The unicorn – that supposed elusive creature of the startup world – is becoming a bit more commonplace in these parts.
There are now 10 unicorn startups valued at $ 1 billion or more parading through the mossy and rain-soaked environs of Seattle, based on data compiled by GeekWire and PitchBook.
A few things stand out about this group of 10 (full list below):
- Six of the startups have at least one immigrant founder.
- The majority operate in enterprise software or cloud computing.
- Six startups have at least one active co-founder with Microsoft ties.
- All but one of the unicorns have a co-founder serving in the CEO role.
- None of the companies have female co-founders or CEOs.
In fact, GeekWire reported this week on a little-known enterprise software company that just joined the unicorn ranks.
Spoiler alert: Before reading any further, take a moment and see if you can name all 10 startup companies valued at $ 1 billion or more in the Seattle area?
Venture capitalist Bill bryant said the flock of Seattle unicorns showcases the Seattle region’s strength as a hotbed for technology upstarts. And while the recent slate of initial public offerings by companies such as Airbnb, DoorDash and Snowflake certainly point to an “overheated” public market, he noted that the “pandemic has also dramatically accelerated the digital transformation of all sectors of the economy.”
That transformation is helping propel many of the Seattle unicorns, with Bryant noting that nearly all of them are producing revenue run rates of $ 100 million or more.
Bryant, a partner at Threshold who was an early backer of money-transfer startup Remitly, also notes that eight of the 10 Seattle unicorns have achieved their lofty valuations in the past 18 months. Even more interesting, when GeekWire analyzed CB Insights’ list of unicorns five years ago, no Seattle-based startups made the cut.
That’s a remarkable change of fortune. And while the Seattle area still represents a fraction of the estimated 502 unicorns operating around the globe, Seattle venture capitalist Sheila gulati isn’t surprised by the recent spurt.
“When you have a community that’s already created two of the world’s top three tech companies, it’s only natural that our local talent has the ambition and experience to build many more successful tech companies in the years ahead,” said Gulati, co-founder of Tola Capital. “Based on my experience, I see the right ingredients that have come together to create magic for the Seattle tech ecosystem and this city can be a leader in the post-pandemic new world order.”
Bryant agreed, noting that valuations of the 10 unicorn startups should grow as the pandemic dramatically alters industries.
“While a newly-minted unicorn might be momentarily overvalued, it will grow into the valuation in a couple of quarters of torrid, Covid-infused hypergrowth,” said Bryant.
Meanwhile, Seattle venture capitalist Anthony Bontrager of WestRiver Group sees additional opportunities ahead as the region takes advantage of strengths in data management, marketplaces, logistics and biotech, all driven by machine learning drawing insights from large datasets.
“The Pacific Northwest has always punched above its weight in growing world class companies,” said Bontrager. “But until the last 10 years we haven’t had the flywheel effect that is necessary to replicate this at scale similar to what other geographies, notably Silicon Valley, have.”
Take a look at the list below, and let us know which company you think has the biggest opportunity to dominate an industry or which Seattle company is next in line to achieve unicorn status.