A 'tourist investor', not a VC firm, has the most investments in billion-dollar tech startups

Pitchbook unicornsPitchBookPitchBook’s list of top unicorn investors.

Over the last few years, tech startups have stayed private longer — thanks, in part, to a new class of “tourist investors.”

While tech companies have traditionally raised money from venture capitalists, mutual funds have plowed money into late-stage startups, seeking the kinds of returns they previously would have achieved from companies going public earlier in their life-cycles.

These so-called “tourist investors,” as Pitchbook has labelled them, are a big presence.

Fidelity Investments, the mutual fund goliath, has invested in the greatest number of tech startups that are valued at more than $1 billion, a type of startup commonly called a “unicorn”, according to PitchBook’s 2016 VC Unicorn report.

Fidelity’s 24 investments in billion-dollar U.S. startups surpass top venture capital firms like SV Angel (23 unicorns), Sequoia Capital (20), and Andreessen Horowitz (20). T. Rowe Price, another mutual fund, rounded out the top five unicorn investors with 17 investments. The full chart is to the right.

Fidelity’s investments include companies like Uber, Snapchat, and Pinterest, which are all under pressure to go public.

“Over the last few years venture capitalists have generated impressive returns for their LPs [limited partner investors],” said PitchBook senior analyst Garrett Black in the report release.

“At the same time, private companies are staying private longer, the public market remains somewhat volatile and the rise of interest rates is still looming. These factors make investments into VC-backed companies more attractive than ever to tourist investors like mutual funds. We anticipate they will continue to invest in this asset class.”

Mutual funds are still nowhere close to replacing venture capital firms, particularly at the early stages, as VCs still excel at identifying billion-dollar ideas from company inception. Firms like Fidelity and Tiger Global tend to investing in late-stage companies that have already proven they have a viable business and just need extra cash to do it, according to the report.

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