- The tech landscape looks completely different today than it did at the beginning of the decade.
- Numerous tech companies that didn’t even exist before 2010 joined the ranks of the unicorns in 2019, reaching the vaunted benchmark of a $US1 billion valuation.
- Some of the young companies to reach unicorn status this year include Lyft, Instagram, Casper, Snapchat, and Warby Parker.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
During the decade of the 2010s, future unicorns – a term used to denote startups worth at least $US1 billion – were born left and right.
A unicorn is not a mythical creature in Silicon Valley. With great help from the tech boom and investors with deep pockets, unicorns are everywhere. You see ads for them in the subway, scroll past posts of influencers touting their products on social media, and you may even sleep on one at night.
The last decade introduced too many startups to count. Only a few hundred of them, though, ever went on to see a $US1 billion valuation.
The more notable billion-dollar startups born in the 2010s include ride-hailing app Lyft, millennial-marketing mastermind Glossier, and WeWork. But if you get your insurance from a sleekly designed app called Lemonade, or order your Sweetgreen salad via Postmates, you’ll start to realise there are unicorns all around you.
With that in mind, take a look at 30 companies worth at least $US1 billion that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
Paris-based Meero has become the go-to tool for photo editors since its launch in 2016. The company raised $US230 million, pushing its valuation to $US1 billion this past June.
Meero is an online editing and production tool assistant for photographers that uses artificial intelligence, akin to Photoshop – but much quicker and more streamlined. The tech behind Meero lets AI edit raw images automatically. It also matches freelance photographers with companies looking for content, with a 24-hour turnaround time. Meero raised $US230 million in June, pushing its valuation to $US1 billion to become one of Europe’s fastest growing companies of the decade.
Meero CEO Thomas Rebaud wants to host more photographer meet-ups in the future, host masterclasses, and maybe even launch a magazine.
Juul Labs launched in 2015 and has grown into a multi-billion-dollar company, with a valuation of $US24 billion. But the company has come under fire over the last few years, making its future uncertain.
One of the more controversial startups of this decade, Juul, the e-cigarette company, sparked national outrage, congressional investigations, and criticism by the Food and Drug Administration, leading to total product bans in some countries.
Juul’s rise was fast, thanks in part to its marketing strategy. Advertisements on social media – depicting young adults in flashy, bright-coloured ads promoting e-cigarette flavours like cucumber and mango – are what some critics attribute to the epidemic of teenage nicotine use. A year after Juul’s launch, sales rose 700%, selling over 1 million products.
But in September, Juul’s CEO stepped down under increasing scrutiny over vaping’s effect on lung health, despite the company touting its product as the safer alternative to cigarettes. The company also recently halted advertising in the US and its lobbying efforts in Washington. Its valuation fell from $US38 billion earlier this year.
DoorDash, the popular food delivery service, is valued at $US13 billion.
DoorDash launched in San Francisco in 2013, and has since gained a fair amount of competitors like UberEats, Postmates, and Seamless. This past summer, the company faced backlash for its pay model for delivery workers that sometimes meant workers didn’t actually receive customers’ tips. The company changed its policy following the criticism.
DoorDash remains a private company and cofounder Tony Xu told Forbes the company will not disclose financials, but is still not profitable. He said the company plans to continue to raise money, launch new products, and expand the service.
WeWork, the commercial real estate and shared workspace company launched in 2010, was the most valuable private tech startup at the beginning of 2019 at $US47 billion. Today, it’s worth a fraction of that.
When WeWork was first introduced into society’s consciousness, it was called revolutionary. WeWork’s office spaces, sleek and full of amenities, attracted all kinds of members. Cofounder Adam Neumann proved to be so charming and persuasive that he secured a $US4.4 billion investment from SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son.
But when WeWork publicly filed its IPO paperwork in 2019, the public got its first look at the company’s financials, which showed mounting losses, in the billions, concerning corporate governance. Combined with reports of erratic behaviour by its eccentric CEO, Neumann, the IPO plans hit a wall and initial measures to placate potential investors weren’t enough to save the public offering. WeWork eventually shelved its plan to go public indefinitely, and Neumann stepped down, but not without walking away with more than $US1 billion. According to CB Insights, WeWork’s valuation is around $US8 billion now.
