David Frankel (entrepreneur)

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David Frankel
David Frankel entrepreneur image.png
Johannesburg, South Africa
Alma materHarvard University; University of the Witwatersrand
Venture investor
Years active1993–present
TitleCo-founder and managing partner, Founder Collective

David Frankel (born 1970) is a South African-born American businessman. He is the co-founder of Founder Collective, a seed-stage venture capital fund with offices in New York City and Cambridge.

Early life and education[edit]

Frankel was born and raised in Johannesburg. His paternal great-grandfather, Jacob Frankel, emigrated from Germany to South Africa in 1915 and in 1920 founded Tiger Oatery, a small milling company. His grandfather, Rudolph Leo Frankel, led the company as it expanded to become Tiger Brands, a South African conglomerate.[1][2][3] He attended King David High School, where he met his friend and future business partner, Alon Apteker. As adolescents, he and Apteker sold CDs and picture frames at a Johannesburg flea market. Frankel graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BSc (honors) in Electrical Engineering in 1992.[4]


Internet Solutions, Dimension Data[edit]

As a postgraduate, Frankel was selected for the US Foreign Fulbright Scholarship Programme and accepted to the MBA program at Harvard Business School.[5] Twenty-two at the time, he deferred his admission and remained in Johannesburg to gain professional experience. In 1993, he accepted a job offer from Altech, a technology company, where he worked for the COO.[6][4]

In March 1994, Frankel left Altech to join Internet Solutions as its CEO. He also made a significant investment in the company, which was co-founded in late 1993 by Ronnie Apteker, Alon Apteker's brother.[7] He was noted for the "hard-nosed" approach he brought to Internet Solutions, which by 1997 had become the largest ISP and private data carrier in Africa, providing the internet backbone for more than 600 companies. Dimension Data (DiData) acquired 25% of Internet Solutions in 1995 and in 1997 acquired the remaining 75% of the company for ZAR 400 million.[8] Following the sale, Frankel was appointed executive director of ecommerce for DiData. He later served on the company's board of directors and in 2000 participated in its £1.8bn IPO and listing on the London Stock Exchange.[9][10] Dimension Data was acquired by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in 2010 for US $3.24bn.[11]

Harvard Business School, angel investments, Founder Collective[edit]

In 2001, after deferring admission twice, Frankel left Johannesburg to begin the MBA program at Harvard Business School. He maintained his seat on the DiData board of directors while at HBS, earning an MBA in 2003. Following his graduation, Frankel funded eight companies founded by his classmates, becoming the first investor in Chris Dixon's Site Advisor, and giving the first seed capital to Eric Paley and Micah Rosenbloom, the founders of Brontes. Brontes was sold to 3M for $95 million, and Site Advisor was acquired by McAfee for $75 million in 2005, a year after it was founded.[10][12]

As an angel investor, he provided the first capital or term sheets for companies including OPower (acquired by Oracle), Media Radar, Volaris (NYSE: VLRS), New Dawn Satellite (acquired by Intelsat), and Context Optional (acquired by Adobe). He was a seed investor in TrialPay (acquired by Visa) and Hunch, founded by Dixon and acquired by eBay. He invested in Olo in 2004. The sole seed investor, he worked closely with the company’s founder, Noah Glass. The company went public in 2021 at a valuation of $3.2b.[13][14][15]

In 2008, Frankel partnered with Paley and other successful entrepreneurs to form Founder Collective, a seed-stage "peer-to-peer" venture fund.[16][17] Based in Cambridge and New York, Frankel, Paley, and several limited partners used their own money to help create the first fund. Rosenbloom joined Founder Collective as a partner in 2013.[18][19][20]As of 2021, the company's portfolio included Uber (NYSE:UBER), TheTradeDesk (NYSE: TTD) and Airtable.[21] Frankel was the lead investor for Founder Collective in SeatGeek, BuzzFeed (NASDAQ:BZFD), Coupang (NYSE: CPNG), and PillPack (acquired by Amazon), among others.[22][15][23]

Recognition and board positions[edit]

Frankel received the IT Executive of the Year award from the Computer Society of South Africa in 1998.[24] In 1999, he was named Technological Achiever of the Century by the Financial Mail for his role in "turning the internet in South Africa into a commercial proposition" and "bringing a business approach to an industry previously dominated by people with technical backgrounds." The World Economic Forum admitted him to the Global Leader of Tomorrow (GLT) program. [5] He has been named to the Midas List four times, including twice in 2023, when he was listed at #5 on the Seed List and #11 on the Midas List of Top Tech Investors.[25][26][23]

Frankel was appointed to the board of directors of Rand Merchant Investment Holdings in 2018. He was previously a member of the Rand Merchant Bank board.[27] He is on the board of directors for Olo and SeatGeek, among others. He serves on the Dean's Advisory Council at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute,[28] and has participated on the boards of several non-profit organizations including The Rashi School in Boston, Foundation 2000, the King David Schools Foundation and Endeavor South Africa. He was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Harvard Business School Rock Center.[29]


