Where have the UK tech ‘unicorns’ disappeared to?


Last year, only six UK companies achieved unicorn status, meaning they were valued at over $1 billion. While this brings prestige to a start-up, there are downsides. Quantexa, a London-based tech company that uses AI to interpret data for financial firms, became a unicorn in 2023 with a valuation of £1.42 billion. Vishal Marria, the founder of Quantexa, compares the pressure of running a unicorn company to a football player moving clubs for a record-breaking fee. The number of UK unicorns has decreased due to reduced financing from venture capital firms. The UK leads Europe in unicorn formation, with Germany only creating four in 2023. Rising interest rates have made it more difficult for VC firms to finance start-ups, leading to lower valuations. Demand for technology products has also decreased since the pandemic. UK investors are not well-equipped to invest in later funding rounds due to a lack of capital and expertise, especially in “deep tech” companies. This has led some companies to move abroad for funding. However, the UK remains attractive for founders and talent due to its universities and strong financial services sector. The cultural difference between the UK and the US is seen as a barrier to growth, with UK investors being more risk-averse and less ambitious. Founders can boost their chances of success by having a clear vision, ensuring their technology solves a real problem, and being agile in overcoming challenges.

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