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2018: The Year of the Unicorn

What is a unicorn company?

Simply put, privately held companies with post-money valuations at or above $1B are categorized as unicorns. This designation is reserved for startup companies poised for significant growth in the near future. There’s no sure-fire way for spotting these companies, but there are trends that we can extract from this year’s list of unicorns to project which startups could be primed to earn their unicorn company designation in 2019 and join this list of industry leaders.

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Notable unicorn companies in 2018

So far in 2018, a record-setting 110 companies have reached unicorn status, already exceeding the 2017 full-year total. Here’s a look at some of the top-performing unicorns from this year.

Automation Anywhere

Automation Anywhere

Automation Anywhere is dedicated to enabling companies to transform the way they do business by automating even the most complex processes. The use of robotic process automation can be implemented across a multitude of industries including Financial Services, Healthcare, Technology, and Insurance.

  • Founded in 2003
  • Total funding amount: $550M
  • Investors include SoftBank Vision Fund, Goldman Sachs and New Enterprise Associates
  • Service highlights: Enterprise-grade cognitive Robotic Process Automation, personalized consulting, quick and seamless onboarding, detailed reporting, regular bot monitoring, and unparalleled security

Bird scooter logo

Bird

Bird, located in Santa Monica, California, is one of many companies to fill a void for on-demand, environmentally friendly transportation in cities throughout the United States. This unicorn company was founded by former Uber and Lyft executive, Travis VanderZanden, Bird is well-positioned to continue to grow in 2019.

unicorn company: convoy

Convoy

With Convoy, companies can easily ship freight using a reliable, tech-enabled ecosystem of drivers. Convoy enables carriers to selectively choose the right jobs for them to reduce drive time, streamline payment and improve overall supply chain operations.

  • Founded in 2015
  • Total funding amount: $265.5M
  • Investors include CapitalG, Y Combinator, Greylock Partners
  • Service highlights: App-enabled bookings, 24/7 support, real-time GPS tracking, and actionable data to make cost-effective decisions

unicorn company: discord

Discord

With its mission to bring gaming communities closer together, the Discord app allows for free and secure communication in real-time for gamers. By supporting a multitude of games and platforms, Discord makes online communication easy and enables close-knit gaming groups.

unicorn company: doordash

DoorDash

DoorDash makes it possible for even the most boutique restaurants to provide food delivery to its customers. Their on-demand delivery services make it possible for local businesses to reach a larger customer base and allow users to enjoy all of their favorite food.

unicorn company: juul

JUUL

This electronics company provides electronic vaporized tobacco alternatives to cigarettes and cigars. JUUL’s goal is to eliminate the consumption of combustible cigarettes and enable a permanent switch for smokers worldwide.

  • Founded in 2017
  • Total funding amount: $761.5M
  • Investors include Tiger Global Management
  • Product highlights: Reduced adverse health conditions compared to combustible cigarettes, small and convenient design, reusable device, affordable alternative to cigarettes, high category standards for all aspects of the device

unicorn company: lime

Lime

Lime aims to reduce the dependency on personal automobiles for short distance transportation. Providing shared bikes, scooters and transit vehicles, Lime hopes to make a positive impact on harmful emission levels that damage the planet.

unicorn company: postmates

Postmates

This on-demand delivery fleet operates in 44 major US metropolitan markets. Postmates offers widespread delivery to users from all types of merchants including restaurants, convenience stores, retail businesses and more.

unicorn company: roblox

Roblox

Roblox is an innovative user-generated gaming platform that boasts over 15 million games created by its users. It is the top-ranked gaming site for kids and teens that foster creativity through immersive, virtually appealing 3D environments.

unicorn company: uipath

UiPath

With its Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions, UiPath helps companies automate and manage critical enterprise duties. Their automation software and their studio are tailored to meet the needs of companies in the finance and banking, insurance, healthcare, telecom, manufacturing, BPOs, and shared services industries.

