The 2021 Tech Unicorn List

Sarah HallamLists

Image Credit: Jenny Nilsson

What once was as rare as the mythical creature it's named for, startups reaching a billion-dollar valuation have become more of a common occurrence than a symbol of the tech elite.

Between 2005 and 2010, only 14 companies reached the coveted status. By 2020, that number jumped to 161. In just the first six months of 2021, there have been 250 unicorns created, 153 of which are headquartered in the U.S.

The Org analyzed all 153 companies and broke down the unicorns by industry, series, location and team size.

In this year's cohort, fintech and internet companies seemed to pull in the most interest from venture capitalists.

unicorn market map

A market map breaking down all 153 unicorn companies by industry. Image credit: Jenny Nilsson.

Global VC investment in fintech reached a record $52.3 billion in the first half of 2021, more than doubling the $22.5 billion seen in the second half of 2020.

Under the wide umbrella of internet companies, startups specializing in everything from SaaS to social media are finding a billion-dollar foothold in an expanding industry, signaling that there is still room for opportunity and growth amidst the FANG companies of the globe. Jon Dahl, CEO and Co-founder of Mux, believes that for his startup, this opportunity lies in video.

"Video is at an inflection point, with more and more companies realizing its power to connect, communicate, and educate. We're in the early days of a major transition that will see video become a first-class part of every software project," Dahl said. "We've spent a lot of the last year and a half scaling our platform, and the recent investments in Mux will help us fuel fast growth towards our mission of democratizing video, and empowering all developers to build innovative and engaging streaming experiences."

Unicorn series infograph

Image credit: Jenny Nilsson.

Of all the companies included on this list, those that have raised a Series D round are the most likely to reach a billion dollar valuation.

Series E is not far behind with 17.2% of companies and Series C at 21.2%.

Companies that only raised a Series A funding round were more likely to reach a billion-dollar valuation than a company on a Series G raise.

Software company Alation is one of the Series D companies that achieved unicorn status so far in 2021, and now feels positioned to scale its company even further with the brand recognition their company has been getting.

“Building a unicorn was never a goal, but it’s been great to see how much recognition and awareness comes from hitting this milestone,” CEO and Co-Founder Satyen Sangani told The Org. “Since then, we’ve seen growth accelerate, proving that organizations need more and more data to make decisions, innovate, and remain competitive.”

unicorn team size

Image credit: Jenny Nilsson.

It seems that team work really does make the dream work.

Of the 153 new unicorns, almost 60 companies have between 251 and 500 team members. Companies with 101 to 250 team members are not far behind, making companies with team sizes between 100 and 500 members the sweet spot for reaching unicorn status. It was much more rare for both smaller team sizes and larger team sizes to hit a billion dollar valuation this year.

unicorn location

Image credit: Jenny Nilsson.

The Bay Area is still home to the most unicorns.

The San Francisco Bay Area reigns supreme as the headquarters for the most unicorn companies in 2021. 47 of the companies on our list are headquartered in San Francisco. Another 5 are located in Mountain View and San Mateo respectively.

New York comes in second with 26 unicorns, and Chicago rounds out the list with 9.

Other cities to make the list include new startup hubs like Austin, Texas, which is home for insurance tech startup The Zebra. Other startups are using their cities' traditional industries to make a name for themselves, like decision intelligence and market research firm Morning Consult, based in Washington D.C.

For the full breakdown of companies and a look at their org charts, click here for the complete list.

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