Frankel served as the founding co-chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association of Africa (ISPA); he held a central role in the 1997 lawsuit that kept Telkom from monopolizing internet access in South Africa.[30][31] He helped to create Endeavor SA, the South African arm of the global nonprofit Endeavor, which provides support to entrepreneurs in developing countries and emerging markets.[32][33]

Personal life[edit]

Frankel and his wife, Tracey Frankel, a neurologist, were married in 1998.[9] They and their children live in Brookline.[34] In 2019, they established the Tracey and David Frankel Chair in Urologic Oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.[35]

Frankel tested positive for Covid-19 in March 2020, He documented his experience on Twitter, stating in April that while the pandemic could bring innovation that would improve public health, there would likely be a trade-off in privacy.[36][34]


  1. ^ Frankel, Rudy (1988). Tiger tapestry. Marian, Robertson. Cape Town: C. Struik Publishers. p. 20. ISBN 0-86977-490-5. OCLC 18988632.
  2. ^ Food Business Africa staff (March 14, 2020). "Tiger Brands' Jungle Oats celebrates 100 years with the opening of a new mill". www.foodbusinessafrica.com. Retrieved January 28, 2022. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  3. ^ "Obituary: Professor S. Herbert Frankel". The Independent. December 30, 1996. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Sboros, Marika (August 11, 1995). "Passion, Purpose in Cyberspace". The Star.
  5. ^ a b McLeod, Duncan (December 31, 1999). "Technology Achiever of the Century: David Frankel, Listener, Leader, and Internet Pioneer". Financial Mail (Special ed.). pp. 61–62.
  6. ^ Lunsche, Sven (November 16, 1997). "Dream Team Plans to Ride the Crest of the Internet Wave". Sunday Times. p. 8.
  7. ^ "Wiring up the continent". The Mail & Guardian. May 8, 1998. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  8. ^ Luenche, Steve (October 26, 1997). "DiData Nets South Africa's Biggest Internet Deal". Sunday Times. p. 1.
  9. ^ a b INTERNET EXPERTS GO UPSTAIRS | May 13, 1999 | Business Day (Johannesburg, South Africa) Author/Byline: Lesley Stones | Section: News
  10. ^ a b "Showcase Profile - Entrepreneurship - Harvard Business School". entrepreneurship.hbs.edu. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  11. ^ "NTT buys South Africa's Dimension Data". BBC News. July 15, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  12. ^ "Boston's Newest VC Firm: Founders Collective". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  13. ^ "S-1 Olo". www.sec.gov. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  14. ^ "From Backing his HBS Classmates to Making the Midas 0List". www.americaninno.com. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  15. ^ a b "David Frankel". Fintech and Finance News. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  16. ^ Kim, Ryan (September 11, 2012). "Founder Collective raises $70M for second fund". Gigaom. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  17. ^ Shafrir, Doree (November 18, 2010). "Angel Investors Are Going Where VCs Fear to Tread". Newsweek. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  18. ^ "Founder Collective closes $40M seed-stage tech fund". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  19. ^ "Founder Collective easily finds $75 million for fund three". TechCrunch. November 30, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  20. ^ "Boston's Newest VC Firm: Founders Collective". Boston.com. Retrieved January 24, 2022.
  21. ^ "Airtable Announces $52M Series B Funding –". www.invc.news via VC Daily. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  22. ^ Farr, Christina (May 10, 2019). "The inside story of why Amazon bought PillPack in its effort to crack the $500 billion prescription market". CNBC. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  23. ^ a b TrueBridge and, Forbes staff. "The 2013 Midas List: Hot Prospects". Forbes. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
  24. ^ Stonas, Leslie (November 5, 1998). "David Frankel Named IT Executive of the Year". Business Day.
  25. ^ "David Frankel". Forbes. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  26. ^ "David Frankel". Forbes. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  27. ^ "Our Directors" (PDF). Rand Merchant Investment Holdings. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  28. ^ "About the Institute".
  29. ^ "About - Harvard Business School".
  30. ^ OUTRAGE AT TELKOM BID TO TAKE OVER THE INTERNET| April 27, 1997 | Sunday Times (Johannesburg, South Africa) Author/Byline: Greg Gordon | Section: News
  31. ^ Bridge, Sherry (October 15, 1997). "Telekom's Internet Dream Denied". The Star.
  32. ^ ENTREPRENEURSHIP. - Stars in the making February 23, 2007 | Financial Mail (Johannesburg, South Africa) Author/Byline: Duncan McLeod | Section: Economy, Business & Finance
  33. ^ "Venture capital: Becalmed but ready for action once the BEE deal-flow ends". Financial Times. April 20, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  34. ^ a b Rosen, Andy. "A venture capitalist got coronavirus. It gave him ideas about protecting health and the economy - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
  35. ^ "Diligence Yields Gratitude". www.bidmc.org. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  36. ^ "Entrepreneur's COVID-19 Diagnosis Sparks Ideas About Future Of Health Economy". www.wbur.org. Retrieved February 19, 2022.