Investments

In Unicornland, Prosper Seeks Survival, And Some Green (Investment Shoots) Emerge

Unicorns tapping creative tech

Online lending is not a happy place at the moment, and at least one VC firm is gathering dry tinder in prep for creating, perhaps, a batch of future unicorns. Plus, what might lie beyond the pond?

This week, the Unicorn Tracker’s biggest valuation headline was the $180 million raised by Snapchat, which, according to news reports, took its valuation to over $20 billion. It was noted by some sell-side houses on Wall Street that Snapchat has hit the 110 million-user mark in faster turnaround time than was seen with firms such as Facebook and Twitter. The tech upstart took only a year and a half to get to that level, while it took the other two companies a respective 24 quarters and 32 quarters. The valuation given in the latest round has many talking about a potential IPO down the line and perhaps sooner rather than later.

The other drumbeat for unicorns-in-training-wheels came from a newer venture capital firm Clear Ventures, which raised $120 million to invest in startups that are still in their early stages.

No down rounds crossed our radar screens this past week.

The big news in Unicornland came as Prosper Marketplace said it would be exploring its options, with the hiring of investment banks to look into raising more capital and perhaps even a sale of the company. The online lending space has certainly had its share of troubles in the past month, with an overall slowdown in the investor flow not exactly helping matters.

Qualtrics, a survey technology firm, said, at the very end of the month, that it had made its first acquisition for an undisclosed sum. The firm acquired Statwing, which makes statistical analysis software and focuses on churn and charting survey data. Qualtrics said it intends to integrate the point-and-click technology of its new acquisition into its own Insight platform, which provides customer experience data.

Layoffs? None seen this past week in what might be termed the traditional unicorn — that is, the tech upstart. But could there be reverberations across the space as Microsoft said last week that it was axing 1,850 to help streamline its smartphone business and with an attendant $950 million charge in order to focus on enterprises?

And one bit of food for thought: In an article posted on Yahoo Finance late last month, several investors opined on the likelihood that unicorns — or startups at least, with the potential to grow into unicorns — may best be found away from U.S. shores, where there is not the heated investment climate that produces sky-high valuations and possibly bubbles. Tech innovation is gathering traction in places like China and Europe, so one wonders if the mythical beasts may find some new habitats.

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