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The Fastest Startups to Hit $1 Billion Valuations

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For the founders coding in the trenches of Silicon Valley, achieving the status of a “unicorn” is still the Holy Grail. The term, which references the presumably rare and mythological uni-horned creature, is used to describe a tech startup that has hit a $1 billion valuation or more.

At the time the term was coined, unicorns were indeed rare. Aileen Lee’s data from 2003-2013 showed that just four unicorns were born a year, and that only 39 existed as of November 2013. However, while actual unicorns continue to be (very) difficult to find, the ones of the tech variety have been proliferating like bunnies.

By the count of VentureBeat, there are now 229 of them with a cumulative $1.3 trillion valuation.

The Unicorn Baby Boom

Fleximize recently created an interactive visualization that breaks down the fastest startups to reach a $1 billion valuation by geography, sector, year, and also the timeframe needed to reach the mark. We’ve pulled out the key visuals in this post, but we highly recommend viewing their interactive list which provides data on each company as well.

We’ll show the whole list of unicorns later in this article, but for now we will focus on the high level stuff: how many more unicorns are being born? Are startups achieving unicorn status faster than before?

Unicorn Births Per Year

Unicorns by year

The above chart shows unicorn births each year from 2005 until today. There’s two important things to consider here:

Time to Achieve Unicorn Status: Despite the current froth in the venture capital market, it appears that the amount of time it takes to become a unicorn has remained relatively consistent. The average is around six years to go from the founding of the company to a $1 billion+ valuation.

More Unicorn Births: While it takes the same amount of time to become a unicorn, tech culture has become much more mainstream. Today, millions of startups are launched each year and 90% of them fail. However, the ones that get past the gauntlet raise billions of dollars from VCs.

According to the above chart, there were 65 new unicorns in 2014, and an additional 91 in 2015.

Unicorns by Birthplace

Unicorns by geography

The majority of unicorns are still born in North America, which holds 61.4% of the population. However, Asia is rising fast with 58 unicorns (26.0%). It’s also worth noting that Asian unicorns spend a little less time in the womb, taking five years to be born. This is comparatively lower to the international average of six years.

Unicorns by Profession

Unicorns by industry

The unicorns that are born the fastest are ones focused on industries such as real estate, on-demand, social media, or e-commerce. These took four or less years on average.

Education tech and media companies took a long time to reach unicorn status – 16 years and 12 years respectively. That said, the dataset is quite small with only five companies in these categories combined.

The Fastest Startups (The Whole List)

Below is the full list of companies valued at $1 billion or more.

The absolute fastest startup?

It’s Jet.com, an online retailer said to possibly rival Amazon, that uses real-time pricing algorithms to give consumers better deals. It hit a $1 billion valuation in just four months in 2015.

All Unicorns: How long it took to get a $1 billion valuation

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What is the Median Pay of Magnificent Seven Companies?

The Magnificent Seven companies are fueling stock market gains. In this graphic, we show the median pay of each company in 2023.

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This circle graphic shows the median pay of employees at the Magnificent Seven companies.

What is the Median Pay of Magnificent Seven Companies?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The Magnificent Seven are lifting the stock market to new highs, led by Nvidia, Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet in particular.

In May alone, these tech giants added $1.4 trillion in market capitalization to the S&P 500—surpassing the combined gains of 296 other stocks during the same period. Notably, Nvidia contributed to more than half of this rise. As tech stocks boom, many are offering robust salaries with substantial stock option plans.

This graphic shows the median pay of the Magnificent Seven companies in 2023, based on analysis from The Wall Street Journal and MyLogIQ.

The Highest Paying Companies in the Magnificent Seven

Below, we show the median employee pay of the Magnificent Seven companies in 2023:

CompanyMedian Employee Pay
2023
CEO Total Pay
2023
Meta$379,050$24.4M
Alphabet$315,531$8.8M
Nvidia$266,939$34.2M
Microsoft$193,770$48.5M
Apple$94,118$63.2M
Tesla$45,811$0M
Amazon$36,274$1.4M

Data for Microsoft is from SEC filings. Total CEO pay includes equity awards and cash pay.

Meta ranks as the highest overall, with a median pay of $379,050, which is more than six times the national median salary.

Not only is it the leading company in the Magnificent Seven, it has one of the highest median pay across S&P 500 companies. Between 2022 and 2023, employee pay increased 28%, following four rounds of layoffs that slashed thousands of employees in its “year of efficiency”.

Following Meta is Google’s parent company, Alphabet, with a median pay of $315,531. The company operates a hybrid work policy, requiring employees to be in the office about three days a week. This mirrors a trend seen across Amazon and Salesforce to encourage in-person collaboration.

At Nvidia, employees received a median pay of $266,939, fueled by its soaring share price. Last year, over $300 million in value was delivered to its staff under its employee stock purchase plan. Along with a competitive pay package, the company offers an unlimited vacation policy along with 22-weeks of paid parental leave.

Falling near the bottom of the pack is Tesla, where the median salary for employees is $45,811. The automotive sector is notorious for steep wage gaps between CEOs and workers, with CEOs often earning 300 times more than the median employee.

In 2023, Tesla CEO Elon Musk earned no compensation, and is instead paid through incentive-based stock options. Recently, a judge invalidated a staggering $56 billion pay package for the executive, deeming it unfair to the company’s shareholders. This pay package was awarded in 2018, with stipulations that Tesla meet certain performance requirements over a 10-year timeframe.

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