Globally 2,600+ companies have achieved (and retained) a $1B+ unicorn valuation or exit, of which 1,330+ are still private and venture-backed. Then there are over 190+ rumoured and not verified unicorns.
Since 2018, roughly 250-300 new unicorns have been minted each year, with the exception of 2021, when this number spiked to 787 – a rate of more than two unicorns per day. In 2022, new unicorn creation collapsed in 2022. Peak to trough there was a 90% drop in the new unicorn rate within five quarters. Just 21 new unicorns were created in Q1 2023.
Out of the three analysed regions, North America experienced the most significant decline in new unicorn creation in 2022 (-64%). Although all three regions have shown a decline in 2022.
North America still accounts for the largest share of global unicorns, by the end of 2022, 58% of unicorns all-time were HQd in North America. EMEA accounts for 18%, and Asia & Oceania 23%.
Unsurprisingly the United States is responsible for more unicorns than any other country based on startup HQ - home to more than 1,400. China comes in second place with 325 unicorns and $1B+ exits, followed by the United Kingdom, India, and Germany.
To understand the underlying dynamics on a global scale, the table section shows unicorn creation growth by country. By default, the table is sorted by growth in unicorn creation in the last five years. The table also enables interactive visualization based on different periods (12 months, 24 months, or five years) and regional filters.
While the usual suspects (US, China, UK) remain the same in the number of cumulative unicorns, emerging tech hubs like Brazil, Canada and Australia, and a few places in Europe (Norway and Malta) experienced higher growth over the last 5 years.
By continent, Asia stands out with 4 out of the 10 top performers: India, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
40% of the US's unicorns are based in the Bay Area, which leads the world as a unicorn hub. New York City comes in second place globally, followed by New Palo Alto, an interconnected cross-border ecosystem encompassing a four hour train ride from London.
By business model
Unicorns with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as a business model are the most prominent in unicorn creation. By the end of 2022, over 1,000 minted unicorns were SaaS, accounting for 47% of all unicorns in 2022 vs 9% in 2017.
The rise of Saas clearly took off after 2017, with the gap against other business models (Marketplaces & eCommerce and Manufacturing) growing wider each year.
In 2022, fewer unicorns were created across all business models, but SaaS companies showed more resilience by experiencing the smallest drop in new unicorn creation and increasing their share of new unicorns created, accounting for 65% of all unicorns created (172 unicorns), vs 53% in 2021.
Both Manufacturing and Marketplace & eCommerce companies dropped their new unicorn creation by over 60% from 2021 to 2022. Overall, it seems that while the SaaS industry is still strong, growth in other categories may be slowing down.
To read more about SaaS' funding landscape, head to our SaaS dedicated guide here.
Fintech dominates with 517 companies in this category. Health is also a strong industry, with 433 unicorns and $1B+ exits. Transportation, Marketing, and Security also have a significant presence on the list.
When we look at the fastest-growing industries over the last 5 years include Legal, Fintech, Robotics, and Energy. Fintech is perhaps the most noteworthy of these high growth industries given the fact there were already a large number of unicorns in this vertical and there's been accelerated growth witnessed since 2017.
Impact & sustainability
There are now 224 impact unicorns globally. Impact unicorns have been on the rise, registering a sixfold increase since 2017, from 32 to 224.
In the below chart, we observe that the Affordable and clean energy (#7) focused unicorns are the most common SDG goal for unicorns to have.
Notably, impact companies may target multiple goals at the same time. Thus, the fact that there is no single dominant SDG being covered showcases the diverse range of challenges/goals that these unicorns are attempting to address globally.
Explore Dealroom's dedicated impact startup database in order to keep up to date about Impact startup innovation and emerging trends.
Definitions & edge cases
Dealroom defines unicorns as tech companies founded since 1990 that are currently valued at over $1B. We exclude companies that passed $1B as a subsidiary, but we include companies that may now be worth less than $1B, but exited at $1B+.
Not all unicorns are venture-backed. We've counted about 50 bootstrapped unicorns so far, an exceptional few.
And there are other edge cases too. Some 250+ startups have reached $1B after they IPO-ed. We've counted 13 zebras, companies that have reached $1B at some point but subsequently dipped (there might be many more soon). We count 29 icaruses, companies that have fallen (occasionally, they manage to resurrect like FanDuel).
We count 2 ICO unicorns (coin offerings). We count 30 quasi-tech unicorns that are not quite tech companies. Should a unicorn be a tech company to qualify? Many say yes, but in reality, this is a slippery slope. Many startups are not actually tech companies.
Dealroom Data: Explore all of verified unicorns on the Dealroom platform