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Unicorns

Introduction

Unicorns – startups that pass a $1B valuation – can act as a short-hand for success for founders, investors and startup ecosystems.

2,800+ startups have achieved a $1B+ valuation or exit since the year 2000, across more than 420 cities worldwide. 1,400+ are still private and venture-backed.

A further 240+ are rumoured to have achieved unicorns status.

Since 2018, over 100 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.

By region

All three analysed regions have experienced a decline in new unicorn creation since the peak of 2021.

More than half of unicorns globally were founded or are headquartered in North America.

The below stacked column chart shows the distribution of where the new unicorns since 2013 have come from.

By country

The United States is responsible for more than half of all unicorns. China comes second, followed by the United Kingdom, Israel, and India.

Check out all unicorns on the Dealroom platform.

By city

Nearly 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 Beijing.

By business model

Unicorns with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as a business model are the most prominent in unicorn creation.

The rise of SaaS 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 unicorn growth has stagnated since the capital surge in 2021.

By industry

The leading three industries include Enterprise Software, Fintech and Healthtech globally. 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 and sustainability

There are now over 250+ impact unicorns globally.

Impact unicorns have been on the rise, registering a sixfold increase since 2017, from 32 to 236 by the end of 2022.

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 and 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 45+ bootstrapped unicorns so far, an exceptional few.

And there are other edge cases too. Some 280+ startups have reached $1B after they IPO-ed. We've counted 20+ zebras, companies that have reached $1B at some point but subsequently dipped (there might be many more soon). We count 40+ icaruses, companies that have fallen (occasionally, they manage to resurrect like FanDuel).

We count 4 ICO unicorns (coin offerings).

We count 45+ 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.

Related content

Dealroom Data: Explore all of verified unicorns on the Dealroom platform
Taxonomy: Read our dedicated blog post explaining what a unicorn and other edge cases are
Dealroom Data: Explore unicorns by leading countries and ecosystems hubs on the Dealroom platform.