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Unicorns that don't need buzzy apps to earn their billions

Unicorn disruptors

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Unicorns keeping things real

Car app Uber's next round of funding will reportedly value it at $50 billion, putting it ahead of Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi's $45 billion.

The big difference between the two companies: one actually makes something—a product that you can hold in your hand—while the other uses an app to piggyback on an existing infrastructure. Which raises a question: How many startups valued at more than $1 billion, the so-called unicorns, make real things? As Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, famously said, "We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters."

The dividing line between making things and making billions from technology isn't clear-cut. Warby Parker makes eyeglasses and Blue Apron makes meal-kits—two staples of day-to-day living—and both just notched $1 billion-plus valuations. But they wouldn't exist without e-commerce platforms—tech first and manufacturer second.

So here is a list of 11 unicorns, based on CB Insights data, that get less press than the billion-dollar apps, but build real things and don't need e-commerce to earn their billion-dollar valuations.

—By Eric Rosenbaum
Posted 13 May 2015

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