• VC Semil Shah, founder of early-stage fund Haystack, has a long history of identifying hot, on-the-rise startups before they become well-known names.
  • And for 2020, he picked virtual events startup Hopin as his “breakout tech company of the year.”
  • Hopin’s goal is to recreate the in-person event experience, with flexible features like virtual reception areas and user profiles that the company says distinguishes itself from competitors like Zoom.
  • Hopin launched earlier this year and reportedly went from zero to millions in revenue and is about to raise a new round of funding that could value it as high as $2 billion.
  • Shah who is not a Hopin investor wrote in his blog, “The trajectory Hopin is in, per what folks are chattering about, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Every year, venture capitalist Semil Shah nominates a breakout tech company of the year and his track record for picking winners has been unquestionably impressive.

His 2020 pick? Hopin, a virtual events startup that has become the latest beneficiary of this year’s turn towards virtual work. Shah has no relationship to this company or its investors but writes, “I sure wish I did!”

Shah is the founder of seed/pre-seed firm Haystack, and a venture partner at Lightspeed. He’s known as one of Silicon Valley’s most prolific and successful early stage investors with a portfolio that includes Instacart, DoorDash, OpenDoor, Figma, Carta, Hashicorp, Giphy, ManagedByQ, to name just a few.

For many years, he’s written a blog post where he picked the breakout company of the year. Past picks includ Stripe in 2012, Slack in 2014, and Coinbase in 2017.

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In this year’s post, Shah noted the “incredible growth” that has emerged from the new pandemic economy, citing hot performers like DocuSign, Shopify, and Zoom.

But Hopin’s growth is another level of astonishing, he believes.

“The trajectory Hopin is in, per what folks are chattering about, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard,” he wrote. 

Shah is referring to a report that Hopin is in talks to raise a new round of venture funding at a “pre-money” valuation of as much as $2 billion, The Information’s Kate Clark reported last week. “Pre-money” refers to the value of the company before investors buy a stake, not after they do.

Should this round close as reported, that $2 billion valuation is more than six times the $350 million Hopin was valued at just four months ago, a stunning increase that typically takes years to achieve.

Specifically, since February, the London-based startup raised a $6.5 million seed round and then, a few months later, another $40 million Series A round led by Institutional Venture Partners. Hopin has also raised money from Accel, Northzone, Seedcamp, Salesforce Ventures, and Slack’s corporate investment fund, according to Crunchbase

“Reports are that this company, from $0 earlier this year, is already deep into the ‘tens of millions’ of dollars in revenue, with still one more quarter to go,” Shah wrote. 

“In almost 10 months, it raised its Seed Round, a very expensive Series A, and is rumored to have closed its latest financing (insider controlled) at an eye-popping number: $2B pre-money. In less than 11 months, end to end. I don’t even know how to comprehend that,” he wrote.

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Founded only a year ago by University of Manchester graduate Johnny Boufarhat, Hopin’s goal is to recreate the in-person event experience, with flexible features such as virtual reception areas and backstages, user profiles, direct video calling, and sponsor-branding opportunities that the company says distinguishes itself from Zoom.

And Zoom seems to be taking notice. Just last week, for example, it introduced its own virtual events platform OnZoom, which includes new features like allowing event organizers to sell tickets for paid events on the platform, something that Hopin also offers.

In another sign of Hopin’s rapid rise, the company now has around 140 employees, up from only eight in March according to The Information. It has hosted more than 45,000 online events and counts Slack, Adobe, the United Nations, and Unilever as some of its clients. 

“Hopin was built out of the idea of connecting people and tries to solve a clear problem,” founder Booufarhat told Business Insider’s Callum Burroughs back in February. “We think we will be the fastest growing startup in the world.”

Neither Shah nor Hopin immediately responded to our request for comment.



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