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Introduction to Unicorns

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

These days unicorns are not just more common, they’ve crossed over, featuring in mainstream news and political speeches. An important debate continues about the merit of championing unicorns above all else, but what’s sure is that the currency of unicorns is here to stay.

That’s why we’ve now made it super easy to find, filter and track every single one, globally.

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.


See all new unicorns in 2024 via the live market landscape.

Explore all unicorns

Geographical Distribution

Below we break down unicorn distribution globally, looking at a regional/continental, country and metropolitan area level.

Global Regions

All three analysed regions, North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific, 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.

Leading countries

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 a country level basis on the Dealroom platform.

Leading ecosystems

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.

Business Models

As a business model, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is responsible for more unicorns than either Ecommerce, marketplaces or manufacturing.

In the late 2010s, SaaS overtook Ecommerce as the source of most new $1B+ tech companies. These highly scaleable software tools in particular got a lot of investor attention during Covid and the venture capital frenzy of 2021/22. This trend briefly reverse in 2023, when fewer unicorns were born, with a much higher skew towards deep tech and energy - atoms rather than bits. In 2024, AI is driving a return of the SaaS unicorn.


Industry and Segments

Leading industries

The three leading tech industries by unicorn population are Enterprise Software, Fintech and Healthtech. Nine industries have produced more than 100 unicorns to date.

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.

Leading segments

Looking at more granular and horizontal segments, Climate Tech has produced over 200 billion dollar startups focused on solving climate solutions. Metaverse has produced 40 unicorns, just ahead of Invoicing...

Learn more about Climate Tech on our dedicated Deep Dive here.

Impact and sustainability

For the Impact & Innovation database, we consider an impact startup to be a company that is addressing one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There are now over 250+ impact unicorns globally.

The population of Impact unicorns has grown by more than 10x in the last 10 years.

Mapping unicorns against the UN SDGs, Climate Action (#13) and Affordable & Clean Energy (#7) are where most of the Impact unicorns have been built (NB. company can apply to more than one SDG).

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+.

Here’s a bit of insight into our own thinking on all the different edge cases.

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.