The Uber effect: The hot startup’s early investors are in demand

Feb 05, 2014

Erin Griffith is a senior writer. She joined Fortune in 2014.

FORTUNE -- Say what you will about Uber’s cocky founder, its surge pricing, or its shady drivers. From a pure investment standpoint, the car service startup has been golden.

Some back-of-the-envelope math shows why: Take Uber's $1.5 million angel round, led by First Round Capital and Lowercase Capital. It had a valuation of around $4 million pre-money. The company’s later rounds had valuations of approximately $40 million for its Series A in 2011 and $300 million Series B later that year. Six months ago, Uber raised money from Google Ventures and TPG at a $3.5 billion post-money valuation. The company’s revenues were around $125 million last year, which handily beat expectations.

The company’s success is having a halo effect for its early investors, who seem to be having no trouble raising new funds. In investment meetings, limited partners are preaching the gospel of Uber. “Anyone with Uber in their portfolio is looking pretty good right now,” one LP said.

In addition to First Round and Lowercase, that Angel round included backing from angel investors Mitch Kapor, Alfred Lin, Naval Ravikant, Babak Nivi, Cyan and Scott Banister, Shawn Fanning, Jason Calcanis, Mike Walsh, Oren Michels, and Josh Spear.

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Shervin Pishevar was an early investor in Uber and later led Menlo Ventures’ $37 million round in the company. He’s used momentum on that and other investments like Tumblr and Warby Parker to raise money for his own fund, Sherpa Ventures. On Tuesday Dan Primack reported that Pishevar has held a first close on $87 million in commitments, beating its initial target of $60 million. The overall fund has a target of $150 million. One of Sherpa Ventures’ limited partners is TPG, which also invested in Uber.

Techstars CEO David Cohen, who invested in Uber’s first $1.25 million round, is in the market raising $150 million for his next fund (called Bullet Time Ventures 2014), according to an SEC filing from December. The new fund, his third, is a significant step up from his prior fund, a $25.6 million vehicle raised in 2012, and sources say he is nearing a close on the full amount. (Cohen declined to comment beyond the filing.)

Meanwhile, Founder Collective, which backed Uber's Series A, is currently investing from its second fund, a $70 million vehicle which closed last year. It is almost double the size of its first fund. And First Round Capital is slated to raise a new fund in the second half of this year.

If the company continues its current trajectory, the Uber Effect may become the new Facebook Effect. Recall that Facebook’s early investors, including Jim Breyer, Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, and David Sze, have been among the most successful investors for the past several years.

Surprisingly, given how close-knit the Silicon Valley investor community is, there's only one investor Uber and Facebook (fb) have in common: Goldman Sachs (gs). Update: Uber and Facebook actually have two investors in common. In addition to Goldman Sachs, angel investor Matt Ocko made early bets in each company.

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