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Even for hot start-ups, billion dollar paydays are rare

Tech start-ups may be attracting more money than ever, but that doesn't mean a billion dollar payday is easy to come by.

Of all start-ups that were sold or went public in 2013, only about 1 percent garnered a billion dollars or more, according to CB Insight's Global Tech Exit Report. That amounts to only 19 of the 1,824 private tech companies that went public or were acquired last year.

(Read more: VC funding for mobile companies hit $1 billion for first time in 2013)

Most went for less than $200 million, and a little less than half were under $50 million.

Megadeals the size of Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp for up to $19 billion are rare. In fact, that deal is equivalent in size to 250 tech exits that occurred in 2013, according to the report.

In other words, the social networking giant could have purchased 78 percent of all companies that disclosed M&A exit valuations last year for the same price it paid for the mobile messaging app.

Still, 2013 was pretty big for tech deals worldwide, with 1,761 companies getting acquired and 64 going public.

Most activity occurred in the last two quarters, with 46 percent more private tech mergers and acquisitions and 63 percent more IPOs than in the first half of the year. In the fourth quarter alone, there was 534 M&A deals and 23 IPOs.

Who was buying all these companies? Yahoo—which purchased companies like Tumblr, Rockmelt and Bread—was the top tech acquirer in 2013, followed by Apple, IBM and Facebook.

Venture-backed tech companies accounted for 432 acquisitions and 39 IPOs. Internet and mobile-based software companies accounted for most of the venture backed tech exits, making up three of every four venture-backed tech exits in 2013.

The VC firm SV Angel led investors with the most M&A or IPO exits in 2013, followed by Accel Partners and Lightspeed.

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.

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