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这位风投资本家从阿里巴巴身上赚了10亿美元|《财富》专访

Polina Marinova 2019年01月22日

米切尔·格林在风投界一直是个不显山不露水的人物,这也是他有意而为之的。

Lead Edge Capital公司的创始人米切尔·格林同时持有Uber、Bird、Spotify、阿里巴巴和腾讯的资产,但他在风投界一直是个不显山不露水的人物,这也是他有意而为之的。

格林表示:“我并不需要长篇大论地写博客,就某些事情发表评论。我们只想帮助创业者把公司做大,让我们的合伙人多赚些钱。”

阿里巴巴是格林的公司做出的最重要的一笔战略投资。格林对《华尔街日报》表示:“我们获得了大约10亿美元的回报。”最近,思科还以现金加股票的模式,作价23.5亿美元收购了Lead Edge公司投资的Duo Security公司。就在这笔收购之前,思科还以11.7亿美元的估值,领投了向Duo Security公司的一轮7000万美元的融资。

Lead Edge是怎样做投资的?一靠不请自来地打电话,二靠做深度研究,三靠一个大牌云集的合伙人网络。它的网站将公司的合伙人放在了显著位置,还附上了一句话:“我们可以把你介绍给谁?”

“我们有八九个合伙人,他们的工作非常简单——每天都给各路企业家打电话、发短信。任意一个年份,每个合伙人都会给大约750家公司打电话。再乘以8,也就是说,我们的团队每年要打电话给6000多个公司的CEO。”

Lead Edge就是这样联系上Duo Security公司的。他们与这家公司联系了40多次,都没有收到对方的回复。后来,他们动用了自己强大的关系网络。最后,Lead Edge的一位董事会成员向Duo Security公司的CEO做了一番介绍,最终促成了这两家公司的交易。

“我可能不是世界上最聪明的人,但我是最能坚持的。”格林对我说道。

在接受《Term Sheet》栏目采访时,格林探讨了他的投资策略,他为什么选择了Uber而非Lyft,以及风投界的形势正在如何演变。

《财富》:请谈谈你的投资理论,在你投资一家公司前,你会寻找哪些指标?

格林:我们有8个标准,我们希望我们投资的公司能满足其中的5到7个要求。

这8个标准是:

——你们的收入在1000万美元以上吗?

——你们的收入增长率在每年50%以上吗?

——你们的利润能增长70%以上吗?

——你们有经常性业务吗?

——你们的人才保留率是多少?能达到90%以上吗?

——你们盈利吗?还是不赚不赔?

——你们是否有多元化的顾客基础?

——最后一点十分重要:你们的资金使用效率如何?

资本使用效率是一个非常重要的指标,因为风投界的大量资本打了水漂,我们希望我们投资的公司能以非常快的速度增长,同时也不要烧掉太多资本。

举个例子:有很多软件公司烧了6000多万美元资本,才做到了2500万美元市值。我们想找的是类似Duo Security这样的公司,他们的收入在2亿美元以上,但只消耗了4000万美元左右的资本。

资本使用效率之所以重要,是因为如果经济出现衰退,那些烧钱率比较低的公司仍然可以继续存活下去,并且以较低的增长率继续保持增长。

Uber这么多年都没有盈利,而是一直处于亏损。这似乎与你的“不烧钱”投资哲学背道而驰?

格林:当我们投资Uber的时候,它是符合我们对资本使用效率的标准的。我们投资Uber是在2014年末到2015年初这段时间,当时Uber已经融到了18亿美元资本。我们最关注的是现金消耗与净收入的对比。一家公司拉到了融资,并不代表这笔钱已经被花掉了。另外,我们有时也会投资于资本使用效率不高的公司,但这样做是有特殊原因的。还有,资本使用效率也并非我们投资的必要条件,它只是8个重要标准中的一个。我们希望投资的是那些能够满足5到7个条件的公司。

你为什么选择投资Uber而不是Lyft?

格林:有意思的是,我当时甚至都不认识Uber创始人特拉维斯·卡拉尼克。我对Lyft联合创始人约翰·齐默的了解要远远超过前者。约翰是一个出色的人,那么我们为什么选择了Uber而不是Lyft呢?

