PEAK UNICORN

A record number of startups scored $1-billion-plus valuations in the second quarter

A record number of startups transformed into unicorns in the second quarter.

The valuation of 24 startups soared past the $1 billion mark, more than double (120%) the 11 reaching that level in the first quarter of the year, according to data from research firm CB Insights. The most recent companies to join the billion-dollar club include Zenefits, maker of human resources software; Oscar Health Insurance; and enterprise software company MarkLogic.

Valuations are up across the board, driven by today’s massive funding rounds. The average global late-stage deal was $74 million in the second quarter, a 73% increase over the same period last year.

The outsized late-stage deals reflect investors’ fear of missing out on the next unicorn, the nickname for startups worth a billion dollars or more. Because of the difficulty identifying which early-stage startups will ultimately become blockbuster hits, many investors are choosing instead to invest in already hot and fast-growing companies.

“There is real fear among certain investors that they will be left out if they don’t have a number of Unicorns in their portfolio,” CB Insights said in a report released today.

Asian investors have been especially eager to get in on hot startups, helping mint nine new unicorns, so called because billion-dollar startups were once extraordinarily rare. In the region, late-stage deals averaged $192 million, and there were 25 rounds of at least $100 million last quarter, almost double the same period a year earlier. But North America still led in both $100-million-plus rounds (30) and new unicorns (12), while investors in Europe exercised more caution (four and three, respectively).

In this fundraising-friendly environment, many startups are choosing to stay private longer. Doing so gives them more flexibility to innovate and invest in the long term without repercussions from shareholders (a problem that’s been plaguing Twitter). Pitchbook, another research firm, recorded only 30 venture-backed tech companies going public in the second quarter, less than half of the 65 IPOs a year prior.

It’s important to remember that these startups are worth $1 billion or more only on paper. Unlike public companies, which have market capitalizations that are easy to calculate, any number of factors, ranging from growth projections to a founder’s ego, can inform the value of a startup. It’s very possible that when (or if) these unicorns finally decide to IPO that they’ll end up going public at lower-than-expected valuations.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search