Unicorns are famous for their valuations. They could also be famous for their expensive pasturage. Unicorns unequivocally prefer higher profile, higher price places. There are more unicorns per capita in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Jose. In fact, only ten states have unicorn herds-and some of those are starters. Recently, my firm Valor Ventures took a look at where unicorn cluster in the United States and created a U.S. Unicorn Map. Here is a state-by-state ranking of these fields of dreams:

States with no unicorns:

80% of states have no unicorns.

States with one unicorn

The states that have a single startup with a billion or more in valuation are:

  • Arizona (NJOY, a hardware company)
  • Georgia (Kabbage, a commercial lending platform); and,
  • North Carolina (Redventures, a marketing solution firm).

States with 2 unicorns

  • Illinois (Avant and Mu Sigma)
  • Florida (Fanatic and Magic Leap)
  • District of Columbia (Living Social and Vox Media)

States with 4 unicorns

  • Massachusetts (DraftKings, Moderna Therapeutics, Actifio, and SimpliVity) and
  • Utah (PluralInsight, Domo, InsideSales and Qualtrics)

In both of these states, analysts point to engineering schools, plentiful education and a tech-forward mindset. In Massachusetts, MIT and other great schools form a cluster of engineering and education. In Utah, companies like eBay, EMC and Edwards Lifesciences are large employers that came in after legacy software company Novell, founded in Provo, set the stage.

States with more than 10 Unicorns

  • New York (14)
  • California (62)

Unicorns correlate with higher cost of living

California has four times the unicorn population of the next closet state, New York. Should New York care? Probably not. "It's the new vanity metric," explained Josh Kopelman, a Midas List investor and partner at First Round Capital. He's among the most successful VCs in the business as ranked by Forbes. He advises, "valuations are an outcome, not something you optimize."

The United States may have a single currency, but it spends differently in different areas. For example, according to the CNN cost of living calculator, a software executive making $100,000 in Atlanta would need to earn $167,000 if she moved to San Francisco, just to maintain the same quality of life. Those hungry, hayburning unicorns in California are all looking for mythic, mega-exits too. Wonder what kind of turf that takes?

Published on: Oct 23, 2015