0771 9439 229

Which are the UK Billion Dollar Business Start-up Unicorns?

15 Mar 19

It doesn’t sound much like a start-up when a privately owned company is valued at $1 billion or more but that’s what it takes to be branded a unicorn and apparently the UK has 13 of them. 

The 13 UK unicorns add up to “more than Germany (4), France (2), Switzerland (2) Sweden (1) and the Netherlands (1) put together. But the US boasts 114 unicorns and China has 70”. We take a look at the UK unicorns including which companies they are and what sectors they are in.


“Companies operating in the mobile and real estate sectors reach unicorn status the fastest, at an average of two and three years. Fitness, biotech, social, travel and cybersecurity companies reached a $1 billion valuation within an average of five years.”

The UK unicorns are: 

Improbable / / Funding Circle / Radius Payments Solutions / BrewDog / ACORN OakNorth / Farfetch / Oxford Nanopore Technologies / TransferWise / Deliveroo / BGL Group / The Hut Group / Global Switch.

(Quotes and data are from an article by Michael Somerville on based on research by Compare the Market Ltd)

The longest established unicorns are:

  • Radius Payments Solutions, est. 1990, unicorn status in 2017, Internet Software Services.
  • BLG Group, est. 1992, unicorn status in 2017, Fintec.
  • Global Switch, est. 1998, unicorn status in 2016, Computer Hardware & Services

The most rapid ascendance to unicorn status by a UK company was by ACORN OakNorth. They reached Unicorn status in 2017, just two years after being established. They are a fintech challenger bank and lending platform covering the UK, Europe and Asia. They use machine learning and leverage of third party data to acheive high level credit analysis competencies, targeting loans to the SME sector which is regarded as underserved. 

Global Switch has the highest valuation at $6.02bn. Global Switch say on their website that they are “the leading owner, operator and developer of large scale network dense, carrier and cloud neutral multi-tenanted data centres in Europe and Asia-Pacific”.

Six businesses: Improbable, Radius Payments Solutions, BrewDog, Deliveroo, BGL Group and The Hut Group all became Unicorns in 2017.

Out of the 13 UK unicorns only two: 

  • BrewDog, a Scotland-based independent craft brewery exporter
  • Oxford Nanopore Technologies, developer of a portable DNA analyser

and arguably Global Switch, are not directly linked to utilisation of the internet/software/ecommerce/information technology, underlining the success of UK independent companies in harnessing technology and their increasing importance to the economy.

Michael Somerville's report says "Companies tipped to become a unicorn in the next few years include Medopad, a UK healthcare company, which raised $28 million in Series A funding this year and digital bank Monzo and Perkbox are also expected to reach a $1 billion valuation soon".

Check whether you qualify for R&D tax relief/credits.


Are you ready to find out if you qualify or how much your R&D claims could be worth?


Contact Us Today

For more information or to contact us - call us on 0771 9439 229 - or send us a message


For more information on claiming R&D tax credits or our business advice and support services call us on 0771 9439 229

Or send us a message

PO Box 53448,
SE18 9DE


Our consultants are members of London Group Business Advisors and Home Counties Business Advisors.

Linda Eziquiel is a Fellow of the Institute for Independent Business and a Principal Consultant at RandDTax (specialists in Research and Development tax credits) – UK co. reg. no. 08160439.

web design by 1pcs