When is a unicorn not a unicorn? US algorithm pegs two Aussie startups for $1 billion status… but we’ve already crowned them


SafetyCulture founder and chief Luke Anear. Source: supplied.

Two Aussie startups have been named on the CB Insights ‘Future Unicorns’ list. But, that’s kind of awkward, because on their home ground, we’ve already crowned them both.

Culture Amp and SafetyCulture have each been tipped by the CB Insights Mosaic algorithm to eventually secure a valuation of more than US$1 billion. But we work in Aussie dollars.

With its $120 raise in September last year, Culture Amp secured a valuation of AUD$1.04 billion (a mere US$721 million), leading chief Didier Elzinga to coin the phrase ‘larrikin unicorn’.

In April, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, SafetyCulture also raised $60 million, reaching the valuation of $1.3 billion, or US$887 million.

Both fall just slightly short of the billion-dollar mark in US currency. So, while they’ve earnt their rainbow stripes Down Under, they’re still merely future unicorns in the States.

The future unicorns list has been running since 2015, previously in partnership with The New York Times, and now with Fast Company. Of the 50 startups on the first list, 26 are now certified unicorns.

In the 2019 list, released in February last year, the algorithm pegged Aussie startups Deputy and Airwallex as unicorns in the making.

Just a month later, Airwallex announced a $141 million series C raise, making the prediction come true. And in April this year, it bagged another $250 million, pushing its valuation to a massive $2.85 billion.

In fact, the algorithm’s list last year was especially accurate. About a third, 34%, of startups pegged for success in 2019 have since reached unicorn status.

Whether or not that fate lies in the near future for Culture Amp and SafetyCulture is another question.

Earlier this month Culture Amp laid off 8% of its workforce, as the COVID-19 crisis caused a slowdown in growth.

“For us, it was about what’s the right thing to do to set us up no matter which way the market goes, no matter which way the economy goes,” Elzinga told SmartCompany at the time.

“It’s really just recognising that we’re not going to get to the 500-odd people we otherwise would have got to this year, so it doesn’t make sense to hold on where we are now.”

SafetyCulture, on the other hand, is proving resilient. While co-founder and chief Luke Anear planned his latest raise to give early employees a chance to cash out on vested equity, that only accounted for about half the cash.

At the same time, the business is focused entirely around safety in the workplace, so one could well assume demand will be picking up as companies get back to work post-pandemic.

SafetyCulture is one of only two startups on the list in the ‘safety’ industry, while Culture Amp is one of three in the HR tech sector.

Some 30% of startups are in the enterprise and big data space, and 20% are in fintech.

The majority of the 50 future unicorns ⁠— 35, or 70% ⁠— are based in the US. Of the 35, 24 are based in California, and nine are based in New York. The other two are in Utah and Illinois.

The UK and Germany each have three startups on the list.

NOW READ: A unicorn a year: More than 50 Australian startups founded since 2011 are valued over $100 million

NOW READ: Secrets of unicorns: What do the world’s billion-dollar startups look like?


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