Living as we are in an IPO drought, new data points about the financial health of unicorns are annoyingly scarce. Unicorns — private tech companies worth $1 billion or more — have become an asset class of their own. Crunchbase counts 1,386 global unicorns, pegging their value at $4.8 trillion. CB Insights counts 1,180 worth $3.8 billion. Regardless of which number you think is more accurate, it's clear that unexited unicorns represent one of the largest pools of paper wealth in the world.
A programming note: I am off next week. The excellent Anna Heim, who often helps write The Exchange and recently took over its weekend newsletter, will be filling in next week. She's the best! I'm back on the 22nd!
That said, there's a good chance that a portion of that illiquid value isn't real, in that if every unicorn had to raise capital today, a good number would not be able to defend their most recent private valuation. However, if we ranked the unicorn cohort by quality, the best companies — often also the most valuable — are actually not as overvalued as you might think.