The ‘Unicorn’ Club, Now Admitting New Members

The ‘Unicorn’ Club, Now Admitting New Members

SAN FRANCISCO — One hallmark of the current technology boom is a generation of start-ups valued at $1 billion or more by investors. Now meet the start-ups-in-waiting that may be next to reach that mark, if the white-hot market continues.

The $1 billion valuation metric was popularized two years ago by the venture investor Aileen Lee. She found that many of the start-ups that reaped the hugest riches for venture capital investors — Facebook and LinkedIn, for example — often reached a valuation of $1 billion or more while they were privately held. Because of their rarity, Ms. Lee called those companies “unicorns,” after the mythical creatures.

Since then, numerous start-ups have attained the $1 billion distinction — and topped it. With investors rushing to bet on the next big thing, the ride-hailing service Uber received a valuation of around $51 billion, while Airbnb, the online room-rental service, is pegged at about $24 billion. And every month, more companies are jumping into the unicorn echelon.

In total, there are now at least 131 such start-ups galloping across the private market landscape, and they are currently worth $485 billion to investors, according to the research firm CB Insights.

If the gold rush behavior continues, investors may create more billion-dollar companies. But stock markets worldwide took a beating last week, with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index falling below the closely watched 2,000 mark. The prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley recently said private investors could grow cautious if public tech stocks could not arrest their fall.

To find out which companies might be next to ascend, CB Insights, which tracks venture capital and start-ups, conducted an analysis for The New York Times. CB Insights used a proprietary software tool called Mosaic, which analyzes dozens of factors about a start-up, including the amount of money raised by a company, employee turnover, news and social media mentions, awards, customer growth and partnerships. It also examines the overall health of the industry in which the start-up competes, as well as what can be known about the quality of a company’s investors.

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