Zirra SUN100’s Top VCs

The Top VCs With the Most Portfolio Companies in Start-Up Nation’s $100 Million Club

Carmel Ventures, Vintage Investment Partners, and Marker LLC are among the VCs with the highest concentration of highly valued Israeli startups, according to recent research by Zirra. In order to rank VCs according to their achievements, Zirra, a research firm, used its proprietary algorithm to value Israeli startups, extracting 163 companies that were found to be worth over $100 million. Zirra then ranked the VCs invested in these companies by the size of the portfolio, from highest to the lowest. VCs that were ranked higher have the largest number of startups that are valued above $100 million (without taking into account the exact valuation). Since 2016, Zirra has produced a ranking of Israel’s $100M+ startups in what they call the SUN100 (Start Up Nation $100M club).

VCs that are ranked lower on this list are still considered to have a relatively high concentration of highly valued startups. We mentioned only five or more portfolio companies and excluded all the rest, as most of the investors do have between one to four such companies in their portfolio.

Some major qualifications to the ranking list must be mentioned:

*Not everyone in this list are VCs: Some non-VC financial enterprises are involved in either investing or lending money to the SUN 100 club, including Silicon Valley Bank, which is a bank focused on tech companies, and Viola Credit (formerly Plenus), a lending fund. In addition, OurCrowd is a crowdfunding platform, and Mitsui is a corporate VC. Two VCs in the list have decided not to raise new funds and to focus on their existing portfolios: Gemini Israel Ventures and Genesis Partners.

*Incumbency advantage: Incumbent VCs have a natural advantage over younger VCs for the simple reason that they have been around longer. Most of the VCs listed here were established during the 90’s or the early 2000’s, such as Carmel Ventures which was founded in 2000, or Vintage Investment Partners, which was formed in 2002. Nevertheless, there are some nuances worth noticing: US-based VCs may exist longer than their Israeli counterparts, but their presence in the Israeli startups ecosystem is a newer phenomenon. Bessemer opened its Israeli office only in 2007, and since then has steadily increased its investment in the Israeli market.

*The list is by no means proportional to seniority. Older funds are not necessarily ranked higher, and vice versa.

*Having a lot of $100 million+ valued companies is not always as good as it sounds. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Therefore VCs counts big exits more than large enterprises. After all, what’s the point in having ten companies of $100 million and above if none of them are about to be sold for a higher valuation or go public? Therefore, having four or ten large enterprises in a portfolio is only a part of the big picture, and exits should be taken into account too.

*On the other hand, having a lot of good companies says something about your investment capabilities. And VCs use their portfolio of high valuation companies to help them each time they are raising their next fund.

*More top rated VCs will not necessarily have higher returns. What counts is the share of each portfolio company the VC holds, and their portion of any exit. A significant proportion in a $300 million company that isn’t get bought for years but lacks the growth to go public can end up as a failure in the eyes of a VC.

How Do We Value Companies?

The output of the Zirra Valuation Process is by no means a company’s real valuation. What we do is estimate the real-time valuation, as if the company had a stock traded on the public market, taking into account market momentum and industry characteristics,  while excluding effects such as a tech bubble or PR and marketing campaigns.

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The valuation process involves both Intrinsic and Relative valuation algorithms. The Intrinsic data includes revenue and expense estimations, traffic trajectories, advertising campaigns measurements, investment history and velocity, based on aggregated sources.

In the Relative analysis, data is compared and benchmarked with a database of thousands of companies with correlation to stage, space, size and trajectory. This produces a preliminary set of company ratings and valuation metrics. For example, the algorithm concluded that teams of up to 3 co-founders, each specializing in his/her field of business, technology or marketing leads to growth, whereas teams of 4 or more co-founders carry a higher degree of risk. The machine learning algorithms track the growth of companies, arrive at conclusions independently and dynamically adapt for future analysis.

