The Anti-Portfolio 17 Oct 2005

15 comments Latest by Inker

It’s always nice to see a humble company in a not-so-humble field. Bessemer Venture Partners, one of the country’s oldest venture firms, proudly lists their Anti-Portfolio — companies they passed on but shouldn’t have.

Whatever the reason, we would like to honor these companies — our “anti-portfolio” — whose phenomenal success inspires us in our ongoing endeavors to build growing businesses. Or, to put it another way: if we had invested in any of these companies, we might not still be working.

Some of these companies include Apple (BVP had the opportunity to invest in pre-IPO secondary stock in Apple at a $60M valuation. BVP’s Neill Brownstein called it “outrageously expensive”), HP (BVP’s Felda Hardymon was offered a small position in the company’s last private round, and waved it away: too small a position, he thought, at too high a price. In less than a year it was worth 17x), eBay (“Stamps? Coins? Comic books? You’ve GOT to be kidding,” thought Cowan. “No-brainer pass”), FedEx (Incredibly, BVP passed on Federal Express seven times), and Google.

Most VCs would run from a record of misses like this, but I think it shows an awful lot of confidence and a healthy dose of humility to share their hits and misses. Well done.

15 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Don Wilson 17 Oct 05

Quite an interesting move for a company such as this. One wouldn’t expect an investment group would list their failures, but it’s turned out a very interesting look at what could have been.

Jan 17 Oct 05

Reading that list, I chuckled a bit, but also wondered if I would have invested in them or not.. I doubt if I would have done any better.

Will 17 Oct 05

While I appreciate their ability to be self-depricating and display 20/20 vision in hindsight, to be honest it’s kind of unnerving to look over such a distinguished list of “non-clients” and then look at their actual client list which is basically a directory of flash in the pan bubble companies from the late 90’s.

I think showing the misses is one thing, but only if you have some equally impressive hits. None of their hits are anywhere near the caliber of their misses, so I don’t think the approach (of showing the misses) works as well for them as it would for a company with a more impressive track record.

Vincent Noel 17 Oct 05

You mentioned ebay twice.

chris 17 Oct 05

I think it shows how out of touch they are with new developments.

PayPal, ebay, Apple, HP are all global brands now but 20 years ago the people making billions now were the people with the foresight to back them.

It’s suprising since you guys push “web 2.0” as a the future?

JF 17 Oct 05

I think it shows how out of touch they are with new developments.

They’ve been in business for nearly 100 years. I think they’re doing something right.

iwonder 17 Oct 05

Now I am interested to see what 1980s to 2005 tech companies they DID invest in?

pwb 17 Oct 05

I’m with Will. None of their investments approach the success of their non-investments. To me it sounds self-congratulatory: “look at the companies we did *not* invest in!”.

That they’ve been around for 100 years is misleading since they’ve only been doing what they currently do for 30 years.

Has anyone heard of a VC firm that’s gone out of business?

Anonymous Coward 17 Oct 05


I said “new developments”

They have been around for 100 years but new developments (the things they passed on) have only been around 10… they could have done so much better.

JF 17 Oct 05

Look, I’m not here to defend this company, I just think it’s pretty cool and refreshing that they are willing to talk about their failures.

Don Schenck 18 Oct 05

I wanted to post my screw-ups on my web site … but the internet’s not big enough.


Jameson 18 Oct 05

I agree that this is a refreshing dollop of honesty, but it would be a better selling tool if there were some big hits on their actual portfolio list, too. Out of that whole list, I’d heard of maybe six of them, and there are a *lot* of swooshy logos there.

Brian Breslin 18 Oct 05

so does anyone see any common companies investing in the ones they missed?

i think it would be neat to make a “map” that shows which vc firms invested in what companies…

warren 26 Oct 05

So how do (or they) invest in open source? Lets say I think Ruby and Linux will both grow 30X in the next 10 years. Can’t be sure it’s Red Hat, can I?