More than 500 private companies worth over $1 billion each spearhead the startup environment. These unicorns are not only incredibly successful, but they’re also influential. Other startups admire them and hope to compete with them all at the same time. But what makes these venture-backed companies so valuable? Let’s review the five unicorns at the top of their game, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and what their journey can teach us so far.
The Irish-American payments processing fintech company, Stripe, is currently the top unicorn. Thanks to a $600 million funding round in March 2021, Stripe reached a valuation of $95 billion, surpassing the usual top dog, SpaceX. The two founding brothers, John and Patrick Collison, have taken Stripe on an astounding path.
Founded in 2009, Stripe was a part of the Y Combinator program and was later sponsored by PayPal co-founders Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Undergoing several rounds of funding — Seed Round to Series H — this company has successfully expanded its services and boosted its reputation. It acquired several companies along the way, including the Nigerian company Paystack and US-based TaxJar.
Stripe frequently sponsors similar companies in other locations, but its publishing company, Stripe Press, is one of the most significant fingerprints. Stripe launched the publishing company to support innovative business ideas. Although there is chatter about Stripe going public this year, it’s still sticking with mega-rounds for now. However, many individuals think Stripe could potentially be the biggest initial public offering (IPO) of 2021.
For the Elon Musk fans, it’s no surprise that his company SpaceX was the number one US-based unicorn for a long time, with a valuation of $74 billion. While some people merely jump on the Musk bandwagon, doing whatever he says, he’s honestly showing tremendous results. It helps that the market is massive for this company — the idea of space travel is red hot.
But let’s back up; Musk is no stranger to the job of disrupting markets. He founded SpaceX in 2002 to reduce space transportation expenses so that humans could colonize Mars in the future. With Tesla and The Boring Company in his pocket, to name a couple of companies he’s launched, this entrepreneur thinks and acts on a larger scale than most people.
After a failed attempt to secure Russian rockets inexpensively, he decided that he could make his own. So, he started SpaceX. By 2005, he had hand-picked 160 employees and was working with NASA to accomplish his mission. Thanks to a funding round of $850 million, SpaceX has rocketed to the very top. And if Elon Musk has his way, we don’t expect it to stop there.
Contrary to what most individuals think, Roblox isn’t a video game; instead, it’s an online platform and storefront created in 2004 and initially released in 2006. Celebrities frequently reference it, and over half of US kids under 16 played Roblox in 2020. After raising slightly over $855 million, Roblox currently sits at a valuation of $41 billion after going public earlier this year.
Although Roblox is wildly popular with young kids and teens, many people have no clue what this company does — even though it’s twice the size of private competitor Epic Games. Roblox features in-game virtual concerts, offers creators space to develop their own games, and hosts virtual birthday parties. It’s no surprise that nearly 54% of Roblox users are under 13.
After a recent $750 million Series F funding round, the software company UiPath comes in third on our list of unicorns. It’s valuation is $35 billion, and UiPath recently went public in April 2021. This startup focuses on robotic process automation (RPA) to do repetitive tasks that humans typically accomplish, such as evaluating resumes (as featured on the homepage).
Daniel Dines and Marius Tîrcă founded UiPath in 2005, attracting 10,000 active members within its first six months. Although it started in Bucharest, Romania, UiPath moved its home base to New York City to better serve its international customer base. With sponsorship from Coatue Management and Alkeon Capital Management, UiPath hones in transformative technology to influence businesses end to end.
This company was founded in 2013 by the creators of Apache Spark, making it the youngest startup on our list. From funding rounds A to G, Databricks has often leaned on the sponsorship of Andreessen Horowitz, among others, to propel forward. Currently, its valuation is an impressive $28 billion.
Databricks is a software company that provides data analytics and AI tools for businesses. This startup has never been a one-person band. A group of academics and researchers of the University of California at Berkeley built it. Although it has more than 5,000 customers, most of its revenue comes from major corporations, such as Comcast, Starbucks, and T-Mobile. This company takes the work smarter, not harder, to heart.
Even though our list only includes five unicorns, hundreds of startups have paved their path to success. One apparent strategy is always moving forward — but none of these could have taken a single step in the right direction without covering the ground they’d already conquered
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