2011 was a banner year for venture capital investments in wireless. After the recession of the past few years, venture capitalists came out in force during 2011 to invest a total of $6.3 billion in mobile-focused companies, according to Rutberg & Co. That's just slightly less than the high of $6.4 billion that VC firms delivered to mobile in 2006, the biggest year of VC investments in mobile in the past decade.
VC investments in mobile, global figures, 2001-2011. Source: Rutberg.
Unlike in 2006 though, when roughly 35 percent of venture capitalists' money went to the "wireless carrier" segment, in 2011 almost all VC money went to "technology" companies. This is a reflection of the growth of mobile applications, third-party services and over-the-top offerings. The Rutberg data also shows that mobile has made up a growing percentage of all VC money, spiking to 42.4 percent in 2011, up from 30.4 percent in 2010 and 17.1 percent in 2009.
According to Rutberg, mobile applications comprised $1.8 billion of the $6.3 billion total in 2011, with infrastructure contributing $2.6 billion, devices scooping up $1 billion, carriers netting $500 million and semiconductors nabbing $400 million.
Of course, this is not the only way to slice and dice the mobile VC landscape. Data provided to FierceWireless by the National Venture Capital Association looked solely at VC contributions to wireless communications services, which exclude mobile apps (those fall under different categories monitored by the NVCA). By this much narrower measure, VC firms contributed $263 million in equity in 2011. According to the NVCA, the top 10 VC firms in 2011 for wireless communications services were: Andreessen Horowitz, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Kleiner Perkins, Oak Investment Partners, Sequoia Capital, Spark Capital, Duff Ackerman & Goodrich, North Bridge Venture Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Norwest Venture Partners. While there is some overlap with the Rutberg data, the two firms are measuring very different things.
It's no real surprise that venture capitalists are interested in the mobile sector. After all, VC payouts can in some cases be huge. For example, Zynga acquired social and mobile gaming company OMGPOP for a reported $180 million, with an additional $30 million in employee-retention payments. And Facebook dropped a whopping $1 billion to buy photo-sharing service Instagram.
With this in mind, here's a look at the top 10 VC firms in mobile in 2011. This list is based on figures provided by Rutberg and is ranked on the number of investments each firm made last year. (There are two entries for No. 9 since both invested in the same number of companies.)
About: Founded in 1972. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. Within the mobile sector, the firm invests in advertising, applications, devices and enabling technology companies.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 24
Specific investments: Bubble Motion, Bump, Clickatell, Color, Cotendo, DailyBooth, Evernote, Flite, Inkling, Just Dial, MeLLmo, Meraki, MobileIron, MoboTap, Onavo, Quantenna, Sencha, Sourcebits, Square, Stoke, Synapsense, Trippy, Unity
About: Founded in 1991. Headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. Since 1991, Intel Capital has invested more than $10 billion in over 1,100 companies in 51 countries. In that period, 189 portfolio companies have gone public and 258 were acquired or participated in a merger.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 23
Specific investments: 4tiitoo, AltoBridge, Animoca, Arcsoft, Borqs, CloudMade, Digital Chocolate, GainSpan, InVisage, ip.access, July, Kno, mFoundry, Mocana, NeuString, SecureKey, SkyCross, skyrockit, Sotera, Swrve, TOA, Total Immersion, Urban Airship
About: Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. Founded by angel investor Ron Conway, SV Angel is now playing with around $40 million.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 21
Specific investments: AppRedeem, BankSimple, Bump, Drchrono, EggCartel, Everyme, Game Closure, Hyperink, just.me, Kno, Mindless, Dribble, Onswipe, Orchestra, Parse, Poshmark, ShowMe, Sincerely, SnapGuide, Swrve, Tagstand, Trippy
About: Founded in 2009. Headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. The firm, started with a $100 million commitment, has made investments in a variety of fields ranging from Internet, software, and hardware to clean-tech, biotech and healthcare.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 19
Specific investments: Airy Labs, Astrid, Crittercism, Echoecho, Enterproid, just.me, Milk, Miso, Nettle, Ordr.in, Parse, Pocket Change, Read It Later, Rumble, Scvngr, Stickery, Subtext, ThinkNear, TweetNGo
Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers
About: Founded in 1972. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. Since its foundation, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers has invested in more than 500 ventures including AOL, Amazon.com, Citrix, Compaq, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Genomic Health, Google, Intuit, Juniper Networks, Netscape, Sun, Symantec, Verisign, WebMD and Zynga.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 19
Specific investments: Aerohive, Apperian, Awarepoint, Cooliris, Crittercism, Fixmo, Flipboard, GOGII, iControl, INRIX, Jawbone, Kovio, Path, Session M, Shazam, Square, Stoke, Waze, WorkSmart
Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ)
About: Founded in 1985. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. The firm, which has more than $7 billion in capital commitments, has invested in a variety of tech firms, including Baidu, Hotmail, Overture, Skype and Glam Media.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 18
Specific investments: 4INFO, Cloudbot, do@, GameSalad, JiWire, Medialets, MomentFeed, Neul, Opinionaided, Qosmos, Siklu, Synapsense, Tango, Taptu, TOA, ViVOTech, Z2Live
About: Founded in 1983. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. The firm manages $8.8 billion in capital commitments and has invested in a variety of companies related to mobile, including Facebook, Groupon, GetJar, AdMob, Spotify, Dropbox, Rovio, Lookout and MetroPCS.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 17
Specific investments: Animoca, Azumio, BlueSprig, Breezy, CellScope, Dropcam, GetJar, Hotel Tonight, Lookout, MoPub, Pipette, Qriously, Qwilt, Rovio, Shopmium, Skimble, SoundTracking
New Enterprise Associates (NEA)
About: Founded in 1978. Headquartered in Chevy Chase, Md., and Menlo Park, Calif. The firm has more than $11 billion in capital committed and the firm's most notable investments include 3com, Juniper Networks, Macromedia, Salesforce.com, TiVo, Vonage and WebMD.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 16
Specific investments: Aerohive, CellScope, Euclid Elements, Leyden Energy, Millennial Media, Pipette, Pulse, SiliconBlue, Skimble, Stitcher, Subtext, TabbedOut, Tabula, Umami, ValueFirst Messaging, Vuclip
About: Founded in 2010. Headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. The firm was started by angel investor and former PayPal marketing chief Dave McClure.
Number of mobile investments in 2011: 13
Specific investments: Apsalar, AwayFind, Drchrono, FastCustomer, Khush, Life360, MindSnacks, Nettle, Punchd, Stickery, TaskRabbit, Twilio
About: Founded in 2009. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. The firm, which is the brainchild of investors Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, has a distinguished pedigree since Andreessen and Horowitz were strong angel investors in the likes of Facebook, Groupon, Skype Twitter and Zynga.
Number of investments in 2011: 13
Specific investments: BlueStacks, Bump, Capriza, Everyme, Foursquare, Hyperink, Jawbone, Kno, Lookout, Massive Health, TinyCo, Wikets