The UK’s Top 17 Unicorns (Billion Dollar Startups)

The term unicorn is generally associated with the horned mythical creature; however, it has now become a term to describe a billion dollar tech startup, so named because the company has achieved something extremely difficult and rare.

For once Britain appears to be leading the way in something and has more unicorns than any other country in Europe: 17! You can find out more about Britain’s 17 unicorns below:

1. Shazam

This music recognition app has been around since 2002 but has only recently entered the unicorn club after receiving a $30 million investment from DN Capital at the start of 2015. The Shazam app has proved extremely popular since its launch and has been downloaded over 500 million times, and has achieved over 100 million monthly users (active!)

2. Farfetch

This luxury fashion retailer was launched in 2008 and enables its users to purchase from over 300 independent luxury boutique stores that are located all over the world. It recently joined the unicorn club in March 2015, having received an investment of $86 million in an investment round featuring DST Global, Conde Nast and Vitruvian Partners. Farfetch’s total funding has now reached $195 million.

3. ASOS

Many people will be familiar with ASOS; an online fashion retailer for it has now been around for fifteen years. Founded by Nick Robertson and Quentin Griffiths, ASOS trades on the London Stock Exchange at over $1 billion and has been part of the unicorn club for a number of years. The popular online store stocks approximately 1,000 brands in addition to selling its own brand of clothing and fashion accessories to its huge audience base. 

4. FanDuel

FanDuel was launched in 2009 as a rebranding exercise of Hubdub (a web prediction market). It is an Edinburgh and New York-based fantasy sports league website, which entered the unicorn club in July of this year when it received a $1 billion valuation after raising $275 million from Google Capital, Time Warner and KKR. The site has an extremely large audience base, the majority of who contribute to its 600,000 line entries every week.

5. Funding Circle

Founded five years ago by Samir Desai, James Meekings and Andrew Mullinger, Funding Circle was one of the first alternative lending platforms in the UK and enables individuals to lend to small businesses. The company has raised an incredible $273 million in equity funding from a number of investors, including Ribbit Capital, Union Square Ventures, Accel Partners and Index Ventures, and has since been valued at over $1 billion.

6. Powa Technologies

Founded in 2007 by Dan Wagner, a serial entrepreneur, Powa Technologies is an international e-commerce specialist which provides solutions for mobile device payments, as well as online retail. The company received a lot of publicity in 2014, where it was claimed that it had achieved the largest Series A investment ever received by a UK startup, a sum of $96.7 million. It entered the unicorn club following its valuation in 2014 of $2.7 billion.

7. Wonga

This money lending company was launched in 2007 by Errol Damelin and has since become the top payday lender in the UK. Recent controversies and negative press have led to a complete U-turn on its advertising and marketing strategies but despite the negativity, the company has been valued at over $1.4 billion and is therefore a clear member of the unicorn club.

8. JUST EAT

A popular takeaway order and delivery company, JUST EAT was launched in 2001 and has now become a UK market leader in the online food ordering industry. The company has a database of over 36,000 restaurants and manages nearly six million users across thirteen countries. Last year the company debuted on the London Stock Exchange and was valued at over $2.44 billion, ensuring that it stormed its way into the unicorn club.

9. Zoopla Property Group

This property platform was launched by Simon Kain and Alex Chesterman (LOVEFiLM co-founder) in 2008. The company offers its millions of users in-depth residential property information and free instant value estimates on UK homes. Last year saw the company receive over 40 million visits a month and achieve revenues exceeding £64 million. The company has certainly made an impact in its industry, having acquired all, bar one (Rightmove), of its direct competitors. In 2014 the company received a valuation on the London Stock Exchange of over $1.56 billion.

10. Markit

Lance Uggla founded Markit in 2003 with the aim of offering a range of financial services to banks and other finance institutions, i.e. providing currency, loan and derivatives data. The company has expanded successfully; acquiring a number of financial services along the way, such as DealHub (a foreign exchange trading service) and now operates in 21 offices across the world. When valued at the NASDAQ Global Select Market, London-based Markit reached over $1.5 billion.

11. PokerStars

Founded in 2001 by Isai Scheinberg and Mark Scheinberg, it has been lauded that the Isle of Man-based PokerStars is the ‘largest online poker cardroom in the world’. The site is extremely well-known amongst celebrity circles, boasting players such as the tennis stars Boris Becker and Rafael Nadal, and also has over 25,000 players each day. In 2014 the company was acquired by its rival, the Amaya Gaming Group for $4.9 billion.

12. AO.com

Founded in 2000 by John Roberts, Bolton-based AO.com is a retail site that specialises in providing a same day delivery service on all its goods (household appliances). In 2014, AO.com announced its revenue figures of over £384 million, and its valuation of $1 billion on the London Stock Exchange.

13. Rightmove

This property portal was launched in 2000 with the aim of giving home hunters in the UK a one stop shop to find rental properties or properties for sale. The company claims to be the UK’s largest online real estate portal and was first listed on the London Stock Exchange for £425 million in 2006. However, the company is now firmly within the unicorn club with a valuation of over $4.1 billion.

14. Skrill

Daniel Klein and Benjamin Kullerman founded London-based Skrill in 2001 with the aim to provide its users with the ability to send and receive money across the globe. The service is available in 200 countries and in 40 currencies. With over 36 million users, it comes as no surprise that Skrill has joined the unicorn club, something that was actually determined by the reverse takeover by Optimal Payments a month or so ago for $1.1 billion.

15. Blippar

Blippar is one of the youngest unicorns on this list, having been founded in 2011 by Ambarish Mitra, Omar Tayeb and Steve Spencer. Blippar is an image-recognition platform and visual browser, which essentially enables its users to take a picture of anything, and then receive a vast collection of search results related to the photo. This innovative startup recently received a £1.5 million investment from Barclays and joined the unicorn club in March this year following Qualcomm Ventures and Lansdowne Partners’ equity investment of $45 million.

16. Skyscanner

This global search engine was founded by Gareth Williams, Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes in 2001 and enables its users to search for the best deal regarding flights, hotels and the hiring of vehicles. The company became Scotland’s first $1 billion internet company following Scottish Equity Partners and Sequoia’s (a US investor) investment in 2014.

17. TransferWise

Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann founded TransferWise in 2011 to help reduce the cost of international money transfers. The company does this by eliminating all the hidden fees that are so common with the more traditional services offered on the high street. The company has seen some high profile investments, such as from Seedcamp, Sir Richard Branson and IA Ventures to name but a few. The company entered into the unicorn club in January of this year following a Series C investment of $58 million by Andreessen Horowitz.