In 2019, unicorns were far from mythical and Crunchbase followed them every step of the way. This year (as of Dec. 25, 2019) 142 companies joined the Crunchbase Unicorn Board.
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This is less than the 2018 all time high of 158 companies, and above 2017 (102 companies), 2016 (87 companies) and 2015 (106 companies). To qualify for this distinction, venture-backed privately held companies were valued in a funding round at $1 billion or more.
In the US, 78 new unicorns emerged in 2019, 11 more than in 2018. China unicorn creation slowed down substantially in 2019 with 22 new unicorns from a high of 58 in 2018. The next highest count of new unicorns is Germany and Brazil with five, a record for both countries. Israel, India, and the UK all report four new unicorns this year.
Unicorn Funding By Year
To understand 2019 through a different lens, let’s switch gears from the 2019 new unicorn cohort to funding to all unicorn companies. In 2019 unicorn companies raised $85.1 billion — down from 2018 at $139 billion, and 2017 at $93.8 billion.
Despite concerns about a changed venture funding market after WeWork pulled their IPO on Sept. 30 2019, funding to unicorns was up quarter over quarter by 11 percent, but the quarter was down year over year by 54 percent. It is worth noting that 2018 included two of the largest rounds ever to unicorn companies with $14 billion invested in Ant Financial, and $12.8 billion in Juul. However, these two rounds alone do not account for all the increased funding to unicorns in 2018. We fully expect 2019 invested dollars to increase at a greater rate than prior years as new unicorns are minted in 2020.
2019 Unicorn Cohort
2019 new unicorn companies collectively added $216 billion to unicorn valuations, and $50.5 billion in equity funding in total over time. The leading sectors for 2019 unicorns were in Financial Services, Commerce and Shopping, Data and Analytics, Transportation, SaaS, and Health Care.
The five most highly valued new unicorns include:
- Uber Advanced Technologies Group ($7.3 billion) the autonomous vehicles subsidiary from Uber
- JD Health ($7 billion) an e-commerce platform for pharmaceutical products
- Databricks ($6.2 billion) unifying customer analytics
- CloudKitchens ($5 billion) Travis Kalanick’s smart kitchens for food delivery
- Rivian ($5 billion) a sustainable automotive technology company
Six companies that became unicorns in 2019 and also went public in the same year, listed in order of IPO valuation, are:
- 10X Genomics ($3.7 billion) a genomics platform
- Vir Biotechnology ($1.7 billion) targeted at treating infectious diseases
- The RealReal ($1.7 billion) a marketplace for luxury goods
- Bill.com ($1.6 billion) which automates back office financial operations
- Canaan Creative ($1.4 billion) a producer of Blockchain servers
- Health Catalyst ($1.3 billion) to manage healthcare data
All of these companies had an increased valuation at their IPO over their last private funding round in 2019, ranging from 25 percent for Health Catalyst to 189 percent for 10X Genomics.
Investors In The 2019 Unicorn Cohort
With $50 billion invested in this new unicorn cohort, it is interesting to look at the investors fueling the growth of these companies. The most active investors in companies that became unicorns in 2019 by portfolio count include the following:
Insight Partners with 13 portfolio companies, Spark Capital and Tiger Global Management with 11, New Enterprise Associates, GV, General Atlantic, and SV Angel at 10. This list of investors includes a mix of early and late stage venture, corporate venture, and private equity/alternative investors all actively seeking stakes in highly valued venture backed companies.
The most active investors by deal count, which showcases investors who are in multiple rounds for companies who joined the unicorn ranks in 2019 include the following: New Enterprise Associates in 30 rounds, Insight Partners (26), Kleiner Perkins and GV (25), Accel and Spark Capital (24).
2019 Unicorns By Founders
While there is no shortage in funding for these high-value companies, there remains a discrepancy between the number of male and female founders that reach the coveted unicorn status. Five (4 percent) of new unicorns in 2019 had female-only founders and 16 (12 percent) were co-founded by a female-male team. Overall, 114 (84 percent) unicorns in 2019 had male-only founders.
Illustration: Dom Guzman