 cities in the past year, including whistle-stops like Letterkenny, a northern community of 20,000 that was once lauded as the Republic’s “tidiest town.”

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They may not offer much sizzle, but places like this are the lifeblood of Gaffigan’s business. He has raked in $30 million this year, putting him at No. 3 on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning stand-up comedians. Half of that was earned by putting “butts in seats.”

The rest comes from spreading his punch lines far and wide. And in this business, if those jokes are funny enough—and your reach wide enough—you can fill a lot of seats with a lot of butts. With the right distribution deal, those jokes can deliver exponential returns. But that’s where it gets a bit tricky.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting,” Gaffigan says. “So you’d better be building a new house.”  

Gaffigan’s been building. In 2016, he agreed to partner with Netflix, the industry’s dominant force and home to original specials from all but one of the comedians on Forbes’ ranking. Last year he cut loose from the kingmaker and placed a bigger bet on himself, pairing up with Comedy Dynamics, an independent producer, to release his next special everywhere but Netflix. 

Gaffigan will star in the first original stand-up special on Amazon, which is going after the streaming giant with a push into comedy. Quality Time goes live today, and it can be shopped on the open streaming market when its exclusive run with Amazon Prime Video is up in two years. And that market is only expanding.

Gaffigan has learned a bit about home building in the entertainment industry. He cut his teeth on the club circuit in the early 1990s, when HBO was the primary destination for stand-up specials and Comedy Central was a fledgling cable network.

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In 2000, he landed what was then the holy grail of comedy success—a broadcast sitcom—which was the source of the fortunes the creators of Seinfeld and Roseanne minted once they had enough seasons on the air and could sell the series into syndication.

Gaffigan’s shot proved to be short-lived, but six years later he scored a second chance and headlined a Comedy Central special called Beyond the Pale. This time it paid dividends, landing him his first theater show a month later. The butts were now coming to the seats, and while his rise was live, in person, with microphone in hand, his breakout was digital.

At the time, YouTube was changing the rules of the game, providing comedians a global platform with unprecedented distribution. Then Twitter emerged, giving comedy bookers a real-time assessment of who was attracting audiences.

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Then came the debut of streaming on Netflix, which latched onto comedy as a cheap and effective way to lure subscribers, while some, notably the now disgraced Louis C.K., used streaming to control their own distribution, making their shows available for fans to purchase directly.

“It was a technological wave that crashed over the stand-up world,” says Wayne Federman, a comedian and professor of the history of stand-up at the University of Southern California. “And we’re still all trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Gaffigan’s first original Netflix special aired in 2017, long after the company had reshaped the industry. It was a promising place to be: Aziz Ansari and Ali Wong were propelled into superstar status through their Netflix specials, while household names like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld reportedly cashed in with $60 million (Chappelle) and $100 million (Seinfeld) paydays in exchange for long-term, multi-program deals. Gaffigan’s first special, Cinco, sold for a more modest seven-figure sum.

Jim Gaffigan stand up comedy specials for Netflix and Amazon Original
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It was more than just a check; it was access to a potential audience of nearly 94 million. Although Netflix’s subscriber base has grown since then, so has its stand-up library. The platform now shops nearly four times the number of original stand-up specials than when Cinco debuted.

That makes it harder to stand out in the scroll. Plus, the streamer often holds onto specials in perpetuity, including Cinco. The up-front money is nice, but there is no ability to earn on the back end. 

Gaffigan used his next special, 2018’s Noble Ape, which was directed and cowritten by his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, to test the waters. Comedy Dynamics bought the rights and made it available everywhere Netflix wasn’t. It had a theatrical release and could be purchased and rented on multiple services, including  iTunes, YouTube and Walmart’s VUDU.

Later, there were short streaming windows on Comedy Central and Amazon Prime. According to Comedy Dynamics CEO Brian Volk-Weiss, it was even syndicated to planes and cruise ships. The up-front payment to Gaffigan from Comedy Dynamics was lower than at Netflix, but the wide distribution allowed him to earn on the back end, bringing in a total of $10 million, according to Forbes estimates.

