2017 is proving to be good so far for billion-dollar start-ups


After a difficult year for unicorns last year, 2017 is off to a pretty good start for some of the hottest names in this space.

Airbnb just closed a $1 billion funding round; WeWork is reportedly raising $3 billion and Uber partner and rival, Didi Chuxing, is said to be considering a new funding round. And then, of course, there was one of the largest unicorn exits in a long time — Snap's IPO.

But what about the rest? Using data from PitchBook, we looked at how the year is shaping up so far for startups.

Despite the headline-grabbing mega rounds from some of the hottest names, this quarter overall isn't looking a whole lot different than the beginning of last year — when venture capitalists began to pull back on investing.

In the first three months of 2016, 15% of all funding rounds were down rounds — that is, they valued the companies at less than than the previous round. This year so far, 13% of all financing have been down rounds. The number of total rounds raised, however, is significantly lower in 2017, with just 343 deals closed versus nearly 500 by this time last year.

The top deals in 2017 have been at Airbnb, online lender SoFi, grocery-delivery startup Instacart, and Uptake Technologies - a predictive analytics software company run by Groupon's founders.

Top Deals of 2017

Company Deal Size Valuation
Uptake Technologies$70M$2B

While there have only been two unicorn IPOs this year so far — Snap and MuleSoft — the pipeline may be warming.

Cloud service firm Okta is next, while meal kit startup Blue Apron and Buzzfeed are among the names being tossed around as potential IPO candidates later this year.

"The IPO market has opened up for issuance in 2017 for VC-backed unicorns and other fast growth companies," Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, said.

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She says that market conditions are "about as good as they could be" and, "we expect to see many other unicorn IPOs this year including Cloudera, Spotify, Dropbox, ForeScout and possibly Palantir."

As for the most active unicorn investors, Sequoia Capital is tied for number one with with New York City-based hedge fund Tiger Global Management and SV Angel, according to data from research firm CB Insights as of February 1.

But this year could see more non-traditional investors become more active. Chinese firms are now significant investors in US start-ups and government-owned investment vehicles in Saudi Arabia and Singapore are putting money in some of the biggest names like Uber.

Another big VC to watch: Softbank, with its massive $100 billion Vision Fund.

Watch: Is the IPO market heating up?

IPO market heating up?