Unicorns

Unicorn companies tracker

September 1, 2022 View comments (4)

PitchBook's unicorn tracker contains all new unicorn companies formed since the beginning of 2016. Explore trends in unicorn formation by filtering the chart below by time period or geography. Click on any bar to see the list of unicorns that were created in that time period.

 

What is a unicorn company?

The term unicorn usually describes startups that are valued at more than $1 billion. But that definition has its pitfalls—after all, who decides what qualifies as a startup?

For that reason, PitchBook defines a unicorn more narrowly as a venture-backed company that raised a round at post-money valuation of $1 billion or more. We stop considering the company a unicorn if it is no longer venture-backed because it goes public or is acquired, or if its valuation falls below the $1 billion threshold—for example, because it went out of business or had a down round.


How many unicorn companies are there in the world?

Once a rare beast, billion-dollar startups have become commonplace. More than 580 new unicorn companies were formed in 2021 alone, according to PitchBook data.

Globally, there were more than 1,211 active unicorns as of Sept. 8, 2022.


Why are startups called unicorns?

Venture capitalist Aileen Lee, the founder of Cowboy Ventures, coined the term "unicorn" in 2013 to describe billion-dollar US software companies. At the time, these startups were both rare and special: Lee counted just 39 companies that met her criteria in 2013, a list that included Facebook, LinkedIn, Workday and Twitter.

Why are these companies important? In venture capital, a small number of companies deliver most of a fund's returns, a phenomenon known as the power law. Unicorns are a highly visible example of the power law in action.


What are the biggest unicorns in the world?

The top unicorns in the world—in terms of valuation—include ByteDance, last valued at $360 billion, Ant Group ($200 billion), Stripe ($152 billion) and SpaceX ($100 billion), according to PitchBook data.

Because the elite group of unicorns has become so large, some have argued that new terms are needed to describe them. The term decacorn is often used to describe startups with a valuation above $10 billion. Axios' Dan Primack, who helped to refine the meaning of unicorns, has made a case for the term "dragon" to describe private companies valued at $12 billion or more, net of venture funding.

The valuations of the largest unicorns are especially vulnerable to the ups and downs of the stock markets. Facing a selloff of tech stocks in 2022, many of the most valuable tech startups are expected to struggle to maintain or increase recent valuations.

Which country has the most unicorns? 
The US has the most active unicorns of any country with 653 companies, or 54% of the global total as of Sept. 8, 2022. Chinese unicorns are the second-most common at 209 companies, followed by India (67 unicorns), UK (35 unicorns) and Germany (26 unicorns).


How many companies become unicorns?

Unicorns are not exactly common, but they're far from rare. In 2021, nearly 8% of all companies that received VC funding globally were valued at $1 billion or more, according to PitchBook data.

The fact that so many funding rounds now involve billion-dollar companies is due in part to the growth in VC fund sizes. Several late-stage investors, most notably SoftBank, have tech investment strategies built almost exclusively around backing companies that are valued at more than $1 billion. Due to increasing competition, however, some of these investors are moving into earlier stage deals with the hopes of building relationships with tomorrow's unicorns.

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