We then produce a map of competitors based on the data set, rated by the degree of direct competition, its size, threat, and proximity of the shared customer and partner base. Results are sent to relevant experts that comment on both quantitative analytics (scores and metrics) and qualitative analytics (risks, opportunities, competitors).

Where do we get the data from?

Data is extracted from 85 different data sources, regularly updated (daily to weekly). Sources include both open and licensed directories such as the company website, Bloomberg, Linkedin, SimilarWeb and Adwords; It can be “derived data” such as Glassdoor reviews, consumer reviews, sentiment analysis from open web articles; or other data points such as academic researches, stock indexes, and macro-economic parameters.

Companies With Significant Milestones in This Quarter’s list


Taxi ride-hailing app Gett is still Israel’s highest valued private tech company. The company’s status got even better this quarter, as the Israeli automotive ecosystem was upgraded with the acquisition of Mobileye by Intel for $15 billion and the decision by Intel to make Israel its automotive powerhouse. A little less than a year since the $300 million that car maker Volkswagen had put into Gett, there is still no sign of a significant cooperation between the two on a service or a product.

Still, Gett continues to grow in European markets such as Russia and the UK. Gett’s acquisition of Mountainview House Group in the UK gives them control over black cab brands Radio Taxis and Xeta as well as corporate transport platform One Transport. As a result of this acquisition Gett is the biggest taxi app in the UK, with over 11,500, taxis in London alone.

Gett claims to be the market leader in Europe in terms of volume of rides, revenues, and profits. Within Europe the service is currently live only in Russia and the UK, indicating much more room for growth and building on their market lead. Despite talk over five years ago of launching in France and Germany, Gett has not yet entered those markets.

In France, Uber has taken a leading role but met with serious resistance from Taxi drivers and from the French government. German companies MyTaxi and Taxi.eu lead in Germany, where Uber has run into issues and been forced to leave all but Berlin and Munich.

According to Zirra research, Russia is Gett’s fastest growing market, in terms of growth in Android and Apple’s app stores, and in terms of web traffic. Still, Gett is not the biggest taxi app in the country. It is overshadowed by Yandex, which accounts for 55% of all taxi rides in Moscow, with Uber and Gett handling about half of the remaining 45% of rides in the city.

In the US, Gett’s initial attempt at penetrating the market has not been as successful as they hoped. Despite strong marketing efforts, attractive fixed fares, and CEO Shahar Waiser moving to New York, the company’s business in the city is not yet profitable and trails behind

In recent months, Gett has been expanding its offerings into delivery, allowing businesses to call for couriers. According to a Zirra survey, a significant number of respondents were open to trying Gett’s delivery service if prices are low enough.

Trax Imaging

Raising $19 million about 2 months ago, Trax imaging joins Amazon in the race to commercialize in-store computer vision tech. Trax allows grocery store employees to capture images of the current retail situation in stores and through deep analytics in Trax’s cloud, insights and reports are delivered to management teams for the purposes of optimizing stocking cycles and tracking products and promotions. Now Trax is arriving to consumers as well, allowing them to find desired products in real time or suggest alternatives. Soon, Trax will be able to compete with Amazon Go’s cashier-less stores. But Trax is not alone in the market, as many established companies are already developing computer vision-based solutions to retail such as IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and smaller companies such as Planorama, RetailNext and Symphony Gold. [Read here for Zirra’s full spotlight report on Trax Imaging]

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Kaminario, a developer of a high performance all-flash array storage system, passed the $1 billion valuation this quarter, thanks to a $75 million financial round earlier this year. After a couple of years trying to convince enterprises to deploy more SSD-based storage, EMC started to sell a competing system, ExtremeIO, thus educating the market, and making it large enough for Kaminario’s flash-based product. In 2014 the company achieved a world record in speed of storage and a very high reliability, making it a valid competitor to EMC. 2015 and 2016 were excellent in sales, bringing the company toward $100 million in annual revenue run rate. The company also grew in terms of size, 111% in two years, not bad for a company that was founded in 2008. [Read here for Zirra’s full spotlight report on Kaminario]


Taking advantage of the momentum he has created with selling Mobileye to Intel for $15 billion last month, computer vision scientist Amnon Shashua announced a new $41 million round from unknown investors for another tech company he had founded: OrCam. According to Reuters, the new round that was announced only this weekend values OrCam an $600 million, while Zirra’s valuation algorithm estimates OrCam’s valuation at $569 million. This puts Orcam straight as the 18th highly valued private tech company in Israel, according to Zirra.

