LendingClub's big VC winners

Renaud Laplanche, founder and CEO of Lending Club
Chris Conroy Photography | LendingClub

When Norwest Venture Partners and Canaan Partners invested in LendingClub seven years ago, the online lender was little more than a Facebook app with big ambitions. They paid 27 cents a share.

As LendingClub prepares for its stock market debut on Thursday, the price has ballooned to $15 a share, and each firm owns more than $700 million worth of stock in the San Francisco-based company.

According to research from EquityZen, investors in LendingClub's first round of funding, or Series A, made more than 55 times their money, based on the IPO price. Amidzad partners was also part of that round.

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Oddly, Series B investors, which included Morgenthaler Venture Partners and Bay Partners in addition to Norwest and Canaan, did even better. Because of a plummeting stock market and a greater regulatory burden on peer-to-peer lenders, investors in the 2009 financing round paid only 19 cents a share, for a return of 80 times their money, according to EquityZen.

"Venture remains one of the few asset classes where a 50-fold return in under 10 years is a real possibility," said Shriram Bhashyam, founder of New York-based EquityZen. "LendingClub is proof positive."

LendingClub priced its IPO Wednesday night above the $12-$14 expected range, indicating plenty of investor demand. The company, which issues consumer loans by matching borrowers with individual and institutional investors, originated $3 billion in loans in the first three quarters of 2014, more than double the amount a year earlier.

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Should the stock shoot up right away, as often happens with tech IPOs, investors will be sitting on even bigger paper gains. But more important is what happens over the next six months, as insiders are forbidden from selling shares during the so-called lock-up period.

Norwest is the top shareholder with a stake worth $762.3 million. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Renaud Laplanche is the biggest individual owner, with holdings valued at $223.5 million.

The stock will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker symbol LC. LendingClub raised $870 miliion in the share sale, marking the biggest IPO of a U.S. tech company this year.

Even Series C investors from 2010 are making a killing. Led by Foundation Capital, they paid 39 cents a share, returning more than 38 times their money, according to EquityZen. Union Square Ventures led the Series D a year later at 89 cents, for a 17-fold return. And Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers came in at $1.75 in 2012, making 8.6 times its money.

EquityZen is a start-up founded last year to help a wider swath of investors get access to the tech start-up market and help early employees sell portions of their equity.