Floodgate公司的女风投家Ann Miura-Ko是我们的好朋友。她告诉我们,我们应该关注一下Lyft,当时它的估值是4亿美元左右。事实证明,我们确实犯了傻,当时我们应该关注一下Lyft的。最后我们以400亿美元的估值投资了Uber。在Lead Edge内部,我们也有过很大争论。有的合伙人认为我们应该同时投资Uber和Lyft。还有些合作伙伴则认为,我们应该只做Uber,因为一个行业的绝大部分价值会被市场领导者攫取,排名第二的公司能获得的资本就会少得多。

你认为2019年这两家公司的IPO情况相比会如何?

格林:我想这两家公司可能都会表现得很好,这完全取决于市场,我不知道今年的市场走向如何,但据我们预计,Uber的IPO市值应该在1000亿美元到1500亿美元之间。Lyft的IPO也会受到华尔街的欢迎,但我相信,如果你喜欢Lyft,你就会爱上Uber。首先,Uber是全球化的;其次,它在全球各地拥有大量不同的资产。三是它的优食(UberEATS)服务可谓是一艘火箭飞船,有高速增长的潜力。

相比以前,企业现在可以获得的资本要多得多了。作为一个增长型投资者,你如何看待风投领域局势的演变?

格林:现在有很多热钱进入了风投和私募领域,我认为下一步还会有更多热钱流入这个资产类别。因此,现在正是创业的好时机——你获得资本的机会要比以前多得多。不过我认为这也稀释了回报。有一句话说得非常好:“对于一笔交易,你可以想出多高的价就出多高的价,只是希望你最好没有下错赌注。”

很多人预测2019年市场将走低。你看到经济放缓的迹象了吗?

格林:我们研究了我们投资的这些公司第四季度的业绩,它们都符合我们的预期。我认为,今年第一、第二季度,美国的经济增长会有所放缓。这是因为一年前我们实施了减税。但总的来说,从我们投资的这些公司看,没有任何迹象表明美国经济会在6到12个月内出现衰退。那么未来几年里会发生经济衰退吗?当然,它迟早会发生的。

我还发现了一个现象——群众的眼光往往并不是雪亮的。你去问100个搞私募和对冲的,看他们在做什么,然后你反过来做,可能就会赚钱。

你为什么会得出这个结论?

格林:因为我认为群众往往是错的,世界上最好的投资者都是孤独的。

你的结论很有趣。你是否做过哪些最与众不同的赌注,让你相信了“群众往往是错的”?

格林:阿里巴巴是2014年上市的。2015年9月,它的股价是63美元。我在年会上做了一个报告,指出阿里的股票是这个世界上最值得买的。到了11月,它的股价就从63美元涨到了80美元。到2016年2月,也就是全世界都在敌视中国的时候,它的股价跌到了58美元。但到了2018年,它一度上涨到了205美元。现在它的股价是150美元,我认为买入阿里股票是一笔值得尖叫的交易。

阿里巴巴类似于亚马逊、eBay、PayPal和Netflix的合体。它是一家非常强大的公司,它的股票是值得持有并传给你的孙子的。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

For someone whose portfolio includes Uber, Bird, Spotify, Alibaba, and Tencent, Lead Edge Capital founder Mitchell Green has managed to largely stay out of the VC spotlight. And that’s by design.

“I don’t need to be out there writing long blog posts pontificating on certain things,” Green says. “All we want to do is help entrepreneurs build big companies and make our LPs money.”

Green’s Alibaba investment helped put his growth-stage investment firm on the map. “We returned about a billion dollars,” he told The Wall Street Journal. More recently, Cisco bought Lead Edge portfolio company Duo Security for $2.35 billion in a combination of cash and stock after the firm had co-led Duo’s $70 million round at a $1.17 billion post-money valuation.

Lead Edge gets into deals through aggressive cold calling, deep research, and a star-studded network of limited partners. The Lead Edge website prominently features the firm’s LPs with the headline, “Who can we introduce you to?”

“We have 8 or 9 associates whose job is very simple — they pound the phone and send emails every day to entrepreneurs. In a given year, each associate should have made 750 calls to companies. Multiply that by 8 associates, and that means our team is talking to about 6,000 CEOs per year.”

And that’s exactly how Lead Edge got into Duo Security. They contacted the company more than 40 times with no response. Then, they leveraged their robust network for a way in. Finally, a Lead Edge board member offered to make an introduction to the CEO, and the firm ended up getting in the deal.

“I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I am the most persistent,” Green told me.

In a Q&A with Term Sheet, Green discusses his investment strategy, why he chose Uber over Lyft, and how the venture landscape is evolving.

TERM SHEET: Tell me about your investment thesis and what you look for a company before you invest.

GREEN: We have eight criteria, and we’re trying to find companies that meet five to seven of our eight total requirements.

