The rate at which companies are increasing their revenue is a new form of competition seen in the market. But to build a million-dollar company right from scratch is an extremely serious and difficult job. Which only means that getting a chance to be listed as one of the unicorn companies years after year is quite bleak. One of the reports went on to mention that the odds of becoming a unicorn, a company valued at $1 billion or more, was less than 1 percent for companies that had raised venture capital.
In 2013, when Instagram sold to Facebook for $1 billion, the total sum of money looked massive. Along with that, WhatsApp, when it got taken over, was acquired for $19 billion, also Uber, when valued the totale amount, came up to $72 billion. But the hype around all these apps faded away when we talk about it in today’s time.
Unicorn Companies: The Inception
The origin of the term unicorn dates back to 2013. It was founded by Aileen Lee, the founder of Cowboy Ventures. She referred to 39 startups as unicorn when all these companies had a valuation of more than $1 billion. These startups went on to become unicorns because of the rarity of their existence in the market.
Since then, till now the definition of a unicorn startup has remained the same. To be very precise, a unicorn is a startup company founded after 2003 which has a current valuation of more than $1 billion. However, the number of unicorn companies have increased in multiple numbers. So far in 2019, a record-setting 300 companies have reached unicorn status, already exceeding the 2018 full-year total. Here’s a look at some of the top-performing unicorns from this year.
Characteristics of Unicorn Companies
Nearly all of the unicorn startups have disrupted the industry they belong to. Uber changed the way people book cabs, Airbnb capitalized on the sharing economy, Snapchat disrupted the social networking sphere, etc.
Technology Paradigm Shift Capitalization
87% of the unicorn products are software, 7% is hardware, and the rest 6 per cent are other products and services. Almost all of the unicorns till now have capitalized on the market undergoing a technology paradigm shift. Uber brought taxi booking on the tap of a phone, Airbnb made sharing possible over the internet, Dropbox capitalized on the cloud-based technology, etc.
62% of the unicorns are B2C and their business models are focused on making things more easier and affordable for the consumers. Spotify makes it easier to listen to the music of the world, Instacart lets you order groceries on a tap of an app, etc.
First Mover’s Advantage
Disruption and the first mover’s advantage go hand in hand. Unicorns not only capitalize on the first mover’s advantage but maintain their positioning by constantly innovating and improving.
To give a clear idea, listed below are the 10 tech companies that have reached unicorn status in 2019.
Year of Foundation: 2012
Investors: General Atlantic, CCB International, Sequoia Capital China
What do they do: Toutiao, which literally means Today’s Headlines, is an emerging mobile platform of content creation, aggregation and distribution, featured by machine learning techniques. It’s a product of Bytedance, a company founded in 2012. By analyzing the features of content, users and users’ interaction with content, the company’s algorithm models generate a tailored feed list of content for each user. Known as the No. 1 intelligent content distribution platform in China, it has got over 1.1 million accounts, which update over 380,000 pieces of contents and achieve 4.2 billion views per day.
Year of Foundation: 2009
Investors: Toyota Motor Corporation, SoftBank Vision Fund
What do they do: To passengers, Uber is essentially synonymous with taxis, and to drivers, it’s basically a referral service. The Android, iOS and Windows Phone app connects riders with drivers using their phone’s GPS capabilities, letting both parties know one another’s location and removing the question of when the ride will actually arrive. In addition, the tech company also processes all payments involved, charging the passenger’s credit card, taking a cut for itself, which ranges from 5% to 20%, and direct depositing the remaining money into the driver’s account, all in the background and completely cashless.
Year of Foundation: 2012
Investors: Booking Holdings, Softbank, Mirae Asset Financial Group, Mubadala Investment Company
What do they do: Didi Chuxing is a Chinese transportation company that connects users of its smartphone apps with vehicles and taxis for hire. Founded by Cheng Wei, Zhang Bo, and Wu Rui, the company caters to more than 450 million users and has established partnerships with seven of the world’s top ridesharing companies: Grab, Lyft, Ola, Uber, Careem, 99, and Taxify. As part of its mission to redefine the future of mobility, the company aims to use AI technology to help improve and evolve the transportation industry.
Year of Foundation: 2010
Investors: SoftBAnk Vision Fund, Legend Holdings
What do they do: WeWork rents office space from real estate companies, gives it a makeover with business-focused services, and subleases it to other companies and mobile workers at a profit. In 2016, WeWork doubled its membership and revenue run rate. It also expanded aggressively both in the U.S. and internationally, with new offices in Berlin, Be’er Sheva, Seoul, Mexico City, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Montreal, and Sydney. The company, which holds close to 10 million rentable square feet, has also invested in machine learning and data analysis to track how its spaces are being used, which has helped it lower costs of new office fabrications.
Year of Foundation: 2008
Investors: Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, CapitalG
What do they do: Airbnb takes a unique approach toward lodging. Part of the sharing economy, Airbnb offers you someone’s home as a place to stay instead of a hotel. On Airbnb, you can find places to crash on your backpacking trip through Europe, or you can find a place to stay for a month during your internship in Los Angeles. Also, if you want to rent out extra space in your own home, you can host through Airbnb and make money for allowing a guest to stay the night.
Year of Foundation: 2002
Investors: Baillie Gifford, Bank of America
What do they do: SpaceX is the innovative and ambitious private aerospace manufacturer. In 2017, the company boldly went where no aerospace startup has gone before, posting 18 successful launches twice as many as in the previous year on behalf of companies in five countries, as well as the Air Force, NASA, and the top-secret U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. SpaceX delivered 48 satellites into orbit and 22,700 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station, and now holds more than 60% of the global share of commercial launch contracts.
Year of Foundation: 2010
Investors: Tiger Global Management, Sequoia Capital, DST Global
What do they do: Stripe processes billions of pounds a year for thousands of businesses all over the world. It’s a payment system that’s trusted by companies such as Twitter, Kickstarter, ASOS, Pinterest and many more – because making payments with Stripe is easy, secure and fast. Stripe is open to people collecting payments in 23 countries, so you can take payments via Stripe if you’re based in any country where Stripe is available to businesses. Your friends and family can be based anywhere in the world and they won’t need to set up an account of any kind.
Year of Foundation: 2010
Investors: SV Angel, Valiant Capital Partners, FirstMark
What do they do: Pinterest is a social network that allows users to visually share, and discover new interests by posting images or videos to their own or others’ boards i.e. a collection of ‘pins,’ usually with a common theme and browsing what other users have pinned. Using a visual orientation, the social network is very much focused on the concept of a person’s lifestyle, allowing you to share your tastes and interests with others and discovering those of like-minded people. The social network’s goal is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” Users can either upload images from their computer or pin things they find on the web using the Pinterest bookmarklet.
Over the years it has been observed that on an average it takes startups six years to become unicorns. Although each year the market scenario is different, this new year presents an opportunity for those startups that almost became part of this entrepreneur elite. Now, instead of looking back, experts and analysts speculate to determine which ones will reach the desired limit of 1000 Million Dollars.
There’s no sure-fire way for spotting all the new and old companies existing in the market, but there are trends that we can extract from this year’s list of unicorns to project which startups will be able to earn their unicorn company designation in the next and join the list of industry leaders.