In Silicon Valley, Investors Are Jockeying Like It's 1999

Travis Kalanick is the founder of a start-up that lets people order up a car service from a cellphone. Recently, the 34-year-old found himself in the driver’s seat.

Several major venture-capital firms were vying to fund Uber, his fledgling company. While presenting his business plan at the offices of Benchmark Capital, Mr. Kalanick briefly excused himself to phone three other potential investors. His message: They needed to move fast.

One Benchmark partner, Bill Gurley, wouldn’t have it. “No need to talk to those guys,” he told Mr. Kalanick. “Let’s get the deal done here.” After two days of wooing, Benchmark provided nearly $12 million in capital for a 20% stake in Uber, pegging its valuation at $60 million.

That is just one scene in the latest gold rush to sweep Silicon Valley, where prospectors are now fighting over buzzy start-ups and companies are getting their pick of deep-pocketed backers. The momentum is driving a wave of deal envy and trash talking—complete with power plays, personal feuds and turf wars among Wall Street bankers, billionaire speculators and venture-capital veterans.

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