These Venture Capital Firms Are the Best By One Funky Yardstick

June 11, 2016, 12:04 AM UTC
Inside An Orange SA Mobile Phone Store
Photograph by Balint Porneczi — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Silicon Valley loves vanity metrics, so lets add a new one to evaluate venture capital firms: mobile app downloads.

Mobile analytics company SensorTower recently released a report ranking the top 20 VC firms based on how many times people downloaded the apps created by their portfolio companies. And the winner is: Kleiner Perkins.

In all, Kleiner invested in 13 of the top 1,000 best performing apps in Apple’s App Store last year, racking a combined 81.3 million iOS downloads, according to SensorTower’s estimates. Its top three apps are Uber, Snapchat, and Spotify, though the firm has also invested in Airbnb, Houzz, Flipboard, Shopkick, and Jawbone (Up) among others.

In second place came Institutional Venture Partners, with an estimated 60.8 million total downloads from apps like Snapchat, Clash of Clans (Supercell), and Dropbox. Accel Partners, also an investor in Spotify, Clash of Clans, Dropbox, rounded out the top three with an estimated 52.8 million total downloads. Check out SensorTower’s blog for the full list.

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Of course, SensorTower’s report is only an estimate of app download numbers, and more importantly, they don’t reflect the app maker’s (or its investor’s) financial success. In fact, many of the most popular apps are free while executives try to figure out how to turn their money losing operations into profitable businesses.

Whatever the case, tech companies also spend a lot of time focusing on other metrics like monthly or daily active users instead of downloads. Last year, Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel revealed that the ephemeral messaging app had close to 100 million daily active users, a number that has now reportedly climbed to 150 million (more than Twitter). Uber and Spotify, on the other hand, look at slightly different metrics—active riders, and overall and paying users. Downloads, you can see, don’t really count for much.

Of course, this report only takes into consideration consumer-focused companies that have mobile apps and the venture capitalists that invested in them. Enterprise-focused companies, though not as sexy and often invisible to the average consumer, do frequently generate very sizable, if not bigger investment returns.

It’s also important to remember that evaluating investors is an imperfect science. Earlier this week, Fortune‘s Dan Primack wrote about a new project, Sunesis, he’s advising that aims to assess venture capitalists based on their returns to their own investors, known as limited partners.

“Venture capital is one of very few investment management industries without an accurate accounting of the best professionals,” he wrote, adding that many existing lists and rankings use too much qualitative data and not enough weight it put on actual financial returns.

So the lesson here? We might never truly find out which venture capital firm is truly the best.

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