Number of unicorns in US reaches new high, report says

A record 147 private American companies are valued at $1 billion or more, according to a report that comes ahead of an expected spate of tech IPOs.

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Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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A record number of US companies have been valued at $1 billion or more.

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A record number of US companies reached valuations of at least $1 billion, the level at which private companies attain unicorn status. 

A total of 147 companies were deemed unicorns, named after the mythical creature because of their rarity, in the first quarter of 2019, according to a MoneyTree report from PwC and industry watcher CB Insights released on Tuesday. Ten new companies entered the list of firms with valuations of a $1 billion or more, according to the report, including mattress startup Casper and cosmetics company Glossier.

Unicorns reached a combined value of $582 billion in the first quarter, the highest aggregate value ever recorded. 

The growing population of unicorns comes as a wave of tech companies are expected to go public. Expected IPOs include Airbnb, Uber and Slack. Pinterest filed to go public earlier this year. Lyft, a ride-sharing company, went public last month.

The flood of IPOs could usher in the next batch of Bay Area millionaires

The report found that IPO activity dipped in the first quarter. Fifteen companies had IPOs in the first quarter, compared to 16 companies in the fourth quarter of 2018. Still, IPO activity increased year-over-year, as 13 companies had IPOs in the first quarter of 2018.

The report also found that private companies were going public earlier in their lifecycle with an average age of five years at IPO in the first quarter, down from eight years in the fourth quarter. 

US venture capital funding rose from $22.8 billion in the first quarter of 2018 to $24.6 billion in the first quarter of 2019. Global funding rose from $49.4 billion in first quarter of 2018 to $52.2 billion in first quarter of 2019.

"Investors are shifting away from the earliest and riskiest bets with US seed-stage deal share declining to 24% of all deals, versus 30% just a year ago," said Anand Sanwal, CEO and co-founder of CB Insights.

The five most highly valued US unicorns are Uber, WeWork, Juul Labs, Airbnb and fintech company Stripe.