Venture capitalism comes from an investor who offers money to start-up companies in exchange for an equity stake – much like you see on the ABC television show, Shark Tank. As a general rule, a venture capitalist (VC) invests after the new venture is up and running and looking for additional capital to further commercialize its product.
Once a privately held enterprise reaches a value of $1 billion, it is referred to as a “Unicorn.” This is because new start-ups that reach this level of success are so rare that they are considered comparable to the mythical creature. What is interesting these days is that the current labor market is so disruptive that we are seeing more start-ups, and this trend is expected to continue. At some point it becomes a numbers game – the more new start-ups established, the greater the likelihood of one achieving Unicorn-level success.
Ever since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has experienced a shortage of workers. It started with massive layoffs during the shutdown, but even though jobs returned, not all workers did. The lack of child and elder care forced many working moms and caretakers to leave their jobs. Today, the controversy over low wages not keeping pace with the cost of living has many people rethinking their career choices. It used to be that a position with a company with generous health insurance benefits was the very definition of a good job. Now, in the wake of the Great Resignation, it appears more workers are looking for a job that is fulfilling. In fact, because workers can now purchase affordable healthcare insurance on government exchanges, they are no longer tethered to a specific employer.
This combination of frustration and flexibility is empowering would-be entrepreneurs to go ahead and take the leap to start their own businesses. In 2021 alone, there has been a tremendous increase in new business filings. Furthermore, venture capitalists have been pouring money into these new ventures at a record pace, with more than $240 billion invested this year alone through September. The largest of these investors tend to be private equity firms, hedge funds, and corporations.
With more new start-ups, come more Unicorns. Historically, the number of new Unicorn businesses averaged about four per year in the United States. In 2021, however, more than 260 have reached $1 billion status. And the United States isn’t alone in experiencing this trend. Young adults in Japan also are leaving traditional corporate jobs to start their own businesses – and many of them are receiving financing from VCs and other institutional investors in the West.
In China, where TikTok was born and became a global phenomenon, there are presently more than 800 Unicorns. India is the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world, with more than 65 companies recently reaching Unicorn status.