The 8 criteria are:

— Are you $10 million+ in revenue?

— Are you growing your revenue 50% or more a year?

— Do you have 70%+ growth margins?

— Do you have a recurring business?

— What’s your retention? Do you have 90%+ gross retention?

— Are you profitable or break even?

— Do you have a diversified customer base?

— And this one is really important: How efficient are you with your capital?

The reason capital efficiency is so important is because in a world where there’s so much money being thrown around, we want to invest in companies that are growing really fast and not burning tons of capital.

Let me give you an example. The world is littered with $25-million software companies that have burned $60 million to get there. What we want to do is find companies like Duo Security that got to $200 million+ in revenue and burned about $40 million.

The reason capital efficiency is so important is that if there’s an economic downturn, we believe that the entrepreneurs who can build businesses without all that much money can just float on their burn rate and grow a little slower during a downturn.

Uber hasn’t turned a profit and has been losing money for years. How does this fit within your thesis around not investing in fast-growing businesses that burn through cash?

GREEN: When we invested in Uber, it met our criteria of being capital-efficient. When we invested in late 2014/early 2015, the company had raised about $1.8 billion of capital previously. We focus on the cash burn versus net revenue. Just because a company has raised money doesn’t mean it’s been spent. Also, keep in mind that sometimes there are specific reasons why we invest in companies that aren’t capital efficient (again, a company doesn’t need to be capital efficient since it’s only 1 of 8 criteria), and we’re looking to invest in companies that meet five to seven of the criteria.

Why did you choose to invest in Uber over Lyft?

GREEN: It’s funny — I didn’t even really know [Uber founder] Travis [Kalanick]. I actually know [Lyft co-founder] John Zimmer way better than I actually know Travis. John’s a great guy. So why did we choose Uber over Lyft?

Ann Miura-Ko from Floodgate is a good buddy of ours, and she told us we should look at Lyft around the time it was at a $400 million valuation. Look, we’re idiots — we should have looked. We ended up investing in Uber much later at a $40 billion valuation. There was actually a very big debate at Lead Edge around this. Some partners thought we should do both Uber and Lyft. Other partners felt we should only do Uber because the vast majority of the value accrues to the market leader, and the No. 2 gets much less capital.

How do you think their 2019 IPOs will compare?

GREEN: I think they’ll probably both do well. It all depends on the market, and I have no idea where the market’s headed, but we do think Uber will trade somewhere between $100 and $150 billion. A Lyft IPO will be well-received by the Street, but I believe if you like Lyft, you’ll love Uber. For one, Uber is global. Two, it has stakes in a bunch of different assets around the world. Three, you’ve got UberEATS, which is a rocketship.

Companies have access to a lot more capital these days. As a growth investor, how do you see the venture capital landscape evolving?

GREEN: There’s a lot of money going into venture capital and private equity now, and I actually think there will be even more money that comes into the asset class. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur — you have so much more access to capital. But I think it does dilute returns. The best quote I ever heard was, “You can pay as high a price as you want for a deal, you just better be right.”

A lot of people are predicting a market downturn in 2019. Do you see any signs of a slowdown?

GREEN: In the private sector, we have seen our portfolio companies’ Q4 numbers and they’re all in line with our expectations. I do think growth will slow down a little bit in Q1 and Q2 in the U.S. just because a year ago, we had tax cuts. But overall, we don’t see anything in our portfolio that would indicate a recession in the U.S. is coming in the next 6 to 12 months. Could it happen in a few years? Sure, it’s bound to happen at some point.

I also find the following — the crowd is usually wrong. Ask 100 guys in private equity and hedge funds what they’re doing, and then do the reverse, and you’ll probably make money.

Why’d you come to that conclusion?

GREEN: Because I think the crowd is usually wrong. The best investors in the world are lonely.

Interesting. What’s the most unpopular bet you’ve made that supports the “crowd is usually wrong” framework?

GREEN: Alibaba went public in 2014. In September of 2015, Alibaba’s stock price was $63 a share. I stood up at my annual meeting and gave a presentation that I thought Alibaba was the most no-brainer investment on the planet. The stock was at 63 bucks. It then goes from $63 to $70 to $80 in November. Then by February of 2016 — when the world decided it hated China — it went to $58. The stock, at its high, was $205 in 2018. It is now at $150, and I think it’s a screaming buy.

Alibaba is like a combination of Amazon, eBay, PayPal, and Netflix. It’s a juggernaut. This is a business you want to own and give to your grandkids.

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