Next Wave of ‘Unicorn’ Start-Ups Looking Very Different

New York Times writer Erin Griffith reported earlier this week that, “Technology start-ups worth $1 billion, once as rare as unicorns, are now plentiful enough and old enough that there’s a new generation behind them — one that looks very different.

“Silicon Valley’s current crop of highly valued tech start-ups, which include now-household names like Uber and Airbnb, all benefited from the spread of smartphones and cheap cloud computing. Many of these companies built global empires by simply taking existing businesses — like taxis, food delivery and hotels — and making them mobile. Some of the start-ups became giants: Uber, for instance, may reach a $120 billion valuation this year.

“But as those companies have matured and prepare to go public, the easy opportunities for disrupting old-line industries are drying up. Now, many of the up-and-coming start-ups that may become the next unicorns have names like Benchling and Blend. And they largely focus on software for specific industries like farms, banks and life sciences companies.”

The Times article noted that, “Software start-ups may seem boring. But many of them are growing fast because industries like agriculture require more software tools as they adapt to the tech era, said Jason Green, an investor at Emergence, a venture capital firm that invests in cloud software companies.”

This week’s article also pointed out that, “Other fast-growing start-ups that fit this description include Farmers Business Network, which was founded in 2014 by Charles Baron, a former Google program manager, and Amol Deshpande, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist. The company charges farmers $700 a year to share and analyze data about their farms, buy supplies and sell crops. Mr. Baron said the start-up counts 7,700 farms as customers and has raised nearly $200 million in funding.

A company like Farmers Business Network wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago, before the proliferation of cloud computing and the ‘digitization’ of farming processes, Mr. Baron added. Now, farms produce a lot of data, which Farmers Business Network is helping them to process and use to make decisions.

‘Agriculture is going through a digital revolution,’ he said.”

The Times article added that, “CB Insights identified five companies in India, four in China, and three in Latin America as possible candidates to reach $1 billion in valuation. They ranged from CargoX, a Brazilian start-up using technology to make trucking companies more efficient, to Deputy, an Australian company that provides tools to businesses to manage their hourly workers.”

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