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Which are and how we can describe the last decade’s most successful U.S.-based, venture-backed tech companies?
Ailen Lee, co-founder of Cowboy Ventures, has recently published the updated snapshot of The Unicorn Club.


1) There are 84 U.S.-based companies belong to what we call the “unicorn club,” a jaw-dropping 115% increase from 2013. The increase is driven largely by “paper unicorns” — private companies that have not yet had a “liquidity event.” But, these companies are still a super-rarity: the list is just 0.14% of venture-backed consumer and enterprise tech startups.

2) On average, eight unicorns were born per year in the past decade (versus four in the 2003–2013 era). There’s not yet a super-unicorn ($100 billion-plus in value) born from the 2005–2015 decade, but there are now nine “decacorns” ($10 billion-plus in value), 3x our last post.

3) Consumer-oriented companies drive the majority of value: more companies and higher average value per company. They raise a lot of private capital.

4) Enterprise-oriented companies are fewer and raise less private capital; and increased enterprise fundraising has reduced their return on private dollars raised.

5) In terms of business models, e-commerce companies drive the majority of value, but have the lowest “capital efficiency.” Enterprise and audience companies have decreased in market share of our set, while SaaS companies have grown in market share significantly. There is also a new category: Internet of Things/consumer electronics.

6) It’s a long journey, beyond vesting periods: it has taken ~7 years on average before a “liquidity event” for the 39% who have ‘exited’ — not including the 61% of our list that is still private. The capital efficiency of these “private unicorns” is surprisingly low, which will likely impact future returns for founders, investors and employees.