OrCam takes the computer vision abilities of a company such as Mobileye’s obstacles detection on the roads to help blind or visually impaired people to “see” better by reading them in headphones what is in front of their eyes. A tiny computer that is attached to the side of a pair of glasses read today’s news or a sign, recognize faces and facial expressions, and helps them to function almost as anyone. All they need to do is activate the visual engine by pointing to the object.

The device has just launched to market in 2016, and according to Shashua will become profitable in 2018 and then will consider a listing in New York.

Here’s Why You Should Be Tougher On Startups In 2017

“I think we should really call people out on things,” said Kara Swisher, a mega-star Silicon Valley reporter and Re/Code co-founder, when asked about tech journalism in 2017. “We have to stop being quite as cooperative. We sort of suspend disbelief when these companies get money — this isn’t just in tech, but it’s everything,” she said, referring to credulous articles about tech companies raising huge funding rounds.

“We always tend to try to ‘get along’ when we should be asking questions, at the very least,” Swisher added. “We don’t ask enough questions. We allow them to lie, we allow them to say things that are false, we don’t question things as much as we should — for lots of reasons.”

Swisher has done some soul-searching as a leading journalist. However, if we want to change the modus operandi of the tech industry, we all need to get behind this idea. To put it another way – journalists, entrepreneurs, investors, accountants, researchers, and actually, everyone around tech should be tougher this year.

The Information’s Exclusive Piece Uncovered Magic Leap’s Extravagant Marketing Techniques


As mentioned by Erin Griffith at Fortune, 2016 marked the year of tech scandals. The growing capital searching for hot tech investment and science fiction-ish ideas looking for money – matched with hype and uncertainty – can lead entrepreneurs to exaggerate in the best case and lead them to deceive in the worst. “No industry is immune to fraud, and the hotter the business, the more hucksters flock to it. But Silicon Valley has always seen itself as the virtuous outlier, a place where altruistic nerds tolerate capitalism in order to make the world a better place. Suddenly the Valley looks as crooked and greedy as the rest of the business world,” writes Griffith.

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Just to name a few scandals: Theranos, the blood testing company reached a $9 billion valuation before it became apparent that its technology seldom actually work; Snapchat was sued by a former employee who says the company was inflating growth metrics ahead of a planned initial public offering; Zenefits, the HR software startup lost over half its value after acknowledging that its software enabled employees to dodge state licensing requirements; Hampton Creek, the eggless mayonnaise company, ordered contractors and employees to buy back its own product from retailers, effectively inflating sales figuresMagic Leap has used extravagant marketing and demonstrations of technology still in the research phase to raise expectations for its mixed reality headset. But with no release date set and Microsoft already in the market, Magic Leap is already behindFaraday Future, the secretive electric car startup backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, is plagued by lawsuits and unpaid bills. 

Bloomberg First Reported On How Hampton Creek Ordered Employees To Buy Back Its Own Products From Retailers To Inflate Sales

Investors, it seems, are not impressed with this, and they keep pouring funds into startups. According to Pitchbook, VCs had invested $73 billion in U.S.-based startups, compared with $45 billion at the peak of the Dotcom boom. This is caused partly due to a growing lack of transparency, as more and more startups stay private longer.

But today more money is sloshing around, with $73 billion in venture capital having been invested in U.S. startups in 2016, compared with $45 billion at the peak of the Dotcom boom, according to PitchBook. There’s also less transparency as companies stay private longer – there are 174 private companies are each worth $1 billion or more. Lastly, tech startups continue to branch into more and more areas, and now are occupying space in our lives in areas such as automotive, home infrastructure, and health.

