Some readers have wondered if they were wide awake Thursday morning to learn that the French company had become a unicorn BlaBlaCar after having successfully raised $ 200 million from investors. Because yes, the business press speaks well of “Unicorn” to designate certain types of businesses. Back on a term that refers to both a myth about big business.
What is a unicorn? This term redolent internet generation Silicon Valley’s first appeared in 2013 from the pen of Aileen Lee. The American analyst, who is also the creator of an investment fund, decided to consolidate as the “unicorn” – Unicorn in English – companies with a certain number of common characteristics. Namely: be installed on US soil, be specialized in new technologies, have less than ten years of existence and be valued over a billion dollars before being publicly traded
How many are they? This number is also changing rapidly as new technologies. CB Insights, a consultancy and analysis, keeps a real time count and estimated that there are now 134. 134 companies which include well-known names to the general public: VTC Uber service, Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi phone, the property rental site AirBnB, the photo-sharing service Snapchat or the infotainment Buzzfeed site. Not to mention Dropbox, SpaceX, Pinterest, Lyft, etc.
At the head of this classification, which was long dominated by Facebook before it goes public, we find Uber. The Californian company is currently valued at 51 billion dollars (45 billion euros) and will soon leave this category. When the European first, it is the music streaming site Spotify, classified in 15th position
Here are the ten biggest unicorns and their estimated recovery.
There is also unicorns in France. If most unicorns are of course American companies, with France however are three. BlaBlaCar therefore, but also Criteo and Sales-privees.com. Two companies that have grown a lot and nevertheless, no longer have much to do with a start-up, are no longer considered as unicorns. Among the States "unicorn friendly" also include China, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. .
After the unicorn, the "decacorn" and the shadow of a bubble The unicorn is a species that is obviously doing well: the number rose of 82-134 between 1 January and mid-September. So that analysts have even coined a new term, "decacorn" to designate companies worth more than $ 10 billion. In other words, ten power unicorns.
But how to explain this profusion of companies coming to convince investors to bet billions without even IPOs? There is first the new technologies, which now represent an entire section of the economy and become profitable. It is there that creates value and technological breakthroughs are most numerous, prompting investors to bet on. Especially since they have a very particular context, where money is available in abundance and at historically low rates.
But such a frenzy coupled with abundant liquidity also recalls bad memories: the Internet bubble burst in 2000 and which caused an economic crisis. The digital economy is certainly much more mature today, but this influx of money for companies that are not always profitable is not without risk. So some analysts fear that some of the unicorns do turn out to be mirages.