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Stumbling Unicorns

TL;DR: Markets are a mess, and some public tech companies you know and love are at risk of becoming non-icorns.

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Have you heard about the stock market? It is not doing what it did for the past few years. It’s going down, and that’s causing panic and confusion among nearly everyone.

The rough take you can read all over Twitter is you shouldn’t worry too much—companies that are healthy will remain healthy. That was always true. What seems to be different now is the impact of falling markets on companies that are a bit less salubrious.

Two quick things:

  1. The massive decline in the value of certain public technology stocks will have an impact on private valuations. [Editor’s note: More on this from Mattermark this week.]
  2. Shares in some public tech stocks are under such pressure that they are at risk of falling below the $1 billion mark, making them, for lack of a better term, non-icorns.

I hate the term non-icorns. If you have a better idea for what we should call companies that fall under the $1 billion mark, either public or private, there is a tall, frosty beer pre-charged to my personal credit card with your name on it. Submissions via email or Twitter, please.

So, who is at risk? Some recent offerings and some less recent offerings. With a complete lack of schadenfreude, let’s go:


  • Current value: $1.12 billion
  • Today’s change: -11.77 percent


  • Current value: $1.21 billion.
  • Today’s change: -11.27 percent


  • Current value: $1.42 billion
  • Today’s change: -5.71 percent


  • Current value: $1.68 billion
  • Today’s change: -8.05 percent


  • Current value: $1.95 billion
  • Today’s change: -8.55 percent

This list is not exhaustive. What counts as a tech company remains a parlor game, so you can set boundaries as you wish. The data indicates strong downward pressure on technology shares of companies a bit over the billion dollar mark.

If that feels arbitrary, it essentially is. The billion dollar mark makes about as much sense as the $1.1 billion mark or the $900 million mark. But humans like round figures, and we have decided as an industry that the billion-dollar threshold matters. Given that we judge so many private companies by this metric, to see public companies potentially fall below it is notable.

Smaller Falls

While many companies slip towards the billion dollar threshold, another set of tech companies that went public in the last few years are also having a rough go of it. You can call them the smaller IPOs, if you want. Castlight Health was valued in the billions after its first day. Mobileiron and Apigee were worth hundreds of millions. Each is now far underwater from earlier valuations.

The following is to underscore it isn’t just what we might call mid-cap public tech companies that are struggling. The pain goes down a bit further:


  • IPO: April, 2015
  • First day value: $16.68 per share
  • Current value: $5.99 per share


  • IPO date: June, 2014
  • First day value: $11.02 per share
  • Current value: $3.60 per share

Castlight Health

  • IPO date: March, 2014
  • First day value: $38.85 per share
  • Current value: $3.11 per share

None of this is to say that the value of your favorite unicorn is out of touch with reality. But the above metrics demand a second consideration of the multiples that we are seeing in the private markets. If a market analog exists, and trades at a far lower multiple to a firm you know, that’s a data point worth considering.

The stock market will fluctuate. And that’s just fine. But the broad selloff we have seen over the past few days is of a different scale than we have seen recently. It’s too soon to determine the full impact of the shift, but it feels safe to say that changes are coming. Good luck.

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Featured Image via Flickr user Sami Keinänen under CC BY-SA 2.0. Image has been cropped.
© Mattermark 2024. Sources: Mattermark Research, Crunchbase, AngelList.