The startup clock is ticking: You must raise a Series A within 2 years to be a Unicorn
The following is a list of US based, name brand technology Unicorns* and the time between when a startup company launched it’s core product and when it closed a Series A or significant venture financing, post product launch.
Lyft: 3 Months
Uber: 7 Months
Slack**: 8 Months
Robinhood: 9 Months
Stripe: 11 Months
WeWork: 1 year
Pinterest: 1 year 2 Months
Snap: 1 Year 5 months
Dropbox: 1 year 5 Months
AirBnb: 1 year 7 months
Houzz: 1 year 9 months
Admittedly this is a really simplistic conjecture and my data analysis isn’t exactly rigorous. Unlike the Speed to Unicorn metric, I’m much more interested in the first major cliff for a startup: Launch to Series A. That’s where the most attrition and that speed to Series A is a better predictor of unicorn success than speed between A and the $1B valuation.
My gut tells me that if you aren’t being chased down by money within the first two years on the market, then you’ll never hit unicorn startup territory and IPO trajectory, no matter how great your company is.
I’d love to see someone do an in depth analysis to prove this hypothesis wrong.
*I excluded Palantir and SpaceX because they were heavily funded by their founders, and do not fall into the same category of Venture Backed Startups as the others, and excluded Magic Leap because they remain pre-launch.
**Slack was a hard pivot and had raised money previously for a different product, however their biggest raise was the one after pivoting to Slack