Instacart, Valve, Vacasa: Andreessen Horowitz shares its top pandemic-era startup picks

By Connie Lin

March 31, 2021

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, reputed for having a finger on the pulse of the digital generation, just released its annual ranking of the largest, fastest-growing marketplace startups during the year 2020.

And, perhaps predictably, the so-called “a16z Marketplace 100” paints a clear picture of a world transformed during the pandemic era. Ticketing companies, which claimed four of the top 25 spots in the prior year, this time “found their businesses drastically diminished when events were cancelled” and sales shrunk by 61%. And childcare, which claimed six spots on last year’s list, “scrambled to adopt new safety precautions and stay afloat” in the wake of school shutterings and work-from-home policies, which cost the sector 52% of sales.

Meanwhile, COVID-19-era trends and habits buoyed a number of consumer categories including ed tech, pets, and collectibles, as home-bound Americans adopted furry, fluffy housemates and hoarded various souvenirs and trinkets in search of pandemic-friendly hobbies. Four separate ed tech companies—Outschool, MasterClass, Udemy, and Coursera—saw double-digit jumps in their rank.

The popular app Cameo, a breakout star of the early lockdown stage that lets celebrities record personalized video messages to paying fans, saw the second-largest year-over-year leap in rank.

Here’s the top 10 in terms of rank:

Of the 25 companies that cracked the list for the first time, consumers spent the most on locally focused groceries (28.2% of the newcomers’ collective gross merchandise value), food and beverage delivery (16.5% of gross merchandise value), and thrift-sale clothing (14.5% of gross merchandise value), signaling a shift in the way the country shops and eats (remotely, and budget-consciously).

But most notably—as opposed to 2019, when top company Airbnb represented 30% of the list’s total gross merchandise value—2020’s top company, Instacart, represents a staggering 70% of the entire list’s sales value. For comparison, in the previous ranking, the first four companies (which included Instacart) accounted for 76% of the total sales value. The other three companies—Airbnb, DoorDash, and Postmates—have all since “graduated” from the ranking by becoming public companies within the past year.

Check out the full report here.