The experiment of force-feeding late-stage startups infinite money is wrapping up

We're already past the unicorn peak

In the final quarter of 2019, startup funding rounds worth $100 million or more reached a local minimum. With 103 such deals, Q4 2019 saw just $22.7 billion disbursed in nine-figure chunks. That dollar figure rose at the start of 2020 only to retreat during the pandemic-impacted second quarter. But from that moment in time, huge rounds for startups rose steadily throughout 2021, CB Insights data indicates.

That boom led to one of the most impressive runs of private-market value creation on record. But since the go-go-go year of 2021 closed, things have changed for the most valuable startups. And the change is not positive.

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Data indicates that the pace of unicorn birth — the rate at which new startups clear the $1 billion valuation threshold — has slowed; so-called mega-rounds worth $100 million or more have decelerated; and the larger venture capital market is rebalancing its investments toward earlier-stage companies.