A unicorn is defined here as a privately-held startup company that has been valued at more than $1B dollars. The list includes companies that are no longer considered unicorns because after reaching that valuation they subsequently went public, were acquired or underwent a merger.

The list of unicorns has been collated on the basis of TechCrunch Unicorn Leaderboard, CB Insights Unicorns List and Venture Beat’s 229 Unicorns article.

the speed of a unicorn

see how quickly the world's most successful startups got to their billion-dollar valuation

Unicorns are rare beasts of the business world, startup companies that are valued at $1B or more. Once considered the stuff of myth, there are now over 180.

US shopping site Jet.com holds the unicorn speed record – its $1B valuation occurred just 4 months after the company was founded. Only 4 companies have achieved such a valuation in under a year, and just 20 within 2 years of incorporation.

So far, 2016’s unicorns are relatively senior compared to their counterparts from earlier years – more than half of them are at least 7 years old.

2015 saw 91 companies make unicorn status, 10 of those amongst the speediest ever at less than 2 years from incorporation to $1B valuation. However, that same year also saw companies up to 20 years old making their debut. Overall the median time for unicorn startups to reach a $1B valuation has been relatively stable at around 6 years.

Although the majority of unicorn companies are based in North America, there are unicorn startups on every continent. Africa's only $1B startup reached its unicorn valuation in just 4 years, but Asia’s numerous unicorns are generally the fastest, racing to their $1B valuations in an average of just 5 years. In comparison European and American start-ups lag behind at 6 years.

Asia is now home to over a quarter of the world’s unicorns, the majority of which are based in China.

Unicorns in newer sectors like social media and on-demand apps were among the fastest to reach their $1B valuation.

Social unicorns, including Snapchat and Pinterest, took a median of 4 years, while the likes of Uber and Lyft made it in a median of just 3. Other speedy sectors include eCommerce and software development.

Time to $1B valuation:
  • < 2 yrs
  • 2-5 yrs
  • 6-9 yrs
  • 10+ yrs
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