Defined at the time as “U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors,” the term has since expanded to encompass all private startups valued at $1 billion or more.
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Lee’s column helped the world categorize startups in a new way, but it was also a sign of the times to come, as the world soon saw a massive acceleration in the number of billion-dollar startups rooted in global technology entrepreneurial hubs. In a 2015 follow-up to her column, Lee noted that since her original column, her team found a “jaw-dropping 115% increase” in the number of unicorns worth a total of “$327 billion – 2.4x our last analysis,” discounting Facebook for obvious reasons.
Little did we know back then what lay ahead. The pace at which startups achieved valuations of $1 billion or more accelerated through 2020 and 2021, and soon afterwards, the number of companies in the global unicorn club crossed the 1,000 mark. Today, Crunchbase counts 1,483 unicorns that have together raised $905 billion and are worth $5 trillion combined, while CB Insights counts 1,220 global unicorns that are together worth a total of $3.83 trillion.