The on-demand grocery delivery app Instacart founded in 2012 was last valued at nearly $US8 billion.
Instagram’s partnerships with large chain grocery stores, like Amazon’s Whole Foods, and its willingness to cater to “brick-and-mortar retailers,” according to Recode, are essential for its future growth.
Like DoorDash, Instacart’s fleet of workers have publicly called out the company for its pay model, which replaced tips with a service fee. The company brought the option to tip back, but the move still drew criticism after the location of the tipping feature changed.
The company’s pay model still is an issue of contention for its workers, who just this past summer urged the platform’s users to tip in cash instead of through the platform, and have even gone on strike.
Robinhood, the no-fee stock-trading app popular among millennials, launched in 2013, and as of October 2019 was valued at $US8.78 billion.
With a user base of over 6 million, the app also offers the option of buying and trading of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t believe in it, and we had to bang down a ton of doors,” cofounder Vlad Tenev told Business Insider. Some of Robinhood’s flashier investors include Snoop Dogg and San Francisco-based venture capital firm Index Ventures.
Robinhood’s rise didn’t come without some roadblocks. Earlier this year, the company had to walk back the launch of its high-yield checking and savings accounts within just one day of its announcement.
SoFi, the US-based online personal money management startup, was founded in 2011 and has a valuation of $US4.8 billion.
In 2015, the company announced a $US1 billion series F round led by SoftBank, making it the largest “single largest financing round in the fintech space” at the time.
In 2017, former SoFi CEO Mike Cagney stepped down after a New York Times investigation reported Cagney was at the centre of sexual harassment claims and the company’s “toxic” environment. Since the scandal, Anthony Noto – former chief operating officer of Twitter and former managing director at Goldman Sachs – has taken over and shown interest in SoFi entering the cryptocurrency game.
Scooter and bike rental startup Lime is valued at $US2.4 billion after raising over $US777 million since its launch in 2017.
The last two years have seen a rise in e-scooter companies like Lime, which first launched in its hometown of Santa Monica and is now available in 120 markets around the world. Last year, however, was a tumultuous one for Lime, but was also the same year it hit the billion-dollar valuation mark.
The city of San Francisco sent the company a cease and desist alleging its “current business practices [that] create a public nuisance.” Multiple studies examined the number of injuries caused by e-scooters, leading to a very public backlash, while newer reports suggest that cities don’t know how to regulate them, or end up banning them completely, and riders don’t really know how to ride them.
Postmates was first introduced in San Francisco in 2011. Today, the company, which employs thousands of couriers who deliver groceries, takeout, and more locally, operates in over 3,000 cities.
This past September, Postmates was valued at $US2.4 billion after raising $US225 million in funding – raising its total funding to $US906 million. It first reached billion-dollar valuation status in 2018 as better-funded competitors entered the market. The company was expected to go public by the end of 2019, but its IPO has reportedly been shelved until 2020 at the earliest.
According to a report by Business Insider, Postmates remains “unprofitable and lags a crowded field of rivals in the food delivery market.”
Plant-based food company Impossible Foods is currently valued at $US4 billion and is expected to go public soon.
Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods makes plant-based foods to replace meat, dairy, and fish. This past year, the Silicon Valley-based company launched a nationwide partnership with Burger King, bringing its plant-based burgers to thousands of locations across the US.
Demand for its products led Impossible Foods to complete a $US300 million Series E funding round in May, skyrocketing its valuation to $US2 billion as the demand for a better vegetarian burger fires up. Some noteworthy investors include pop singer Katy Perry, tennis star Serena Williams, and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. At the end of 2018, the company said it was turning out a million pounds of the product every month – and there are no signs of demand slowing down.
It it now raising $US350 million at a $US4 billion valuation, according to PitchBook.
Hims, the online platform where men can order personal care products discreetly, reached unicorn status in January 2019 and is currently valued at $US1.1 billion.
The success of Hims, which was founded in San Francisco in 2017, is largely attributed to its splashy, millennial-focused ad campaigns. Hims offer users sexual-health products, birth control, skin care, and hair-loss treatments without having to physically go to the doctor to get a prescription.
The company has raised nearly $US200 million since its launch, but has also sparked concern among some doctors who said the health startup’s effort to increase the number of online patients that could be treated with generic Viagra was worrisome.
