Fewer startups became unicorns in 2023, but The Crunchbase Unicorn Board also became more crowded, as exits became even scarcer.
That means that 10 years after the term “unicorn” was coined to denote those private startups valued at $1 billion or more, there are over 1,500 current unicorn companies globally, collectively valued at more than $5 trillion based on their most recent valuations from funding deals.
All told, fewer than 100 companies joined the Unicorn Board in 2023, the lowest count in more than five years, an analysis of Crunchbase data shows.
Of the 95 companies that joined the board in 2023, AI was the leading sector, adding 20 new unicorns alone. Other leading unicorn sectors in 2023 included fintech (with 14 companies), cleantech and energy (12 each), and semiconductors (nine).
Based on an analysis of Crunchbase data, 41 companies joined the Unicorn Board from the U.S. and 24 from China in 2023. Other countries were in the single digits for new unicorns: Germany had four new companies, while India and the U.K. each had three.
New records nonetheless
Despite the slower pace of new unicorns, the Crunchbase board of current private unicorns has reached new milestones as fewer companies exited the board in 2023.
The total number of global unicorns on our board reached 1,500 at the start of 2024, which takes into account the exclusion of those that have exited via an M&A or IPO transaction. Altogether, these private unicorn companies have raised north of $900 billion from investors.
This year also marks a decade since investor Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures 1 coined the term unicorn for private companies valued at a billion dollars or more.
In a new report looking at the unicorn landscape 10 years later, Lee said she believes the unicorn phenomenon is not going away, despite a sharp downturn in venture funding in recent years. She expects more than 1,000 new companies in the U.S. alone will join the ranks in the next decade.
In 2023, 10 unicorn companies exited the board via an IPO, far fewer than in recent years. That contrasts with 20 companies in 2022 and 113 in 2021.
However, M&A was more active in 2023. Sixteen unicorn companies were acquired in 2023 — up from 2022 when 11 companies were acquired and slightly down from 2021 with 21 companies exiting via an acquisition.
Eight new companies joined The Crunchbase Unicorn Board in December 2023. The highest monthly count last year for new unicorns was 10 and the lowest was two.
Of the new unicorns, three are artificial intelligence companies. Other sectors that minted unicorns in December include fintech, cybersecurity, food and beverage, and health care.
The new unicorn companies minted in December 2023 were:
- Saudi Arabia-based shopping and buy now, pay later payment platform Tamara raised a $340 million Series C led by Sanabil and Saudi National Bank. The company was valued at $1 billion four years into its life.
- New York-based digital savings employee retirement platform Vestwell raised a Series D of $125 million led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. The 7-year-old company was valued at $1 billion.
Food and beverage
Privacy and security
- Two-year-old Andalusia Labs, a risk management provider for digital assets in crypto and blockchain technologies, raised a $48 million Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Alongside this funding, the company set up new headquarters in Abu Dhabi and was valued at $1 billion.
- Dallas-based EmployerDirect Healthcare, a self-funded healthcare provider for employers, raised a secondary investment of $92 million led by Insight Partners. The 13-year-old company was valued at $1 billion.
Related Crunchbase unicorn queries:
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.
Exits analyzed here only include the first time a company exits.
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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