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Billion-dollar exits finally exceed newly minted Unicorns

Twilio Inc. founder and CEO Jeff Lawson (C, in glasses) reacts after ringing the opening bell to celebrate Twilio's initial public offering, at the New York Stock Exchange, June 23, 2016 in New York City.
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Twilio Inc. founder and CEO Jeff Lawson (C, in glasses) reacts after ringing the opening bell to celebrate Twilio's initial public offering, at the New York Stock Exchange, June 23, 2016 in New York City.

Billion-dollar companies are at last proving their worth. Well, a few of them.

For the first time in six quarters, the number of venture-backed companies that went public or were acquired for at least $1 billion exceeded the number of start-ups that joined the billion-dollar club in the private market, according to CB Insights.

Twilio's initial public offering was the most notable deal in the second quarter given the dearth of tech IPOs this year. Four other VC-backed companies were purchased for 10-figure sums or sold a majority stake of that size, including self-driving start-up Cruise, which General Motors acquired for over $1 billion in May.

The data was published on Wednesday in CB Insights' first half global tech exits report.

While big tech exits are still hard to come by, they're at least happening. And at the same time the fundraising euphoria that dominated 2014 and much of 2015, lifting more than 150 companies into the once vaunted Unicorn club, has faded. In the second quarter, only four VC-backed companies joined the crew, down from 22 in the same period a year ago.

"Unicorn births have been on a downward trend since Q4'15, and reached a 6-quarter low in Q2'16," CB Insights said.