Glossier, the online beauty brand that sells makeup and skincare, reached a billion-dollar valuation in the first half of 2019.
Glossier’s products, famous for its “millennial pink” packaging, have been used by countless celebrities, but the company has also made a point of tracking down “micro” and “nano” influencers (those with 1,000 to 100,000 followers) and paying them to promote the brand through their personal Instagram profiles. With a small number of brick-and-mortar stores, Glossier instead does semi-regular pop-ups where customers can come shop IRL.
Casper, the mattress and bedding company, was founded in 2014 and is credited with being one of the first bed-in-a-box startups.
With over $US400 million in revenue for 2018, and $US355 million in total funding to date, Casper reached a $US1.1 billion valuation in March.
The company opened a retail store last year, and plans to open over a hundred more in the coming year, on top of its products being available in most Target stores.
In addition to popularising the boxed delivery of mattresses, Casper’s success can be linked to a marketing strategy taken up by many other popular-among-millennial brands: ads, ads, ads – on the subway, on podcasts, on billboards, on social media. So what’s next for the company dedicated to revolutionising sleep? A possible IPO.
Warby Parker, a direct-to-consumer brand that sells eyeglasses, reached unicorn status just five years after it launched in 2010.
Warby Parker offers a wide variety of stylish eyewear and sunglasses, as well as eye exams, at low costs, attracting millions of customers and raking in nearly $US300 million in funding. It was last valued at $US1.75 billion.
Warby Parker has hundreds of stores around the US, but new features such as its “virtual try-on” is an attempt to attract customers outside of metropolitan hotspots and those who just don’t have time to make an appointment. In 2018, the company said it had reached profitability, and its founders are talking about an initial public offering in terms of “when” not “if,” according to Recode.
Ride-hailing giant Lyft went public at $US72 a share and a $US29 billion valuation in March — the first of its competitors to do so.
Lyft was founded in 2012 and quickly became one of Uber’s closest competitors, though Uber remains the leader in the crowded ride-hailing market. Since it launched in San Francisco, the company went on to raise around $US5 billion from big-name investors like General Motors, Andreessen Horowitz, and Google’s parent company Alphabet, before eventually going public at $US72 a share.
Since then, its share price has traded below the IPO share price. On Friday, it was trading at around $US49 a share.
Lyft is available in nearly 700 cities in the US, despite having no clear timeline for reaching profitability. Lyft has also come under fire for some of the same reasons users revolted against Uber. In October, over 30 women filed a lawsuit against the company saying it did not do enough to protect them against sexual assault and, in some cases, kidnapping. Lyft drivers also went on strike in May to protest what they called poor work conditions and low pay rates.
Founded in early 2015, Away, the suitcase retailer that prides itself on sleek design and durable materials, reached a $US1.45 billion valuation in May.
With its products being praised as “Instagram worthy,” Away has raised $US181 million in total, sold over 1 million of its lightweight, high-tech suitcases, and is backed by models including Karlie Kloss.
When tech meets mindfulness, you get Calm, the meditation app born in 2012 that reached a $US1 billion valuation this year.
As mental health initiatives spread across the country, the Calm app and its many features, like breathing exercises and sleep stories, have gained a lot of traction. Calm got the attention of celebrities like Aston Kutcher and his VC firm Sound Ventures. In July, Calm completed a $US115 million Series B raise – bringing its valuation to a bit over $US1 billion and making it the first so-called unicorn startup focused on meditation.
Cofounders Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith plan to expand Calm through its partnerships with XpresSpa, American Airlines, Sonos, and Uber.
Famously used by human resource professionals, ZipRecruiter was founded in 2010 with the intent to connect candidates to companies looking to hire. It reached a $US1.5 billion valuation in October 2018.
ZipRecruiter uses artificial intelligence to connect hiring managers with job seekers. Over 100,000 businesses use ZipRecruiter to find the candidates, according to TechCrunch. With no whispers of a potential IPO just yet, cofounder Ian Siegel said the company will continue to improve its existing software.
Instagram, founded in 2010, was estimated to be worth over $US100 billion in 2018, according to a report from Bloomberg Intelligence. In 2012, Facebook bought the image-sharing platform for $US1 billion.
It is safe to say Facebook’s $US1 billion investment in Instagram paid off. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, Instagram would be worth at least $US100 billion as a standalone company. In 2018, the company announced it had reached 1 billion active monthly users, a number many expect to rise.
