This legendary Silicon Valley VC firm had a chance to invest in Apple, Google and Facebook early on but never did

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BVP partners
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BVP

Bessemer Venture Partners is one of the oldest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

Through its 105-year history, BVP has made a series of great investments in companies like LinkedIn, Yelp, and Skype that have brought in tons of cash in return.

But it’s also had its fair share of “screw ups” through the years, passing on opportunities to invest in some of the most successful tech companies ever, such as Apple, Google, and Facebook.

To keep itself motivated, BVP runs “The Anti-Portfolio,” a page that lists some of its worst missed opportunities and why it passed on them. Take a look:


BVP traces its roots back to Henry Phipps, cofounder of Carnegie Steel. After selling the company, Phipps launched an investment firm named after Sir Henry Bessemer, the man who created the industrial process used by Carnegie Steel.

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The Carnegie Steel factory in Pittsburgh.
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Wikimedia Commons

BVP is now one of the most successful VC firms in Silicon Valley. It currently manages more than $4 billion across 6 offices around the world. Its biggest exits include LinkedIn, Yelp, and Skype.

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BVP was an early investor in LinkedIn.
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Flickr/A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive

But BVP has also had epic failures, passing on startups that ended up becoming some of the biggest tech companies in the world. “If we had invested in any of these companies, we might not still be working,” BVP writes jokingly on its site.

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BVP passed on a chance to invest in Google early on.
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Brendan Hoffman/Getty

“Our reasons for passing on these investments varied. In some cases, we were making a conscious act of generosity to another, younger venture firm, down on their luck, who we felt could really use a billion dollars in gains. In other cases, our partners had already run out of spaces on the year’s Schedule D and feared that another entry would require them to attach a separate sheet,” BVP writes on its website.


Take Apple for example. BVP had a chance to invest in Apple’s pre-IPO secondary stock that valued the company at $60 million. BVP’s Neill Brownstein called it “outrageously expensive” at the time. Apple is now worth $500 billion.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Or Google. BVP’s partner David Cowan’s college friend rented her garage to Google’s cofounders in 1999. When she tried to introduce Cowan to them, his response was, “Students? A new search engine? How can I get out of this house without going anywhere near your garage?”


Cowan also famously passed on PayPal’s Series A round. “Rookie team, regulatory nightmare, and, 4 years later, a $1.5 billion acquisition by eBay,” BVP writes.

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PAUL SAKUMA/AP

Cowan wasn’t too impressed by eBay either. “Stamps? Coins? Comic books? You’ve GOT to be kidding…No-brainer pass,” thought Cowan. eBay is now worth $35 billion.

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Thomson Reuters

Even Intel, now the world’s largest chipmaker, was within reach. But BVP’s Pete Bancroft was never able to get a deal with Intel cofounder Bob Noyce.

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Thomson Reuters

In 2004, BVP partner Jeremy Levine spent a weekend at a corporate retreat to dodge Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin’s pitch. Later, he told Saverin, “Kid, haven’t you heard of Friendster? Move on. It’s over!”

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Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin
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Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In 2006, when Tesla raised its Series C round, BVP partner Byron Deeter met the team and test-drove a roadster. He eventually passed on it, saying, “It’s a win-win. I get a great car and some other VC pays for it!” Tesla is now worth $35 billion. Deeter recently bought his own Model X.

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Tesla Model X
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YouTube/nbkagzw13

Yammer founder David Sacks pitched BVP’s Cowan and Ethan Kurzweil in 2008 for a funding round valuing the company at $25 million. But the deal was too complicated and Twitter was on the rise, so they passed. Four years later, Yammer was sold to Microsoft for $1.2 billion.

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David Sacks
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Flickr/Robert Scoble