When everyone, not only journalists, but also investors, partners, and service providers start asking the tough questions, CEOs and entrepreneurs will have harder times hiding the risk points. Here are some of the points that need to be verified with entrepreneurs, before jumping to conclusions:

  • Competitors: Entrepreneurs don’t like to talk about them. Founders tend to exaggerate the uniqueness of their company, saying that “they are the only one that is making this innovative solution,” and that their competition is with employees filling equivalent functions in various business. When pushed against a wall, entrepreneurs will describe giants such as Facebook and Amazon as their indirect competitors and disregard the startups in their space, that have sometimes raised twice as much funding or even more.


  • Growth: While talking about growth can actually mean very different things, in the startup economy every growth is a blessing. But since entrepreneurs don’t like to talk about numbers, as important as they may be, one has to be cautious about the nature of growth. Is an increase in the number of customers because of a free trial or pilot? How much of those customers are recurring customers? And if the growth doesn’t bring in revenue yet, when will that happen? Growth from $0 to 10,000 is much steeper than the growth from $10,000 to $1 million. Remember that when a startup doesn’t mention absolute numbers.


  • The chasm between idea and a working product: As in the recent cases of Theranos and Magic Leap, and older cases such as Clinkle, the chasm between a prototype and a product can be tricky. Also, it’s important to ask during a demo if some special effects were used to enhance the experience.


  • Work Environment: Every entrepreneur describes his office as a warm and friendly place where a healthy culture of innovation and mutual feedback is preserved and a balance between work and life is practiced zealously. Fortunately, the internet allows us to double down on these cliches. For instance, Glassdoor can give insight into the popularity of a CEO and shed some light on the general sentiment among employees (and former employees).


  • Total Employee Count: Entrepreneurs will rarely tell you about layoffs or a complete halt in new hires. Many services allow you to see those stats for yourself.LinkedIn Premium, for example, enables you to check a two-years employee count graph and search for new management hires.


  • Founders: Nobody told you that the three founders sitting in front of you are not, in fact, equal partners. The co-founder and CEO holds ten times the shares in the company than co-founder #2 holds, and twenty times more than co-founder #3. This asymmetry between the founders might hint at future disputes, as each of them is committed to the company in a different way.  That’s not a real team. A one person show might be a better description of the management in this case. There are other companies in which executives join the group and receive the title of co-founder, even though they weren’t part of the company’s original founding team and joined later. In some instances, original co-founders leave and those that join instead get their titles. In other cases, disputes with a dominant CEO cause executives to come and go like a revolving door. Therefore, it is important to check the stability of a managing team.


  • Previous Experience: A group of founders might present themselves as seasoned entrepreneurs who sold two companies to global corporations. But, a brief background check can tell that the first company they founded went bankrupt and sold its IP, and that the second company was sold for a only few million, causing massive losses to the investors. Naturally, not all “exits” are good. Most of them aren’t.


  • Fund Raising: Lately, growth companies (companies in stages C/D/E) have raised large amounts of money at the expense of their valuation, which could be a sign of the cooling investment atmosphere in Silicon Valley. Founders who were used to having their companies infused with large amounts of money and seeing their valuation increase with each new round, are now sometimes agreeing to a down round (decreasing valuation between financial rounds) in order to continue to raise funds and not lose momentum. Therefore, it is not enough to know that you raised $20 million or $30 million, but rather to know if a startup just experienced a down round.


  • Downloads: Entrepreneurs are happy to disclose that they’ve counted 5 million downloads so far, but they are less willing to tell you how many daily active users (DAU) or monthly active users (MAU) they have. This is an important question to ask, as it tells you how many people are regularly engaging with a product.


  • Selling The Company: When you hear the usual “we’re here to build a large company,” remember that on average, most founders will agree to reasonable acquisition offers. In many cases there are so many preferred stocks that are connected to many different investors that founders are not actually in control of their company.


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Kara Swisher / Image: C Magazine