We’re starting to see the first signs of a tech slowdown

Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato
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For months, investors have been warning of a coming bloodbath for unicorns—the nickname for startups deemed to be worth $1 billion or more.

That hasn’t happened yet, but we are starting to see the first signs of a tech slowdown. In the fourth quarter of 2015, startups collectively raised $27.3 billion globally, a huge decline from the $38.7 billion raised in the previous quarter, according to data from research firm CB Insights.

Looking at the numbers year over year, it might not be so obvious that anything’s amiss. In the last quarter of 2014, startups raised $27.7 million—just 1.4% more than the final quarter of 2015.

But in both 2013 and 2014, the fourth quarter was the biggest of the year in terms of amount raised. In 2015, the last quarter failed to live up to the gangbusters three quarters that came before it.

As a result, there were also fewer massive fundraising rounds in the fourth quarter. CB Insights counted only 39 rounds at the $100 million-plus level, which is 46% fewer than in the previous quarter and 5% fewer than in the year-earlier period.

With these mega rounds—the stuff that unicorns are made of—on the decline, it’s not surprising then that the number of new entrants to the billion-dollar-startup club has fallen as well.

As Quartz noted in October, the 2015 peak in new unicorns plateaued in the third quarter. And that call stands—only nine companies globally (seven in North America, two in Asia, and none in Europe) saw their valuations soar past the billion-dollar mark in the fourth quarter, versus 16 in the year-earlier quarter and 23 in the second and third quarters.