It may be time to retire the word unicorn.
The buzzword has been circling for years as a moniker for the seemingly mythical startup with a billion-dollar valuation. The idea is that the unicorn — so rare in number yet so often the romanticized stuff of fantasy — has become the symbol for ultimate entrepreneurial success.
The problem, though, is that startup unicorns aren’t as fantastical as they used to be.
In a recent report, The New York Times named 50 startups poised to receive a valuation of at least a billion dollars. Run by CB Insights, the data screen alone names a whole herd of companies that fit the bill.
What’s more, those 50 hopefuls join a group of over 130 companies that already identify as a unicorn. As tech startup ecosystems the world over continue to churn out innovative and successful companies, the tech industry might need to come up with some new jargon.
The list, saturated by companies in the Valley and LA, was determined by an algorithm that weighed in factors like total funding, employee turnover, and social media mentions.
Still, a prophesized billion-dollar valuation is nothing to sneeze at. Two local companies know that better than anyone. Hot off an impressive streak of news last week, both Avant and Raise landed on The New York Times’s list — the only Midwestern representatives to make the cut.
Avant, who raised $339 million more in debt financing last week, and Raise, who just announced its first ever acquisition, are no strangers to accolade. The success of both companies has landed them more than once on a future-unicorns-to-watch list.
The question is no longer if Chicago will see another unicorn, but when — and which Chicagoland startups will be replace Avant and Raise as the city’s unicorns in waiting.
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