15 Unicorn Companies in San Francisco Leading the Startup Race

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Feb. 26, 2020
15 Unicorn Companies in San Francisco Leading the Startup Race

2019 was a great year to be a San Francisco startup. Some of the city’s youngest tech competitors became unicorns last year after entering massive funding rounds, with some of the most notable newbies being AI software startup Scale and men’s health brand hims. As the home of successful startups like Airbnb and Uber, San Francisco has long been at the heart of the unicorn races. And the City by the Bay continues to pull in the majority of California’s venture capital funding, with investors like Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz leading astronomical rounds year after year. 

Each year, a new class of unicorns boasts familiar San Francisco faces, hailing from industries like fintech, ecommerce, AI and healthtech. And despite the city’s skyrocketing housing prices and overpriced lunches, startups keep moving in, with the hopes of snagging their own billion-dollar status. Last year alone witnessed the birth of 78 new unicorns, surpassing 2018’s graduating class and setting precedence for the years to come. Taking a look at these 15 San Francisco unicorns companies from the past few years, it’s clear that the City by the Bay has enough venture capital to go around, as well as some insanely promising startups.

Unicorn Companies in San Francisco To Know

  • Calm
  • Chime
  • DoorDash
  • Grove Collaborative
  • hims
  • Instacart
  • KeepTruckin

 

Chime unicorn companies San Francisco
Chime

Value: $1.3 billion

What they do: Established by Chris Britt and Ryan King in 2013, Chime is a U.S. challenger bank, which helps its members avoid bank fees, save money automatically and lead healthier financial lives. Unlike big banks, they don’t charge fees, they provide paychecks two days early and help grow savings automatically. The Chime app, which is available for iPhone and Android devices, allows people to stay updated on their spending and account balance. Chime entered its unicorn round in March 2019 after raising $200 million in funding in a round led by DST Global. 

 

Calm unicorn companies San Francisco
Calm

Value: $1 billion

What they do: Global health and wellness brand Calm has created an app for sleep, meditation and relaxation, which was named Apple’s 2017 iPhone App of the Year. With over 60 million downloads since its release, the app provides music and audible stories for meditation and sleep, as well as video lessons for mindful movement, audio programs by mindfulness experts, and nature scenes to facilitate relaxing, working, or studying. Calm became a unicorn in February 2019 after raising $115 million of Series B venture funding. 

 

hims unicorn companies San Francisco
hims

Value: $1.1 billion

What they do: Launched in 2017, hims is an e-commerce wellness brand that aims to eliminate stigmas and make it easier for men to access care and treatment for the conditions that impact their daily lives. Their telemedicine approach allows customers to be diagnosed and treated at a lower cost and with greater convenience. The company is committed to creating an open culture of care that is accessible for everyone, enabling customers to purchase products online from the comfort of their home and have them shipped directly to their door. The men’s health brand became a unicorn in January 2019 after raising $297 million of Series C venture funding. 

 

Flexport unicorn companies San Francisco
Flexport

Value: $3.2 billion

What they do: Founded in 2013, Flexport aims to reinvent the freight forwarding process through the use of advanced technology, data analytics, logistics infrastructure and supply chain expertise. Serving more than 10,000 companies in over 100 countries, the company offers a purpose-built cloud software and data analytics platform. The platform is used for a variety of services including truck and rail freight, warehousing, customs and compliance, financing, and insurance. Flexport provides businesses with deep visibility and control from origin to destination, fast and reliable transit times, and predictable supply chain costs. Founder Ryan Petersen brought his Y Combinator alumnus to unicorn status in February 2019 after six rounds of funding.   

 

Instacart unicorn companies San Francisco
Instacart

Value: $7.6 billion

What they do: Founded by Apoorva Mehta, Brandon Leonardo and Max Mullen in 2012, Instacart offers same-day delivery and pickup services. The company is dedicated to delivering fresh groceries and everyday essentials to busy people and families across North America in as little as an hour. Partnering with more than 350 national, regional and local retailers, the company delivers from nearly 25,000 stores across more than 5,000 cities. The delivery service became a unicorn in 2018 after a $600 million funding round led by D1 Capital. 

 

Wish unicorn companies San Francisco
Wish

Value: $11.2 billion

What they do: Launched in 2011 by Danny Zhang and Peter Szulczewski, Wish is an e-commerce platform connecting hundreds of millions of consumers with a wide selection of products delivered directly to their doors. Supporting 500,000 merchant partners and 300 million users, the company is dedicated to providing access to the most affordable and convenient shopping experience possible. Leveraging a global network of direct suppliers, Wish sells nearly one billion products annually. The e-commerce competitor became a unicorn several years ago, and has since then garnered $1.6 billion in total funding. 

