Tech’s Billion Dollar Breakout: Startups that reached unicorn status in Q1

The term unicorn to reference a private company was coined in a 2013 TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee, the founder of an investment fund for seed-stage companies. Private companies that surpassed a billion dollars in value were as special as the mythical unicorn, she reasoned.

Eleven years later, there are more than 1,200 corporate unicorns globally, according to CBInsights. In the first quarter of 2024, at least four private companies – Perplexity, Bugcrowd, ElevenLabs and Mews — achieved unicorn status.

Perplexity, an AI search-engine creator

As a new startup developing an AI-based search engine, Perplexity is competing against Alphabet’s Google.

Founded in August 2022, San Francisco-based Perplexity was recently valued at $1.03 billion, as listed on Forge Global, based on the company’s latest funding round of $56 million in March 2024. That’s double what the company was valued at two months earlier based on a January 2024 funding round, according to Forge Global. This valuation boost comes as good news from a host of Perplexity’s investors, including Databricks, Bessemer Trust, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos through his Bezos Expeditions Fund.

In January 2024, Aravind Srinivas, Perplexity’s CEO and co-founder, wrote on the company’s website that it had 10 million monthly active users and had served over half a billion queries in 2023.

Perplexity’s Forge Price™ was $47.77 as of April 4, 2024 which implied a valuation of $1.03 billion.

Bugcrowd, a cybersecurity solutions firm

In February, Bugcrowd announced that it had secured $102 million in financing to “scale its AI-powered crowdsourced security platform offerings globally.” While Bugcrowd hasn’t publicized a new valuation, an article in trade publication VentureBeat said that the latest funding gave the company a valuation of over $1 billion, “according to sources close to the deal.”

The San Francisco-based company, which was founded in 2012, has adopted a creative and unusual approach to helping companies stay ahead of cyberattacks. It developed an electronic crowdsourcing platform that allows both its customers and even “a trusted alliance of elite hackers'' to act as a collective brain trust to help stop evolving cyber threats before they occur.

Bugcrowd’s Forge Price™ as of April 4, 2024 was $2.61.

ElevenLabs, a voice cloning AI firm

In January, ElevenLabs, a generative AI company that employs voice-cloning, announced that it had raised $80 million in a Series B round, “leading the company to unicorn status.”

Though ElevenLabs hasn’t disclosed a specific valuation, Reuters reported that a well- placed source said that the New York-based company, which was founded in 2022, was valued at $1.1 billion. The company is backed by a number of well-known venture capitalists including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, SV Angel and Broadlight Capital.

Mews, A hotel management software company

In early March, Mews took to its website to announce that its latest funding round effectively turned the company into a unicorn. “With a whopping $110 million in fresh funding, our valuation now stands at an impressive $1.2 billion,” the company wrote.

According to Fortune, the latest funding round was backed by a number of institutions including Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Notion Capital, and LGVP. Mews’ software is designed to simplify many operations for modern hoteliers and their guests, including room booking and check-out and revenue management.

Mews is headquartered in Prague with offices located throughout the world.

About the Author

John Kimelman is a veteran journalist who has worked at Barron’s and CNBC covering such topics as investing and commercial banking. Mr. Kimelman has received compensation from Forge Global, Inc. for authoring this article. Read more from John.

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