Since its launch, Instagram has expanded beyond photo sharing. There’s IG TV, shopping, live video, stories, and even the ability to donate to different nonprofit organisations. More recently Instagram announced it was testing a feature that would do away with likes – a move that some praised and others threatened to quit the app over.
New York-based health insurance startup Oscar Health was founded in 2012 and is worth $US3.2 billion.
Oscar raised $US375 million from Alphabet last year, and said it pulled in nearly $US1 billion in revenue. Oscar caters to the digital-savvy in search of adequate health insurance who don’t want to deal with too much red tape typically associated with signing up for insurance. The company has a couple hundred thousand users, its biggest age group being those 26 to 35 years old. Alphabet’s $US375 million in 2018 gave Google’s parent company a ~10% stake, and pushed Oscar’s valuation to $US3.2 billion.
For the first nine months of 2018, according to state insurance filings reviewed by Business Insider, Oscar lost $US12 million. That’s significantly less of a loss than 2017, when it reported a $US96 million loss in the third quarter alone. For the first half of 2019, the company said it took in $US678 million in gross premium revenue, and that it generated a gross underwriting profit of $US128 million.
This past summer, CEO Mario Schlosser announced Oscar’s marketplace would start selling Obamacare plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, in 12 new markets starting in 2020.
Additional reporting by Lydia Ramsey and Clarrie Feinstein.
Robotic food-preparation company Zume, known for its pizza-making robots, landed a $US375 million investment led by SoftBank in 2018, skyrocketing its valuation to over $US2 billion. It’s now reportedly seeking additional funding at a $US4 billion+ valuation.
A year before Zume hit unicorn status, it was valued at only $US170 million. But since its launch in 2015, Zume Pizza set out to revolutionise the pizza-making process – employing robots and artificial intelligence to man the kitchen and send out orders more swiftly at a low cost. CEO and cofounder Julian Collins said from Zume’s data collection, it “predict what pizza you want before you even order it.”
But the company is now pivoting amid an executive exodus as it restructuring to focus on growing revenues, Business Insider’s Megan Hernbroth reported in November. In September, Zume announced a partnership to launch mobile kitchens, expanding into compostable packaging and food-truck services.
Allbirds, the company that manufactures the trendy wool sneakers dubbed “the world’s most comfortable shoes,” reached a $US1.4 billion valuation this year.
Allbirds launched in Silicon Valley in 2014 and has since raised over $US77 million from investors including Fidelity and legacy firm Tiger Global Management. The core concept of Allbirds is its commitment to sustainability – the foam in the sneakers are made from sugarcane, and the textile of choice is, of course, Merino wool. Celebrities like Jessica Alba, Amy Adams, and Blake Lively have been seen sporting the sneaker, too.
The company has recently filed a lawsuit alleging Austrian footwear company Giesswein Walkwaren of copying its iconic kicks. And it wasn’t the first time Allbirds went to court over another company over copying concerns. In 2017, the brand settled a suit with footwear giant Steve Madden. Allbirds recently called out Amazon’s own wool shoes, and CEO Joey Zwillinger penned an open letter to Jeff Bezos asking the company to “please steal our approach to sustainability.”
As for the future of Allbirds, founders of Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger still plan on challenging “the status quo” of sustainable material innovation.
Online resale retailer The Real Real was valued at $US1.65 billion and went public this summer.
The Real Real got its start in 2011 in San Francisco. At first, the company was only online, but with its success selling items like Adidas Yeezys, Hermes Birkin bags, Chanel shoes, and Louboutin heels, it opened its first store in 2017.
Consumers eager to buy used designer items led The Real Real to grow quickly, opening new fulfillment centres and three stores in Los Angeles and New York City.
Julie Wainwright, the company’s founder and CEO, told Recode that the luxury resale market remains largely online still – so don’t get your hopes up for The Real Real department stores all over the world any time soon.
Gusto, the platform that makes payroll easier for managers, was founded in 2011 and has a valuation of $US3.8 billion.
According to CEO Joshua Reeves, customer service and satisfaction are what drive him and his team to refine Gusto as a product for the average small business owner. Gusto’s simplified platform has attracted over 100,000 customers, processing billions of dollars of payroll every year. It even lets business owners offer their employees health insurance, retirement and savings plans.