 

The RealReal unicorn companies San Francisco
The RealReal

Value: $1 billion

What they do: The RealReal is the world’s largest online marketplace for authenticated, consigned luxury goods. With a team of more than 100 gemologists, horologists and brand authenticators, the company offers a safe and reliable platform for consumers to buy and sell luxury items. In addition to having two storefronts in LA and NYC, the company provides free in-home pickup, drop-off services, and direct shipping for individual consignors and estates. In March of 2019, The RealReal raised $50 million in funding to earn its unicorn stripes, just a few months before CEO Julie Wainwright took the company public in a $300 million IPO. 

 

Grove Collaborative unicorn companies San Francisco
Grove Collaborative

Value: $1 billion

What they do: Founded by Chris Clark, Jordan Savage and Stuart Landesberg in 2012, Grove Collaborative delivers healthy, sustainable home essentials to customers’ doorsteps. The company enables customers to choose the products they want, offering customizable refill shipments and timely reminders. Grove Collaborative is committed to prioritizing social, environmental and community well-being over everything else throughout the running of their business. In a funding round led by General Atlantic, Glynn Capital and Lone Pine Capital, the direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform raised $150 million and reached unicorn status. 

 

Scale unicorn companies San Francisco
Scale

Value: $1 billion

What they do: Established in 2016, Scale accelerates the development of AI applications by helping machine learning teams generate high-quality ground truth data. The company’s advanced LiDAR, image, video and NLP annotation APIs allow machine learning teams to focus on building differentiated models versus labeling data. Their APIs provide access to human-powered data for hundreds of use cases including self-driving cars, drones, robotics, AR and VR, and retail. With CEO Alexandr Wang at the helm, the AI software business joined the unicorn universe in August 2019, pulling in $100 million of Series C venture funding. 

 

KeepTruckin unicorn companies San Francisco
KeepTruckin

Value: $1.3 billion

What they do: Established in 2013, KeepTruckin is modernizing the trucking industry with its fleet management platform, which brings trucks online to change the way freight is moved on our roads. Their platform enables clients to protect their businesses and improve driver safety with intelligent video telematics, while real-time GPS tracking allows companies to track vehicles, trailers, and equipment to improve operations. Businesses can also streamline their workflow with TMS integrations, document capture and best-in-class reporting. CEO Shoaib Makani’s fleet management startup claimed its unicorn rank in April 2019 and has secured a total of $227.3 million in funding over six rounds. 

 

Turo unicorn companies San Francisco
Turo

Value: $1 billion

What they do: Founded in 2012, Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace, which allows people to book any car they want, wherever they want it, from a community of trusted hosts across North America, the U.K. and Germany. Customers have the chance to choose from a unique selection of nearby cars, and hosts earn extra money to reduce the costs of car ownership. The company screens every member of their community and provides 24/7 customer support, roadside assistance, insurance plans, and 24-hour free cancellation. Turo climbed the unicorn ranks in July 2019 upon raising $250 million of Series E venture funding from IAC. 

 

DoorDash unicorn companies San Francisco
DoorDash

Value: $12.6 billion

What they do: Serving consumers in over 4,000 cities and all 50 states, DoorDash empowers merchants to grow their businesses by offering on-demand delivery. Through data-driven insights and greater in-store efficiency, the company is building the last-mile delivery infrastructure for local cities, thus bringing communities closer. Under the leadership of co-founder Tony Xu, DoorDash entered the unicorn race back in 2018 and has since raised $2.1 billion in funding over 11 rounds. 

 

Carta unicorn companies San Francisco
Carta

Value: $1.7 billion

What they do: Carta is committed to helping private and public companies, investors, and employees manage equity and ownership. The company converges private and public markets, while mapping and connecting the global ownership network. Their platform provides clients with everything they need to manage equity including cap table management, 409A valuations, electronic securities, scenario modeling and fund administration. Carta earned its unicorn status in April 2019 when CEO Henry Ward raised $300 million in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. 

 

Checkr unicorn companies San Francisco
Checkr

Value: $2.2 billion

What they do: Checkr is committed to building a fairer future by making the hiring process more efficient through its custom platform. The company offers advanced background check technology so that companies of all sizes can better understand the dynamics of the changing workforce, bring transparency and fairness to their hiring, and build a better future for workers. Their platform helps companies increase operational efficiency, mitigate risk, improve candidate experience and conversion, and expand their candidate pool. Checkr raised $160 million in 2019 from a funding round led by T. Rowe Price, joining the unicorn race. 

 

Sonder unicorn companies San Francisco
Sonder

Value: $1 billion

What they do: Sonder emerged as an Airbnb competitor in 2012, offering spaces built for travel and life in cities across North America and Europe. The company purposefully selects, designs and maintains its properties, customizing each one to reflect the vibe of its neighborhood. From studios to six-bedroom apartments, Sonder’s properties are designed to feel like home, outfitted with comfortable beds, luxury linens, 24/7 assistance, and other amenities and essentials. The hospitality tech company won a unicorn round in July 2019 after raising $225 million of Series D venture funding. 

 

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock and social media.

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