Fascinating data in this post from Eric Paley at Founder Collective.
According to the accepted wisdom, the 'new normal' in the last few years has been for billion-dollar companies to raise more and stay private longer. This is the argument that has been advanced by Scott Kupor at A16Z amongst others.
This research casts a different light on the topic and raises an interesting question about cause and effect. Of the 20 most successful publicly traded tech companies in the past 5 years, 14 raised $125m or less and 6 raised less than $50m. One raised no VC at all. In comparison, the median privately funded 'unicorn' has raised $284m.
Raising a huge sum of money is a requirement to join the unicorn herd, but a close look at the best outcomes in the technology industry suggests that a well-stocked war chest doesn’t have correlation with success. Of the 20 most successful publicly-traded startups over the past five years (measured by current market cap), 14 raised in the neighborhood of $100M or less. Six raised less than $50M. One raised no capital at all. These are shockingly small amounts of money when you consider the median privately-funded unicorn has raised $284 million dollars.