Looking forward to 2019 unicorns companies

There’s no magic formula for identifying the next unicorn company, however, there are trends that can help direct the search. In terms of the companies that will reach a $1B valuation in 2019, most of them are well on their way with valuations in the hundreds of millions, fundraising in the tens of millions and proven market sustainability. For companies with a trajectory to reach unicorn status in 2019, here are a few things to look out for.

Hot industries for unicorn companies in 2019

As we’ve seen in 2018, there are several industries that seem primed to continue producing unicorn companies. From on-demand transportation to robotic process automation, be sure to keep an eye on these areas in the coming year.

Transportation

Following the example set by Uber, there are many companies undertaking the task of making transportation more convenient. In 2018, however, companies focused on improving how we get around outside of the car. This will likely continue to be the case in 2019.

Competing companies Lime and Bird both cracked the $1B mark. Both companies place motorized scooters around the cities that it supports and members can utilize them through their mobile app. They also have a structure for “chargers” who are people that charge the scooters while they’re not in use.

The Seattle based company Convoy is revolutionizing the idea of freight. With an intuitive mobile design, Convoy allows truckers and the companies that use them to have a much more streamlined experience when it comes to transporting goods, filling out loads and staying on schedule.

Delivery services

Companies like GrubHub, UberEats, and AmazonFresh make it possible to have food, cooked or uncooked, delivered to your front door in hours. The unicorn food club grew by two in 2018, adding DoorDash and Postmates to the team.

The newcomers have expanded their strategy to not only partner with restaurants, but also with grocery stores, drug stores and even mom-and-pop shops making it possible to have just about anything delivered to your doorstep. On-demand delivery continues to pick up steam as user adoption to these services is expected to grow in the future.

Gaming

Playing video games has been fun for decades, but it has never been as profitable as it is now. Not only is there a market for playing, thanks to immerging e-sport platforms, but there’s also an opportunity to allow users and developers to build their own games.

The popular, and free to play, game Fortnite has taken over in 2018 making its creator, Epic Games, a unicorn company seemingly overnight.

Discord is another company that caters to gamers that passed $1B this year. Discord is a communication tool between gamers that has over 150M users according to its website. This app has taken a unique approach to ride the gaming wave, one that has set it apart and helped them reach unicorn company status.

Another gaming-related company that is now valued at over $1B is Roblox. Roblox is a platform that makes it easy for game lovers to create their own games. Users can then share them with friends or even enter popular gaming marketplaces.

As gaming communities continue to expand, look for more companies to earn their unicorn company status from this industry in 2019.

Business Automation

Tools that innovate how businesses operate more efficiently consistently appear on unicorn company lists.

Automation Anywhere is a platform that helps to automate laborious manual tasks. Using robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning and artificial intelligence, Automation Anywhere learns human behavior and streamlines disjointed data.

UiPath does a lot of the same, leveraging RPA and machine learning, and touts hours saved as one of their main value propositions.

The business tech space will continue to be popular for unicorns in 2019 and beyond as companies are always looking for a competitive edge and increased efficiency.

Geography Matters

Photo Credit: Crunchbase News

While it’s not impossible to find diamonds in the rough everywhere, many unicorns seem to come from common areas where the exchange of ideas is prevalent and forward-thinking. Of the unicorns based in the U.S., the majority can be found in major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. This is not only because of the sheer volume, there are just more companies in those places, but also because the competition between companies in the big cities breeds innovation.

Outside of the United States, innovation hubs in countries like China, India, Germany, and South Korea are becoming more prominent as well. In fact, according to Crunchbase News, in 2018, the United States has produced four more total unicorn company exits than China, but at significantly lower values. While this is a relatively new trend, it’s worth monitoring overseas startups in 2019 to see how they perform compared to U.S. based businesses.

How Crunchbase Pro can help

Keep tabs on 2018’s unicorn startups or do some research to find the first big company in 2019 with Crunchbase Pro. Crunchbase Pro allows users to filter information within our database, which is updated in real-time, based on funding rounds, valuations, and other relevant company activity. Whether you are an investor looking to work with a potential unicorn company or a salesperson hoping to close a deal with a company on the rise, Crunchbase Pro and our marketplace apps make it easier to identify your next partner.

Article updated December 11, 2018.