Feb 23, 2022 - Economy & Business

Unicorn valuations continue growing

A unicorn with a trend line going through it
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios 

It's increasingly harder to believe that anything can temper the flow of capital into private tech companies with their ballooning valuations — even the recent market sadness doesn't seem to have made a dent if you look at the latest figures.

Driving the news: Per Crunchbase's latest numbers, there are now 1,200 so-called unicorns (valued at $1 billion or more) globally, almost doubling the net count of 650 at the end of 2020.

  • Even more eye-popping: there are now 59 companies valued at $10 billion, up from 31 a year ago.
  • And ... now 46 dragons, Dan's term for startups valued at $12 billion and over. There were only 24 in January, and 19 last August.

Why it matters: Trends like this always raise questions of bubbles and whether the music might be close to an abrupt stop.

Yes, but: We're already seeing some pullback.

  • A number of outlets have reported that investors like Tiger Global — the most prolific unicorn investor, per Crunchbase — are shifting their focus to the public market from pre-IPO companies.
  • But at the same time, they're also investing in companies a bit earlier, so the steady flow of unicorns getting minted may not be over just yet.
  • We've also seen some fat unicorns lay off employees, a common and unfortunate side effect of boom-time growth.

Worth noting: Last year was also a record year in unicorn exits, per the data.

  • 141 exited, either through IPOs or acquisitions, up from 58 companies in 2020. (You can thank SPACs for a small part of that.)

What we're watching: The path of these unicorn and dragon stats over the next six and 12 months.

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