What Yale Invested in to Almost Double Its VC Dollars Every Year

yale school of managment
Courtesy: Yale School of Management

Yale University’s endowment apparently knows a thing or two about investing in venture capital.

The $25.6 billion endowment has gained an average of 93% per year on its VC investments over the past 20 years thanks to buying early stakes in tech companies that went on to become dominant in their fields, including Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), and LinkedIn (LNKD), the university revealed in its latest annual report. The investments were made through top VC firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, and Greylock Partners, Yale said.

Some of Yale’s older winners included Cisco Systems (CSCO), Oracle (ORCL), and Dell, while its more recent stakes include Uber, Airbnb, and Snapchat.

While the returns are stunning, the dedication to nontraditional investments has been the core of the endowment’s successful strategy under chief investment officer David Swensen. Yale was also an early pioneer in cutting back on U.S. stocks and bonds to devote more dollars to less common asset classes such as timber, leveraged buyouts, and emerging markets.

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Over the past 30 years, the endowment overall gained almost 14% per year, beating the average college and university endowment return by five percentage points per year.

“Successful VCs generate breathtaking returns by backing innovative and disruptive companies from an early stage,” the university noted in the annual report. “Yale was among the first institutional investors to participate in venture capital, making its first commitment in 1976.”



The university also listed some of its alumni who have gone on to become top venture capitalists, including William Draper, one of the first venture capitalists to start investing in California tech companies; Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation Partners; and Matt Cohler, one of the first outside employees hired by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.

Given the VC program’s success it’s no surprise that Yale invests a much greater proportion of its endowment in venture capital than most of its peers. Yale had over 16% in VC funds as of June 30, 2015, compared with under 5% at the average university endowment.

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