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The difficulties with breeding unicorns.

Breeding unicorns in Europe

It’s not easy to breed unicorns. For the first time in over five years, the aggregate value of European unicorns has fallen as the number of €1 billion-plus startup companies stagnates, financial data company PitchBook reports. Most of the world’s unicorns last year were active in the software industry. Over 760 unicorns were active in this industry. In comparison, there were 335 unicorns operating in the financial services sector, according to market research firm Statista.

“In recent years, as the European venture market has matured, the number of unicorns has significantly increased. But continued pressure on valuations with current market conditions has caused that trend to reverse”, PitchBook says.

The aggregate post-valuation of all of the continent’s €1 billion-plus companies is €471.2 billion, down 0.3% from last year’s €472.7 billion, according to PitchBook.

“The decline doesn’t seem like much, but it marks a notable shift in investor sentiment toward highly valued startups. In each of the last five years, the aggregate value has risen by at least 50%—and in some years, by over 100%.”

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The company says the decline is partly due to that the number of unicorns in Europe has remained flat at 128 both this year and last—the first time since 2012 that there hasn’t been an annual increase. 

“With fewer unicorns being minted and others exiting or losing their status, the cumulative value of these companies is dropping. In addition, the average unicorn valuation has also marginally decreased.” 

“Looking forward, it is expected that dealmaking among Europe’s €1 billion companies will continue to be sluggish and unicorn creation will be slower than in preceding years. The cumulative valuation of these companies is unlikely to show the same levels of growth previously seen and may continue to contract”, the company forecasts. says that since first named “the one-horned equine of lore around the 1200s, the word unicorn has gone on to name “a person or thing that is rare and highly valued,” whether that’s a billion-dollar startup—or that special someone in your life.”

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