While achieving a $1 billion evaluation isn’t as rare as it used to be, unicorn status is still coveted among startups. It signals success and opens up the possibility of a future IPO. 2018 saw the rise of more than 30 unicorns, but among the pack, several companies stand out due to their innovative ideas and clever implementation of growing technologies.
A comprehensive service for both wannabe parents and seasoned veterans of the baby trenches, Babytree aims to help Chinese families with all their child needs, from conception to toddlerhood. Babytree was founded by Harvard alum Bao Sho in 2006. Based in Beijing, the company steadily grew over the years as it received investment from Matrix Partners and TAL Education Group. However, Babytree really soared after 2015, when the Chinese government reversed its one-child policy. The site reached 200 million users in 2017 and hit unicorn status in 2018 after a $200 million investment round led by Alibaba.
The Discord video chat app has become the program of choice for gamers in the U.S and abroad. Stan Vishnevskiy was working for gaming startup OpenFeint when he came up with the idea for a chat app geared towards gamers who wanted to discuss strategy in secure, free chat rooms while playing. OpenFeint went under and Vishnevskiy enlisted CEO Jason Citron to help him develop the app. The two men debuted Discord in 2015 and found that gamers loved the light, easy-to-use interface. Discord grew rapidly in the following years. By 2017, the app had 45 million users, which increased to 135 million users by 2018. In April 2018, Discord was valued at $1.6 billion before they completed a $50 million venture round.
In 2016, Han Mei decided to leave her job at Alibaba to launch her own bike sharing startup. Although Hellobike entered the market later than many other similar Chinese companies, it has seen great success by concentrating on smaller cities in China. In 2017, Hellobike merged with Chinese bike sharing firm Jiangsu. Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds, receiving over $500 million from firms like Ant Financial, Fosun Group and WM Motor. In June 2018, Hellobike topped $1 billion in value and closed a $319 million Series F funding round.
Israeli entrepreneurs Dave Waiser and Roi More were fed up with long wait times for taxis. They decided to launch a startup to help connect users quickly connect with taxi drivers. After debuting in Israel and London, the company moved into the Russian and American markets in 2012. In 2016, they partnered with Volkswagen, receiving $300 million to help the German company move into the ridesharing sector. In 2017, Gett acquired Juno, a New York-based ridesharing startup, for $200 million. As a result of Gett’s expanded reach, the company attained a $1.4 billion valuation in June 2018.
Founded by a quartet of Stanford classmates in 2013, Door Dash was intended to be the Postmates for small businesses, but due to rapid growth, has expanded into delivering for larger companies as well. By the beginning of 2018, DoorDash was serving customers in 28 different states, as well as in four of Canada’s biggest cities. In 2018, DoorDash inked deals with Red Lobster, Walmart and Wendy’s to deliver food to hungry American and Canadian diners. In March 2018, the delivery service hit unicorn status with a $1.4 billion valuation. They recently snagged a $535 million funding round from Sequoia Capital and SoftBank.
In 2014, three Indian entrepreneurs decided to take the plunge into app-based food delivery in Bangalore. From their original base in the so-called Silicon Valley of India, the team expanded their business into more than 15 other Indian cities. The startup has received funding from multiple international venture capital firms, including Wells Fargo’s Norwest Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. In June 2018, Swiggy joined India’s unicorn club when it received a $1.3 billion valuation.
The founders of Intercom were still living in Dublin when they got the idea for a customer service messaging app that would make communication with clients more personal. The team moved to the U.S. and launched their new company in 2011. The app quickly became popular among Silicon Valley firms, who were looking for an improved and timely way to provide customer service. After initial support from fellow entrepreneurs like Eamon Leonard, founder of the Irish social media company Cohort, Intercom began reeling in big names like Social Capital, Index Ventures and even Mark Zuckerberg. In March 2018, the company exceeded $1 billion in value.
Founded in 2012 by two Romanian businessmen, UIPath has become the go-to startup for industry automation. The company’s robotic process automation (RPA) software helps businesses delegate repetitive administrative tasks to automated processes. The startup’s software is used by companies like Hitachi, IBM and Bosch. In 2018, UiPath lured Param Kahlon away from Microsoft to work as their chief product officer. In March, Accel led a $153 million Series B round for UiPath on a $1 billion valuation.
Melanie Perkins was frustrated when her graphic design students just couldn’t seem to grasp fundamental Photoshop skills. She joined with Cameron Adams and Cliff Obrecht to design and launch an easy-to-use photo editing service for beginner designers. The company has since been funded by all the usual suspects, including unexpected ones like actor Woody Harrelson. Sequoia Capital led a massive $40 million Series C funding round for the company in January 2018. In 2018, Canva was valued at $1 billion and signed a lucrative partnership deal with Dropbox .
All three of Tradeshift’s Danish founders had high hopes for their new startup when they launched it in 2009. Their supply chain management software helps businesses buy and sell inventory online, replacing company credit cards with virtual plastic and allowing suppliers to be handled from the cloud. After some initial investment from PayPal, TradeShift began to slowly grow into the company it is today. By 2014, TradeShift was operating in more than 180 countries and was clearing $10 billion a year in transactions. Their list of clients includes American Express and Canon Inc. In 2018, they topped a $1 billion valuation, securing a $250 million funding round led by Goldman Sachs.
Whether they rocketed to the top of the market or grew slowly, these unicorns have achieved the ultimate goal for startup founders: a $1 billion valuation. With hard work, targeted business plans and willing investors, these startups have beaten the odds to come out on top. As they continue to expand, public offerings loom in their futures.
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