The Unicorns of the United Kingdom­

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According to Great Gov UK, the United Kingdom is home to 26+ of 74 +EU unicorns. Combined, these juggernauts have an estimated value of £64 billion (Titan of Tech report, GP Bullhound). Unicorns are not mythological creatures of the fantasy realm; they are profitable start-ups with outsized reward potential. Industry standards require that a private-owned start-up valued at £766 million, or US$1 billion, is considered a Unicorn.

The United Kingdom is no stranger to massive business enterprise. It is the epicentre of finance, currency exchange, innovation, gaming, et al. Among the most impressive UK unicorns are the following start-ups: Oxford Nanopore, BenevolentAI, The Hut Group, Revolut, Ovo Energy, Babylon, CMR Surgical, OakNorth, Transferwise, Gymshark, and CMR Surgical. Outside of the United Kingdom, an estimated 600+ companies exist worldwide – a herd of unicorns. Their valuation is in excess of $2 trillion.

Digging into Details: Unicorns Unmasked

According to industry analysis, it can take upwards of 6.4 years for a start-up to become a unicorn. This prestigious status is earned, and while the duration is diminishing, many modern-day unicorns require at least 4 years to achieve that rank. For the most part, the founding team comprises just 2.5 people on average, and single-founder start-ups are increasingly rare. Most of the companies that become unicorns have team members that are incredibly close, college friends, lifelong friends, work friends, et cetera.

With respect to the median age of CEO founders of unicorns, it’s 34. A minority of unicorns were founded by millennials, with a majority founded by entrepreneurs in their early-to-mid-30s.

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It’s pretty phenomenal that so many of these brilliant founders are so young. Rumour has it that some of these folks sharpen their senses with live hold ’em poker for players above the age of 18, brain games, classic literature, and high-octane video games. Be that as it may, whatever their tincture is, it’s working.

A growing contingent of UK unicorns emanates from the financial and banking sectors, with mobile banking solutions leading the way. The Press and Journal penned an article about ‘National Unicorn Day’, with some surprising revelations:

  • The horns of unicorns are known as alicorns.

  • William the Lion used the unicorn as a symbol on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms in the 12th century.

  • The Ringling Bros Circus showcased a real-life living unicorn – an actual goat with fused horns that looked like a unicorn!

  • In the King James Version of the Bible, there are some 9 references to unicorns.

  • Legend has it that the unicorn is the most powerful of all animals. It has tremendous strength, but a fair maiden who happens to be a virgin can easily humble a unicorn.

Across Europe, 14 companies joined the EU unicorn board. There are now 74 companies (as of 2020) listed. Among the top-ranking new unicorns are Oatly ($2 billion +), Octopus Energy ($2 billion +), Hopin ($2 billion +), Cazoo ($2 billion +), and the big ones include MessageBird ( $3 billion +), and Arrival ($3.3 billion).

The United Kingdom leads the way with finding above $100 million for Q4 2020, with the largest contributions being seen in electric vehicles ($518 million in Q4), Telecom ($403 million in Q4), mortgages ($346 million in Q4), and online car marketplace ($309 million in Q4). Energy, semiconductors, battery storage, merchant payments, virtual events, and biotech rounded out the major UK rounds of funding. Overall, EU funding in 2020 approach the highs of 2019, but remained lacklustre compared to the US.

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