CrunchBase Introduces a Detail-Rich “Leaderboard” for the Unicorn Obsessed

These days, everyone seems to have a unicorn list. And why wouldn’t they? The number of privately held companies to pass the billion-dollar valuation mark has soared so dramatically in recent years that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them or make sense of their unprecedented financing rounds.

Will most of them explode? Are private and public markets converging in a sustainable way? And where in the world did BeiBei suddenly come from? (BeiBei, if you haven’t been paying attention, sells baby and maternity clothes. The Hangzhou, China-based outfit also holds the dubious distinction of gaining unicorn status faster than any other company. Though it’s now 17 months old — just — it said it was valued at $1 billion all the way back in January of this year when it closed on $100 million in Series C funding.)

You might imagine that CrunchBase — our widely visited AOL sister property (it will soon be a standalone property) – has been paying attention. In fact, today, the division is releasing its own unicorn “leaderboard,” and it has a whole lot of bells and whistles that should excite industry news junkies.

Want to understand just how new – and massive – this unicorn phenomenon really is? Check CrunchBase’s numbers. From 2005 through 2008, three privately held companies came to be valued at a billion-dollar plus. You know the names because they were alone in their class at the time — hits like Facebook and LinkedIn.

By the end of 2010, there were suddenly six billion-dollar companies. By end 2011, there were nineteen. In 2012, there were 9. In 2013, there were 12.

That seemed like an awful lot at the time. Little did we know then that a stunning 55 companies would join the unicorn club in 2014, according to CrunchBase data. More mind-blowingly, 63 companies have been tacked onto the list this year. The chart above, shows 158 unicorns in total. This includes 144 that are operating unicorns, and 14 that have exited.

That’s a whole lot of big numbers being assigned to companies without, seemingly, a lot of exit options.

It’s for that reason that CrunchBase designed its new unicorn leaderboard in a way that helps users track which companies are beginning to stumble, and who has fallen out of the race altogether. It’s easy to see, for example, that Good Technology, not so long ago valued at $1.2 billion, was just acquired by Motorola for $425 million in cash. You can also trace the path of other unicorns that have disappeared, including a couple that sold at fire-sale prices. (Yes, we’re talking about the electric car company BetterPlace and formerly high-flying flash-sale site Fab.)

The leaderboard can also show visitors who joined the unicorn club most recently. As of this writing, that’s the SaaS company Apttus, the car-sharing service BlaBlaCar, and the mobile identity management service Okta.

As an added bonus for venture geeks, CrunchBase now makes it easy to see which investors have most actively invested in unicorns (and at what stage they acquired those holdings). Right now, for instance, Sequoia Capital has the lead by a long shot, participating in 75 different funding rounds for its unicorn portfolio companies. Others in the top 10 include Accel, which joined 55 rounds; Andreessen Horowitz, with 46; Tiger Global Management, with 42; Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with 36; Lightspeed Venture Partners, with 34; Greylock Partners, with 34; Khosla Ventures, with 31; Benchmark, with 25; and T. Rowe Price, with 25.

If you’re really curious about who owns what, you can find a list of every investor that owns some part of a unicorn right here, care of CrunchBase. 

For our part, one of our favorite new sections of the CrunchBase Leaderboard is its “emerging unicorns” section, featuring companies like One Kings LaneKabbage, and MixPanel that have been assigned valuations that are awfully close to a billion dollars but either haven’t gotten there (and might never) or simply haven’t shared their newest valuation publicly.

But go ahead, play with it yourself and let us know what you think. Also note that CrunchBase has a staff of 25-plus people who are available to help reporters and others make the best use possible of its fancy new product. You can reach out to its staff here:

Thanks to the team, JD for design, Kelsi Kamin, Ruochen Huang, David Kang and CrunchBase analyst Cory Cox, for all their work on checking and rechecking the data to compile this leaderboard.