Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we profile the exciting work of our member firms. For this deep dive, we spoke to Christine Tsai, CEO and Founding Partner of 500 Global to learn more about the firm.
What makes your firm unique?
500 Global is a venture capital firm that invests early in founders building technology companies with global potential. We have $2.7B in AUM, an expansive, diversified global portfolio of companies across multiple sectors, stages, and geographies (81 countries and counting), and a truly diverse team that earned recognition on The Information’s VC Diversity Index.
We began in Silicon Valley 12 years ago, but our investment thesis and overall mission were global from Day 1. Today, our team is located in more than 20 countries and brings extensive experience as founders, investors, and operators. Of the 51 companies valued at over $1B in our portfolio, nearly 40% of them hail from outside of the U.S.
As one of the first institutional investors that a founder brings into their cap table, we care deeply about building trust with our founders and supporting them throughout their journey. We continue to be active at the pre-seed/accelerator and seed stage because those are our roots. However, we’ve also expanded our investment strategy to include the later stages of a company’s growth – writing larger checks into companies, as well as offering co-investment opportunities to limited partners. As we often reference within the firm, we aim to back founders from “first check to last check.”
In addition to our global exposure, our firm is committed to promoting ESG in venture capital and we provide resources to our portfolio to help them implement ESG policies and practices from the start. We’re also helping to build the field by open-sourcing our resources, portfolio practices, and publicly sharing our ESG progress via our annual report.
What defines your portfolio?
We believe diversification is key to strong performance in early-stage venture. Over the past 12 years, we have grown our global portfolio to more than 2,600 companies across multiple sectors, stages, and geographies. More than half of our portfolio companies hail from outside the U.S. Given our wide aperture, we have been able to spot emerging trends around the world.
This highly diversified investment strategy has paid off. As of Q1, 2022, our first global flagship fund is ranked top decile and the next three global flagship funds are ranked top quartile by TVPI performance for their respective vintages, per Pitchbook’s benchmarks.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
We invest in regions with different levels of startup ecosystem maturity, and we’re seeing this play out with current market and economic conditions. Whereas the U.S. and Asia have recorded declines in venture funding in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021, that is not the case in Europe and Latin America so far. In the Middle East and Africa, while the ecosystems are relatively smaller, venture funding still registered strong growth during the same period.
What are the benefits of being an NVCA member?
NVCA has been a strong advocate for diversity, which remains an important issue within our industry. By offering resources to build a more inclusive environment, NVCA helps to make a difference. In addition, NVCA has been an invaluable resource for thought leadership, educational content, and networking opportunities.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2022?
As venture capital continues to globalize and the percentage of unicorns from outside the U.S. increases further, 500 Global is uniquely positioned with deep expertise and a strong track record of investing at global scale. We’re continuing to build out our global fund and regional fund strategies in both emerging and mature startup ecosystems around the world. For example, Southeast Asia has seen tremendous growth since 2012 when we made our first investment in the region.
Today, our SEA portfolio includes more than 240 companies, with seven unicorns, as well as three IPOs. We’re excited about the opportunity to keep supporting founders from first check to last check. In more nascent ecosystems like Africa and Pakistan, we’re actively pursuing opportunities to invest further given the strong talent and market growth. Governments and key stakeholders recognize now more than ever that entrepreneurship is a key driver in diversifying economies and job creation.