Photo Credit: Flash90
A stock market ticker screen in the lobby of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, in the center of Tel Aviv, March 15, 2020.

 Can a unicorn have two horns? When we’re talking about a company worth $2 billion, the answer is yes.

A privately held company worth $1 billion is known as a unicorn. A company can claim as many of those magic horns as its valuation warrants.

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Over the past couple of years, the number of unicorns based in Israel and led by Israelis abroad has grown exponentially, and that includes double, triple and quadruple unicorns.

Here’s an astounding fact: Israel has more unicorns per capita than any other country.

“Counting just the unicorns that have their main operations or headquarters in Israel, the count is 14,” said Yaron Samid, founder of the 3,000-member TechAviv global Israeli startup founders club and managing partner of TechAviv Founder Partners.

“With a population of just 8.9 million, that’s 1.58 unicorns per capita and makes Israel No. 1 in the world,” said Samid. “In second place is Singapore with 1.06 unicorns per capita and [in third is] the United States with 0.81 unicorns per capita.”

If you count all Israeli-founded unicorns, regardless of their HQ location, “the count is a staggering 41 unicorns roaming the planet,” he added.

Silicon Valley houses 12 Israeli-founded unicorns and New York is home to nine.

Note: These 41 do not include Israeli companies that had unicorn valuation when private but have since gone public—such as JFrog, Lemonade, Fiverr, Checkmarx and Waze.

Scale-up nation

Now, it’s true that some spectacular valuations turn out to have been exaggerated and then the bubble bursts. That happened last year with The We Company, founded by Israeli-born Adam Neumann.

Forbes called WeWork a “zombie unicorn” after its hyped-up IPO (at a $47 billion valuation) was dropped and investor Softbank handed Neumann a $1.7 billion golden parachute to cushion his fall from the nose-diving company—which is still a unicorn at a more modest $2.9 billion valuation.

However, Samid says the unicorn trend is for real. And it is a testament to the development of the “Startup Nation.”

“It is the maturing of the Israeli startup ecosystem and in particular its thousands of repeat founders and investors, who are now seasoned company builders,” he said.

“We have entered our ‘Scale-up nation’ era and top-tier global late-stage funds, multinational corporations and top talent globally have taken note.”

He points out that Q3 of 2020 saw the most VC dollars poured into Israeli startups ever ($2.74 billion) with the vast majority going to late-stage startups, while investments in seed-stage startups plunged by 47 percent.

“In the past, we just didn’t have that many late-stage growth companies to invest in; they were acquired before they could get big,” he said.

Samid had an uncomplicated answer when asked to identify common characteristics of Israeli unicorns.

“Exceptional, outlier founders,” he says. “This is what all great companies have in common.”

Questioning the status quo

Rob Israch, chief marketing officer of Israel’s newest double unicorn—payables automation pioneer Tipalti—adds more insights to Samid’s basic equation.

“There’s something about the approach to business of Israeli companies that lends itself to [success] because of the questioning of the status quo,” said Israch.

“Not just accepting business as it’s always been done in the past, Israelis take an analytical approach to business decision-making and utilizing resources.”

Recently, Tipalti raised $150 million at a valuation of more than $2 billion, bringing its coffers to $280 million. The 10-year-old B2B fintech company is based on an Israeli kibbutz and in San Mateo, California; a new office recently opened in Vancouver.

Israch explains that Tipalti cofounder Chen Amit was an experienced entrepreneur but not a fintech expert, giving him the advantage of looking at accounts-payables operations with outsider eyes.

Amit’s friend Oren Zeev, a serial entrepreneur, had invested in a company where a fifth of the time was spent on payables. He told Amit about his frustration with the process.

“Chen sat at his kitchen table in Israel and rethought the workflow of payables. To think of it as payments wouldn’t have disrupted the industry and Tipalti wouldn’t have become a unicorn,” said Israch.

Today, the company Amit and Zeev founded uses automation and AI to eliminate about 80 percent of the typical payables workload for its clients.

“In some sectors unicorns could be bubbles,” said Israch. “In the B2B space, it’s definitely not a bubble. The economy the way it is now will accelerate macrotrends already in flight—like automation and AI—to scale up, go global and free up employees to focus on non-data-entry jobs. That trend will hold.”

The Israeli unicorns

CB Insights lists 488 unicorns globally. With a reported valuation of $140 billion, China’s Bytedance is the most valuable unicorn in the world.

According to TechAviv, the most valuable Israeli-founded unicorn is IT management and security firm Tanium, worth $9 billion. Based in California, Tanium recently sold an additional $150 million in common stock.

The following 14 unicorns have their primary headquarters in Israel:

  1. Monday.com, valued at $2.7 billion, makes workplace collaboration and communication software used at 1,000 companies.
  2. Tipalti ($2 billion), as described above.
  3. Landa Digital Printing ($1.8 billion) developed the unique nanography technology for the commercial, packaging and publishing markets.
  4. Infinidat ($1.6 billion) specializes in petabyte data storage.
  5. AppsFlyer ($1.6 billion) offers a mobile ad attribution platform.
  6. Gett ($1.5 billion) on-demand mobility software has transformed ground transportation across Europe and North America.
  7. ironSource ($1.5 billion) develops technologies for app monetization and distribution, primarily for game developers.
  8. InSightec ($1.3 billion) developed a revolutionary incisionless surgery system based on soundwaves.
  9. Infi ($1.25 billion) enables human-machine interactions to have a personality dimension.
  10. Moon Active ($1.25 billion) is a mobile game startup with over 100 million downloads in more than 136 countries.
  11. OrCam ($1 billion) pioneered the MyEye artificial vision device, which discreetly reads printed and digital text aloud from any surface in real time.
  12. eToro ($1 billion) offers a social trading and investing platform.
  13. Lightricks ($1 billion) combines cutting-edge design, technology and research to innovate the way people create, consume and engage with content.
  14. Redis Labs ($1 billion) offers cloud-based services and products that are used by developers and enterprise customers for real-time analytics, high-volume transactions, in-app social functionality, application job management and caching.

Unicorns founded by Israelis and headquartered elsewhere include Tanium ($9 billion), Compass ($6.4 billion), Houzz ($4 billion), TripActions ($4 billion), Gusto ($3.8 billion), The We Company ($2.9 billion), Snyk ($2.6 billion), Via ($2.25 billion), Gong ($2.2 billion), Avant ($2 billion), Next Insurance ($2 billion), WalkMe ($1.8 billion), Payoneer ($1.5 billion), Hippo ($1.5 billion), Rapyd ($1.2 billion), VAST Data ($1.2 billion), TangoMe ($1.1 billion), Trax ($1.1 billion), SentinelOne ($1.1 billion), Taboola ($1 billion), Outbrain ($1 billion), Formlabs ($1 billion), Armis ($1 billion), Cybereason ($1 billion), Fundbox ($1 billion), Riskified ($1 billion) and Sisense ($1 billion).

Altogether, the 41 Israeli-founded unicorns have raised $39,782,831,440, according to TechAviv.

This article was first published by Israel21c.

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Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.