Update 12/29: We’ve added AdYen.
Update 12/30: We’ve added IronSource.
Update 1/6/2015: We’ve added Credit Karma.
It is really, really difficult to create a company and grow it to the point where investors believe it is worth $1 billion or more. That milestone is so difficult to achieve, in fact, that investors call companies that do this “unicorns.”
Out of the hundreds of startups launched every year, just 20 made the grade in 2014.
Obviously, entrepreneurs and investors alike would love to be part of the unicorn club. Creating something that’s worth a billion dollars where nothing existed before is a tremendous achievement. It’s great for the personal wealth and ego gratification of investors and founders, of course. But it’s also a great thing for the people who work for such a company. With a few rare exceptions, billion-dollar companies generally employ hundreds of people. And they create things that people value, improving lives, making business more efficient, and creating new opportunities for other businesses down the line. It’s just very hard to get there.
This year, at least 20 still-private companies crossed that arbitrary-but-significant barrier, achieving a valuation of $1 billion or more. VCExperts, which tracks private company fundings and valuations, assembled this list for VentureBeat.
Valuation data is difficult to capture, and is often a closely guarded secret, so this list is not exhaustive. Do you know of other companies that crossed the “unicorn” line in 2014? Let us know in the comments or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Actifio, a company that dreamed up a way to pare down the number of copies of a given piece of data while ensuring it will be available whenever companies need it, raised $100 million in March, putting its valuation “a good $100 million over $1 billion,” the company’s founder and chief executive, Ash Ashutosh, said in an interview with VentureBeat.
Adyen, a payments processing company, announced on December 16 that it had raised $250 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. General Atlantic led the round, with additional participation from Index Ventures, Temasek, and Felicis.
AppDynamics, a company with software for tracking the performance of applications, raised $120 million in fresh financing in July. That included $70 million in growth funding and $50 million in debt funding, enabling AppDynamics to hold off on an initial public offering, since stock traders at the time lacked enthusiasm for cloud computing stocks. Maybe an IPO is more likely in 2015, given the good performance of the New Relic and Hortonworks IPOs this month. According to VCExperts’ research, AppDynamics had a valuation of $1.11 billion at its latest funding. Read our coverage of the AppDynamics funding on VentureBeat.
Ad tech company AppNexus announced funding of $60 million in August — with a rumor that it might be raising another $40 million soon. In October, it confirmed the total size of the round at $110 million. In a post on the company’s blog, CEO and cofounder Brian O’Kelley — a big Moby Dick fan — said his company is pursuing its “White Whale” of “making the Internet better by making advertising better.” That round gave the company a valuation of $1.2 billion. [Updated 1/6/2015 with total funding as of October, 2014.]
Cloudera revealed in a March press release that it had taken a massive $900 million funding round, including both the $160 million pile announced earlier that month and a $740 million investment from Intel. The hefty sum from Intel will fund engineering efforts to optimize Cloudera’s flavor of Hadoop for Intel chips, as well as to expand sales and marketing, Cloudera chief financial officer Jim Frankola told VentureBeat.
Credit Karma, a startup that provides credit scores and recommendations for credit cards, announced a $75 million round in September, just eight months after grabbing $85 million in funding. That put its valuation over $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported. Investors include Google Capital, Tiger Growth Management, and Susquehanna Growth Equity.
DocuSign, a company that helps manage digital signatures and also the whole life cycle of digital documents, picked up $85 million in March from a variety of investors. The company claims it has more than 95,000 companies as customers, millions of users in 188 countries, and more than 40,000 new unique users joining its network every day. VCExperts pegs its valuation at $1.56 billion.
Good Technology, a company that helps big businesses enable their employees use mobile devices securely, took on $80 million in September. In May, Good filed to go public, but the IPO hasn’t happened yet. Good’s products include mobile-device management, identity and access management, and mobile analytics, among other services; the company has been around since 1996. Read more about Good Technology on VentureBeat.
