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These Are the Top 5 Industries for Startup Unicorns

If you think that all investment money for startups has dried up, think again.

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BY Erik Sherman - 16 Aug 2018

These Are the Top 5 Industries for Startup Unicorns

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There's nothing new about crazy startup valuations among the big investors class. They have a name -- unicorn -- for a young company that gains a pre-IPO value of $1 billion or more.

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from unicorns. One lesson to avoid, though, is the thought that the days of these companies are over. Quite the opposite. According to new data from CB Insights, which tracks venture capital activity, unicorn breeding has come roaring back after a 2016 slowdown and at a pace that could outdo any previous year.

The 255 unicorns on the list also collectively represent $823 billion in value, with 17 worth more than $10 billion, with Uber worth $68 billion. The companies are concentrated in two countries, largely across five industries.

About 40 percent of the companies -- 103 -- are concentrated in five sectors:

  • Data & analytics (10)
  • Fintech (31)
  • Healthcare (20)
  • Internet software & services (25)
  • On-demand services (17)

Looking at this year alone, which is far from over, fintech, with eight entries, was the hottest sector.

That doesn't mean funding isn't available outside of them. Some of the areas where startups have hit golden unicorn status are 3D printing, clothing, entertainment, gaming, HR tech, music, and tech for kids and babies. Some people have clearly gained big investor interest, if the valuation of their companies (how much investors think the business is worth based on the amount they pay for a certain percentage of ownership) is any gauge.

In other words, don't assume that the only valuable idea is one that matches into a popular category. Not at all, although there are hot areas and investors may focus overly on them, looking for a big opportunity.

It also helps to be in the right place. The U.S. remains the major location for unicorn companies, with 47 percent, or 119, of the global supply. So far this year, 17 out of the 46, are also in the U.S.

But China has been catching up quickly. From 2009 through 2013 it had 2. Now the country is home to 30 percent of the total global unicorns and has 16 new ones this year, only one less than here.

However, as with sectors, location isn't the final arbiter of investor interest. Luxembourg has its own unicorn, a fashion-related marketplace, and a total population of less than 600,000. You're not locked out because you aren't in the most fashionable locations. If you have a solid idea, a competitive edge, a good management team, and great presentations, you have a chance at catching interest.

All that said, it is easier to do business if you go where the money is. If you can combine your passion with accessibility, why not?


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