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And new services are on the way from Apple, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and Disney, any one of which could choose to pursue cheap-to-produce and popular stand-up specials. 

Because of this widening field, stand-up specials may have more life (and revenue) in them, and that could be good for comedians looking to gamble on their success with deals that offer back-end participation. “We have titles in our library that are making more in year 12 than they made in year one,” says Volk-Weiss, whose company also owns specials by Bob Saget, Iliza Shlesinger and Janeane Garofalo.

Still, leaving Netflix means walking away from a partner that has now established itself as a formidable entertainment company. Netflix has some 180 original hour-long stand-up specials and is singularly focused on exploiting content around the world. Gaffigan, though, is content to keep the bet on himself.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting. So you’d better be building a new house.”

In the stuffy backstage room in Letterkenny, Gaffigan reviews some of the new material he tried out on stage. A joke about Ireland’s nonsensical roads killed it. He stumbled with a bit about the English. The classics played well—“My dad never went to a parent-teacher conference; my dad didn’t know I went to school.”  

And he’s well aware that Amazon’s core mission is to sell stuff, even though it has won critical acclaim for shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Transparent. With plans to deliver three more specials over the next five years, he’s got time to see just how good a partner the retailer might be. Along the way, he may decide it’s time to find a new neighborhood.

“The reason I went to Amazon is to expand my audience,” he says. “I don’t know what they’re gonna do and I don’t fully understand their marketing might. I might be pleasantly surprised. I mean, it’s a huge corporation. They could probably make more selling socks.”

-Ariel Shapiro; Forbes

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Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

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South African Comedian Trevor Noah Is The Fourth Highest Paid Comedian In The World. Here’s how he did it.


With earnings of a staggering $28 million Trevor Noah has become the fourth highest paid comedian in the world.

According to Forbes the Daily Show host, “earned the bulk of his income this year through stand-up, making him eligible for our list”.

Forbes’ methodology is using all earnings estimated from June 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019.

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“Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar Pro as well as interviews with industry insiders,” they said.

He is signed to host the Daily Show until 2022.

On the show, Noah usually sits down with the biggest headline-grabbers in politics and entertainment.

Noah also covers the biggest news stories in politics, pop culture and more.

Recently he trended after devising a viral conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is targeting first lady Melania Trump with his immigration policies.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah currently has over 5,3 million subscribers on YouTube alone and has had 1,9 billion views.

But apart from the show, the South African born comedian made more than 70 stops across the world and had his second Netflix special last fall.

His book Born A Crime, published in 2016, is still ranked as No.1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list for paperback nonfiction.

Africans across the globe celebrated Noah’s listing on social media with some expressing how inspired they are by him.

On the Forbes list, Noah follows after Jim Gaffigan earning $30 million, Jerry Seinfeld earning $41 million and Kevin Hart being the highest earner with $59 million.

On the top ten list the only woman on the list is Amy Schumer at the seventh spot with $21 million.

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Jeff Bezos Unloads Another $990 Million Worth Of Amazon Shares In Early August

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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos sold over 530,000 Amazon shares in the first two days of August for $990 million. After taxes, he will net an estimated $750 million in cash from the sales. 

The sales on August 1 and 2 followed $1.4 billion (after-tax) worth of Amazon stock he sold in the final three days of July. 

As the richest man on earth, Bezos is now worth an estimated $110.1 billion, using Monday’s closing share price for Amazon.

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A spokesman for Amazon has not commented on the purpose for Bezos’ last stock sales. The leading theory is that it is to fund Blue Origin, a space exploration company that Bezos founded in September 2000. Bezos told journalists at a space exploration conference in 2017 that he was funding Blue Origin by selling some of his Amazon shares.

According to documents filed on Monday afternoon with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the world’s richest man sold over 530,000 shares of Amazon when the stock price was around $1,900 a share. On Monday, the stock closed at $1,765 a share.

-Angel Au-Yeung; Forbes Africa

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