This past July, Gusto raised $US200 million in funding, bringing its total to over $US500 million. The next step for Gusto is to hire more employees and “double down on research and development,” according to Crunchbase.
Fintech insurance startup Lemonade has raised a total of $US480 million in funding, launching its valuation to $US2.1 billion earlier this year.
Lemonade uses an AI bot to create personalised renters and homeowners insurance policies on a simplified platform where users can be insured starting from $US5 and $US25 per month. Lemonade’s ability to thoughtfully explain technical terminology, like what a deductible is, while making it easy to submit claims has won it the support of many millennials.
The startup has reportedly sold more than half a million insurance policies and generated more than $US57 million in revenue last year. After a successful 2018, Lemonade announced its plans to bring the platform to all 50 states and Europe, as well as hire more employees to help manage its rapid growth.
Snapchat went public in 2017, and today its market valuation is around $US23 billion, making a rebound from its low of $US7 billion last December.
Snapchat, the photo-and-video-based messaging app, launched in July 2011, and attracted millions of younger users who loved the platform’s disappearing message feature. That’s no longer the app’s only draw, however. Snapchat has evolved as a social media company, introducing its Discover page, where users can find news and famous internet personalities, and a text chat feature, among other features. The app has almost 200 million daily users and continues to be one of the preferred platforms for Gen Z.
And though the company is worth around $US23 billion today, and is considered to be this year’s “best performing” tech stock, the LA Times reported in April that Snapchat has three years to reach profitability before it runs out of cash.
Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, launched in 2012 and hit unicorn status in October 2018 with an $US8 billion valuation.
If you are interested in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, chances are you’re already aware of Coinbase, though the app didn’t really take off until 2014 when investors like rapper Nas and VC firms like Andreessen Horowitz began to take notice.
With more than half a billion dollars in total funding, Coinbase hopes to expand outside of the United States. Coinbase vice president Dan Romero told Business Insider in 2018 that the company’s goal was to become the Google of crypto.
With big investments from industry giants like Ford and Volkswagen, Argo AI reached a $US7.25 billion valuation in July, just two years after the company launched.
Autonomous vehicles seem to be on the mind of every car maker, including the biggest: VW is the world’s biggest automaker by sales volume last year. And that’s where Argo AI comes in. The autonomous-driving tech startup caught the eye, and cash, of two of the largest car makers in the world. Ford invested early with $US1.6 billion, and with Volkswagen’s $US2.6 billion total investment, Argo AI’s valuation reached new heights in 2019.
These partnerships will help Argo share the cost of getting its autonomous cars to the market, while also turning its attention to the future automation of off-road equipment, too. But with so many other competitors in the field, the race is on.
Healthcare is a ripe industry to disrupt, and San Francisco-based Clover Health knows it. The company, founded in 2014, is valued at $US1.2 billion.
Clover Health’s incentive is to do away with paperwork and focus more on the patient by using “predictive analytics technology” – a feature Clover promoted as a way to keep costs down using the Medicare Advantage Plan.
But the road hasn’t been easy for the startup. Last year, seniors insured on Clover began receiving medical bills for blood work, a surprise experience that was not supposed to happen, according to the company.
And even five years after launching, Clover has managed to make its way into “select counties” in seven states, thanks to the historically slow-moving healthcare industry, one many other startups are attempting to disrupt. But that doesn’t mean investors are not interested – in January, Clover raised $US500 million, bringing its total funding to over $US900 million, with help from Alphabet’s venture arm GV.
Valued at over $US3.6 billion when it went public, gene sequencing startup 10x Genomics continues to help doctors and scientists understand cancers and cell therapy.
Launched in 2012, 10x Genomics went public in September after hitting unicorn status in January. The company focuses on “single-cell sequencing” and has worked with institutions like Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre.
In 2017, the company, backed by investors like Softbank, said its sales reached $US71 million. CEO Serge Saxonov was one of the founding researchers at 23andMe, and hopes 10x can help scientists better understand genetics down to a single-cell level. The company continues to sell its handful of products to academic, federal, and drug-development labs across the country, with plans to expand further, and make more DNA-focused acquisitions.
Check out a list of all the companies that hit
$US1 billion valuation in 2019 over on PitchBook.