With all the talk recently about unicorn companies (those private tech companies that are able to attract valuations in excess of $1.0 billion), it got me thinking about unicorn venture firms (venture firms that have raised funds greater than $1.0 billion).
From our friends at CB Insights, they tell us that 38 private companies received unicorn status in 2014, and another 16 closing by mid-April of this year. That’s 54 companies in just over 16 months.
Compare that to the data I was able to pull out of Pitchbook for venture firms*, which found that there’s only been 31 venture firms who have been able to raise $1.0 billion funds in the entire history of venture. Some of them were able to do it more than once, so these 31 firms amounted to 53 unicorn funds since 1999. My data set was focused on US only investors, and includes some growth investors like TCV and Oak, but they are still considered venture for this purpose.
The growth folks dominate the league tables, with NEA leading the pack with six vehicles over $1.0 billion, including their close this year of New Enterprise Associates 15 at $2.8 billion. TCV and Oak have both raised four (4) funds over $1.0 billion, and Bessemer and Greylock each have three (3). Interestingly, none of the top five firms are considered Silicon Valley born-and-bred firms, as they all started on the East Coast. At least three of the firms now consider their headquarters in Silicon Valley, but all have significant presence on both coasts.
Vintage dispersion is also interesting, with no year eclipsing the 2000 high water mark of eight fund closings at over $1.0 billion until 2014, when nine unicorn-funds were closed (scary, given all the discussion lately comparing the current environment to the late 90’s exuberance). Many of the recent unicorn funds are familiar names, but in 2014 there were five firms who raised their first unicorn (Accel, Founders, Lightspeed, Tiger Global, and Vivo), with Tiger Global actually raising two unicorn funds in 2014.
I’m sure if I dove further into the data, we’d see that the unicorn funds are likely the ones who are leading/participating in the unicorn company financings, but I’ll leave that analysis to someone else. For now, here’s the breakdown of the league table:
* Data from Pitchbook pulled from custom search of US domestic firms that have raised a minimum fund size of $1.0 billion. My apologies if there’s anyone who was inadvertently left off the list based on my less than perfect search skills.