Editor’s note: Data is from The Crunchbase Unicorn Board, a curated list that includes private unicorn companies with post-money valuations of $1 billion or more, based on disclosed fundings in Crunchbase.
When you consider the investors putting money into new unicorn startups, maybe you think of storied Silicon Valley names like Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins, or large New York firms like Tiger Global and Insight Partners that in recent years have dominated startup investment.
But in another sign of how much the market tides have shifted, the top investor leading rounds for new unicorn startups so far this year is none of those. Instead, it’s a relatively small, under-the-radar investor based in Berlin.
Early-stage investment firm b2venture was the most active investor in new unicorn startups in the first half of 2023, Crunchbase data shows. The firm participated in nine funding rounds across three new unicorn startups — a significant portion of the only 44 total new unicorns minted in H1 2023.
B2venture is followed by multistage venture firms Index Ventures, Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz — all tied for the rank of second-most active, with eight investments each in the new unicorns that joined The Crunchbase Unicorn Board in the first half of 2023.
Of these four firms, Andreessen Horowitz still made the leading H1 2023 list, with three portfolio companies and eight investments in this batch.
B2venture also stands out on this list for investing in all three of the newly anointed unicorns from Germany so far this year. It has also been a consistent investor in these new unicorn companies. The firm started investing as early as 2009 and continued into 2023 in translation company DeepL, fintech Raisin and sustainable energy company 1Komma5°, with initial investment at seed or Series A and participation in follow-on funding rounds.
New unicorn counts fell 80% year over year in the first half of 2023, with just 44 companies earning that title — a far cry from the 251 companies that joined the Unicorn Board in H1 2022 and the 295 in H1 2021. The decline in new unicorns underscores the precipitous decline in late-stage financings in the past 12 months.
The U.S. remains the largest market for new unicorns. Of this year’s new unicorn companies, half are headquartered in the U.S., a quarter are in China, and six are based in Europe.
The AI moment
For the new batch of unicorns the leading sector was — no surprise — AI. Companies in the sector make up 25% of new unicorns this year.
Corporate investors have been actively investing in AI. Nvidia and its venture arm NVentures combined have participated in five investments in newly minted AI unicorn companies this year. Another corporate investor, Salesforce Ventures 1, participated in funding three of these AI unicorn companies in 2023.
Other consistent investors include Index Ventures in Cohere and Raisin; Google Ventures in Kindbody and Typeface; Andreessen in KoBold Metal and Replit; A.CapitalVentures in Character.ai; Coatue in Our Next Energy; MMC Ventures in Synthesia, Frees Fund in Bluepha; Aqua Spark in eFishery; AlbionVC and HSBC in Quantexa; and Valor Equity Partners and S3 Ventures in Atmosphere.
These investors stand to gain the most from potential future exits as they continue to invest to maintain their equity stakes in some of their most highly valued companies.
Despite their more recent pullback in unicorn investing, lead investors who have built a large portfolio of highly valued private companies won’t lose their perch as the most active investors anytime soon. Consider that Tiger Global still has the highest count of current unicorn portfolio companies with more than 220 (though it’s reportedly working to offload some of its stakes.)
While Tiger Global has a much larger unicorn count in highly valued private companies when compared to other leading investors, those firms still have massive unicorn portfolios of their own. Andreessen Horowitz, for example, has 108 unicorn portfolio companies, per Crunchbase. Insight Partners has 107. And Sequoia Capital and Accel each have around 100 current unicorn portfolio companies.
These companies’ rankings likely will not shift anytime soon, as a smaller number of new unicorns join the herd in the current market. But each of these firms still has a lot of value tied up in private markets — and each is no doubt eagerly waiting for the IPO market to open once again.
Related Crunchbase unicorn queries
- The Crunchbase Private Unicorn Company List (1,463)
- Emerging Unicorn Companies (384)
- Exited Unicorns (431)
The Crunchbase Unicorn Board is a curated list that includes private unicorn companies with post-money valuations of $1 billion or more and is based on Crunchbase data. New companies are added to the Unicorn Board as they reach the $1 billion valuation mark as part of a funding round.
The unicorn board does not reflect internal company valuations — such as those set via a 409a process for employee stock options — as these differ from, and are more likely to be lower than, a priced funding round. We also do not adjust valuations based on investor writedowns, which change quarterly, as different investors will not value the same company consistently within the same quarter.
Funding to unicorn companies includes all private financings to companies that are tagged as unicorns, as well as those that have since graduated to The Exited Unicorn Board.
Please note that all funding values are given in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted. Crunchbase converts foreign currencies to U.S. dollars at the prevailing spot rate from the date funding rounds, acquisitions, IPOs and other financial events are reported. Even if those events were added to Crunchbase long after the event was announced, foreign currency transactions are converted at the historic spot price.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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