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This Chart Shows That Unicorn Valuations Are Just In Our Imaginations

An illustration of a sad unicorn

Once upon a time, a startup valued at $1 billion was as rare as … well, a unicorn. 

That’s not the case anymore. Not only because companies are staying private longer, or because the volume of venture dollars has only increased since the term “unicorn” was coined a decade ago. 

Now, 2021 feels like a land far, far away, where funding was plentiful and companies were able to raise a new round just months after another. Valuations climbed higher than Jack did the beanstalk — consider that 78% of the companies on The Crunchbase Unicorn Board had their valuations set in the past two years

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But that chapter of the story is over, and some of those sky-high valuations now seem as real as unicorns.

These days, we’re much more keen on looking at startups’ 409a valuations. These internal valuations determine the price of common stock in these companies and differ from the valuations set by investors during priced funding rounds. They’re meant to reflect how much stock would cost if these companies did go public, and from what we can tell, plenty of unicorns are itching to

Unfortunately, we don’t know definitively how many startups have lowered and raised their internal valuations over the past two years. 

But we’ve managed to scrounge up a handful of companies that have reportedly changed their 409a valuations after raising money in 2021., the digital payments platform, dramatically reduced its internal valuation to $11 billion less than a year after raising a $1 billion round at a $40 billion valuation in January 2022. That’s a 73% difference. 

Grocery delivery startup Instacart met the same fate. Its $12 billion internal valuation, reportedly set in April, was 69% lower than the $39 billion valuation investors pinned on it during a March 2021 funding round.

Stripe, another fintech startup that may as well be a household name, reportedly lowered its internal valuation 40% in the span of six months. The Information reported in January the company’s internal valuation was $63 billion, a 34% drop from when it was valued at $95 billion in March 2021. (The company is reportedly now valued at $50 billion after raising a round in March.)  

But a lowered internal valuation can be a good thing or bad thing for employees, depending on who you are. If an employee already exercised their options at a higher strike price, their shares are now worth less. But, as’s CEO told TechCrunch, the move would create more “upside potential” for employees that haven’t exercised them. They get to pay less for options and can live happily ever after.

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Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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