Where Are Unicorns Founded & Where Do They Move To?

Farshad Fahimi
on August 10, 2022

As discussed in the  GSER 2022, today there are more unicorns in more global ecosystems than ever before. A record 540 companies achieved unicorn status in 2021, with 113 ecosystems producing at least one $1 billion+ behemoth. But where do these unicorns start out and where do they end up?

North America Attracts International Unicorns

We examined the founding location and current headquarters of unicorns that were founded prior to the end of 2021. Of all global unicorns, 4.1% moved their headquarters to a different ecosystem than the one they were founded in. Of the ones that moved, most relocated to the United States (72%) — 25% of the unicorns that moved went to Silicon Valley and 29% to New York. Additionally, 27% of the companies that moved were U.S.-founded unicorns that took their headquarters elsewhere within the country. 

Israel has a strong startup scene, with Tel Aviv consistently ranking high in the GSER. Yet Israel produced the second-highest number of unicorns that relocated — 12% of the global unicorns that moved were from Israel. India is the next highest, with 8% of the unicorns that moved coming from the nation, followed by China at 5%, and Canada and Portugal both producing 3% of the global unicorns that moved.

What Draws Unicorns to Silicon Valley and New York?

Startup founders often move in search of better investment opportunities and access to talent and knowledge. Well-established ecosystems in the integration phase of the startup ecosystem lifecycle, such as Silicon Valley and New York, feature strong networks of entrepreneurially minded people and can offer a well-connected local community. Local Connectedness is strongly associated with higher startup performance, and as such is one of the factors we consider in our ranking methodology

Ecosystems in the integration phase are globally connected and feature a flow of knowledge that keeps startups integrated. They are able to produce leading-edge business models and achieve high global market reach — all appealing factors for founders looking to succeed and scale.

Want to know more about what factors drive startup success? Take a look at Startup Density as a Measure for Connectedness

This blog post was updated on September 20, 2022.

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