Unicorns may still have wings, at least in Europe, as record funds were raised last year on rising demand for financial services, satellite and battery startups, fueled by capital from the U.S., Europe and Asia.
European unicorn companies took in $11.9 billion last year, nearly double the more than the $6.6 billion received in 2018, Crunchbase News reported. The recipients were spread across 14 countries with the U.K., Germany and Sweden leading in both the dollar and deal count.
London-based Greensill Capital was the European unicorn that raised the most capital in 2019. The company, which provides structured working capital to businesses, won $1.45 billion in two rounds from Softbank’s Vision Fund. The second-biggest recipient of investment was London-based OneWeb, which raised $1.25 billion from Softbank.
“It’s interesting to see that you can build these large-scale companies in Europe as well, and you don’t always have to go to the U.S.,” Luciana Lixandru, a London-based partner at venture capital firm Accel, told Crunchbase.
The U.S. remains the place for most unicorn births, with 78 new companies hitting the $1 billion valuation last year, Crunchbase reported in late December. That was the most worldwide. China was second with 22.
There were 21 unicorns that joined the Crunchbase Leaderboard in 2019. These companies have added a total $29.6 billion in value and have raised $7.5 billion since 2000. The most-valued new unicorn is Berlin-based N26, which offers mobile banking solutions to customers in the European Union, and is valued at $3.5 billion.
Silicon Valley-based Accel was the most-active investor by portfolio count with interest in 11 unicorns. This was followed by Index Ventures, based in Switzerland and New York-based General Atlantic, each with eight portfolio companies.
“Europe has an increasing number of unicorns and companies poised to become unicorns,” Lixandru. “After a healthy exit environment in 2018, I believe in 2020 we will see a number of large tech companies pay more attention to Europe as they look to acquire great businesses.”
Venture capitalist Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” in 2013 to describe privately held startup companies with an estimated worth of $1 billion or more. She named them after a mythical creature because of their rarity at the time.
- Unicorns planning to go public in 2020 will probably face greater scrutiny than those that debuted last year, Inc. reported. They will have to show profits, or a path to them, after the disappointing Lyft and Uber debuts in 2019.
- Casper Sleep just lost its unicorn status. The foam mattresses and bedding company, which was valued at $1.1 billion last spring, cut its valuation of $741 million, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Jan. 27 shows.