Midas List Investor John Curtius Is Leaving Tiger Global Amid Firm’s Ongoing Startup Slump
John Curtius is departing Tiger Global as the prolific investment firm continues to mark down its holdings in private tech companies.
The Midas List investor is leaving Tiger Global in a transition now underway, the firm told investors in a quarterly letter on Monday obtained by Forbes. Curtius will “work closely with other investment team members over the coming months as we transition his responsibilities,” the firm wrote. “We are grateful for all his contributions to Tiger Global and have appreciated his work ethic and intellect.”
The letter made no mention of Curtius’ plans after Tiger. But Curtius expects to launch his own firm called Cedar Investment Management upon his final departure in June 2023, a source with knowledge of his thinking told Forbes.
The move comes as Tiger Global’s multi-billion public funds continued to generate losses in the third quarter, the firm’s letter said, in part due to long-term positions in China-based companies. The firm said its expansive private portfolio of venture-backed startups was also down, with Tiger having decreased the valuations of its holdings every single month of 2022.
Tiger Global declined to comment through a spokesperson. Curtius declined to comment.
In a letter spent mostly mourning the passing of Julian Robertson, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Tiger Management, and the mentor and first backer of Tiger Global founder Chase Coleman III, Curtius’ brief mention toward the end, following a string of more junior hire announcements, seems a terse end to a five year-plus stint that saw the investor back more than 250 private tech companies.
During that period, Tiger became known as one of tech’s most active investors. Under Midas List fixture Scott Shleifer, the venture side of Tiger’s business grew into its largest, accounting for as much as two-thirds of its assets, reported to have reached $95 billion a year ago. In April, a Crunchbase News analysis found that Tiger had led 87 investment rounds in startups in the first quarter of 2022 alone, for a combined $7.6 billion in capital deployed — more than $2 billion more than the next biggest check writer, the SoftBank Vision Fund.
Curtius, who joined the firm from Elliott Management in 2017, was the newest prominent face behind many of those startup deals, especially after Lee Fixel, another Midas List fixture and longtime Coleman lieutenant, left in 2019 to launch his own new firm. Eventually named Tiger’s software and business-to-business startup investing leader, Curtius made a splash in the Miami area when he purchased a $22 million Coral Gables mansion previously owned by singer Marc Anthony last year. In April, his portfolio helped him debut No. 64 on the Midas List of the world’s top private tech investors.
More recently, Tiger’s made headlines for the billions it’s lost in its public market positions. The firm’s flagship fund lost half its value over the first six months of the year, positions worth billions of dollars; in August, Reuters reported the firm was reducing positions in tech companies including Coinbase, Crowdstrike and Snowflake, among others, while exiting positions in others including DocuSign, Robinhood and Zoom. Recently-public companies backed by Curtius, such as data infrastructure companies Snowflake and Confluent, are trading down about 50% or more for the year.
And as Tiger’s investor note revealed, the firm has also been quietly marking down its private company valuations since before Curtius’ Midas List appearance — markdowns that are likely not done, given the lag in repricing of private companies compared to publicly-traded stocks. Curtius’ portfolio includes pre-IPO businesses such as data infrastructure company Databricks and cybersecurity business Snyk that may struggle to defend their recent valuations of $38 billion and $8.5 billion.
Then there’s healthcare automation startup Olive AI, backed in December 2020 at a $1.5 billion valuation, and in whose more recent July 2021 funding round Curtius and Tiger participated at a valuation of $4 billion. Last month, Olive AI announced that its chief financial officer and chief product officer were leaving the startup, two months after it let go of 450 employees. Curtius also invested in London-based virtual events startup Hopin at a $2 billion valuation in December 2020 and kept investing through its $7.8 billion valuation in August 2021. The virtual events platform laid off 29% of staff this past July.
Amid such losses, Tiger Global told investors this summer that it was slowing down its startup investing as part of a push to write earlier, smaller checks, according to a TechCrunch report. Curtius’ rumored departure, meanwhile, became a common subject at other VC firms, with partners at several telling Forbes they’d heard about the move (they asked to remain anonymous to avoid risking future business). As recently as August, sources close to Tiger Global denied Curtius was leaving, with one source telling Forbes that Curtius was still making investments for the firm.
In a funding round announced last week, a $50 million Series B raised by data onboarding service Flatfile, Curtius was quoted on behalf of Tiger, the round’s lead investor. Startups sometimes wait months to announce their funding news, meaning such an announcement could have been delayed.
In its letter to investors, Tiger Global’s partnership said they “look forward to staying close and finding ways to collaborate” with Curtius.
Curtius plans to continue backing software and business-to-business companies at his planned new firm, Cedar, at the Series A to C stages, according to the source. Curtius has already spoken with founders about potentially joining the new firm after launch next year, the source added.
Curtius will have to do so, however, pointing to investment returns at Tiger that appear diminished, at least for now. “We head into the final quarter of 2022 having accepted that this is not a year in which the scoreboard will make us proud and with our minds set squarely on the future,” the firm wrote.
This story has been updated with information on Curtius’ future plans.