Investing in a fledgling startup is a gutsy endeavor, but as everyone in the world of venture capital knows, big risks often beget big returns. This week, Quartz looked at VC firms that took the gamble and discovered unicorns, companies valued at more than $1 billion.

Quartz pinpointed several early investors, using 2000 to 2015 data from research firm Pitchbook. At the top of the list was Menlo Park, California's Sequoia Capital, with 17 early-stage investments in companies like LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Airbnb. SV Angel followed with nine and First Round Capital with eight.

Because Sequoia has made many early stage investments, it has a 5.5 percent success rate. In other words, out of the 307 investments Sequoia has made since the year 2000, 17 became unicorns.

That's above average, since most of the firms investing in baby unicorns have a success rate of less than 3 percent, according to Pitchbook. But one company is doing better: Union Square Ventures.

Since 2000, the New York City-based firm has invested in 62 companies, and five of them have become valued at more than $1 billion, including Etsy, Twitter, and Zynga. That means Union Square actually has the highest unicorn-spotting success rate, a mighty 8 percent.

For entrepreneurs seeking venture capital, let this be a lesson: More is not necessarily better. And when it comes to prospecting unicorns, it pays to be picky.

Corrections and Amplifications: An earlier version of this post did not include companies that went public with a valuation of $1 billion or more.

 

Published on: Jun 23, 2015