Intarcia Therapeutics announced $200 million in new financing in April, giving it a $1.63 billion valuation, according to VCExperts. Intarcia is working on a pharmaceutical product that aims to reshape the treatment of Type II diabetes, said Peter Kolchinsky, managing director of RA Capital, one of the other investors in Intarcia. The “remarkably promising” product could simplify glucose control in a cost-effective manner, VentureBeat reported at the time.
IronSource announced an $85 million funding round in September, led by “strategic and institutional investors” based in the U.S., China, and Europe. The company, which spells its name ironSource, is based in Tel Aviv, and offers ad-tech and software distribution services that are largely focused on mobile. The company is currently valued at $1.5 billion and is preparing for a 2015 IPO, according to Business Insider, although the Wall Street Journal’s list of billion-dollar startups pegs it at an even $1 billion. Either way that’s an impressive amount.
Jasper, the company powering Coca-Cola’s Internet-of-Things experiments, announced a round of funding in April, to the tune of $50 million. Temasek led the round, which now brings Jasper’s valuation to over $1.3 billion. Yep, an Internet of Things company is now in the billion-dollar valuation club.
Alibaba’s $120 million investment in mobile game publisher Kabam values the U.S. company at more than $1 billion, according to Kabam chief executive Kevin Chou. That means that Kabam joins a rarefied group of American game companies that have grown up in the digital age and become global players in entertainment, as GamesBeat reported in July.
Lending Club kicked off a parade of tech IPOs the week of December 11. And the stock ($LC) did very well on its first day of trading, rising above $25 per share. Its market capitalization is now somewhere north of $1.5 billion. That was mixed news for aspiring French entrepreneurs, as Lending Club founder Renaud Laplanche is French — but he went to the U.S. to found his company.
Lookout, based in San Francisco, raised $150 million from a bevy of well-known investors, it announced in August. VCExperts told us that round put its valuation at $1.38 billion. Lookout takes a predictive, networked approach to make what the company executives call automated decision making to engage malware or intrusions before they penetrate your mobile device. “Every user that joins and installs Lookout contributes to that network. It contributes threat intelligence and data about the threats to help make the world safer,” said founder John Hering.
Lyft announced its fourth institutional funding round in April, for $250 million. News of the company’s series D round broke nearly a month before, but at the time we only knew about $150 million of the $250 million total, due to an early filing. The alternative car-service company has raised $333 million to date — a far cry from leading competitor Uber, which has raised $2.7 billion to date and might be preparing to take on another $600 million investment plus $1 billion in debt. And Lyft has a $1 billion valuation, VCExperts says, while reports put Uber’s valuation well over $40 billion. On the plus side, Lyft has that cute pink mustache logo.
Application-analytics company New Relic has been publicly traded since December 12, with shares of $NEWR going for $30.16 in its debut. The company raised $115 million in its initial public offering — and that’s after picking up $100 million in private funding in April. Its market capitalization is about $500 million as of mid-December, but Marketwatch put the company’s valuation at $1.5 billion as of December 16. VCExperts’ director of business intelligence Justin Byers notes, “at the time of our calculation, they had approximately 48 million shares outstanding @ $28.93,” which would have given the company a valuation of about $1.39 billion. Now it is showing about 16 to 17 million shares outstanding.
Njoy, one of the leading makers of e-cigarettes, picked up a $70 million investment in February, led by Brookside Capital and Morgan Stanley Investment Management. The round valued the company at a little more than $1 billion, according to the New York Times. Not bad for a company hawking a product that’s so far completely unregulated (but not for long), and for whom the worldwide market is an estimated $2.5 billion.
Corporate messaging tool Slack announced in October that it had closed a $120 million round led by Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. The round valued the company at $1.12 billion, post funding — a massive valuation for an eight-month-old company. Slack was quick to point this out in its press release: “Having just launched in February, this milestone marks Slack as the fastest growing SaaS company ever.”
WeWork, an office-rental company with roots in the tech industry, raised an impressive $355 million funding round in December. Even more impressive, the latest round values the company at almost $5 billion, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the funding. The WSJ also says that WeWork plans an initial public offering within the next two to three years. We expect the company’s next summer camp outing in the Adirondacks will be truly epic.