No, the Startup Unicorn Isn’t Dead Just Yet

If you’ve been in the tech world long enough, you’ve heard some outrageous descriptors for tech startups valued at $1 billion or more. 

There’s prenicorn (a startup perceived to one day reach billion-dollar status), unicorn (a startup valued at $1B), decacorn (a startup valued at $10B), centicorn (a startup valued at $100B), and, of course, the unicorpse (a startup that has imploded, died, is no more).

That last one remains a myth, according to Goldman Sachs’s top tech investment banker. Nick Giovanni, head of the global technology, media, and telecom (TMT) group at Goldman, told Fortune that negative headlines have overshadowed what continues to be a good environment for tech firms looking to raise big funding rounds. In other words, it’s still raining money out there.

“A handful of private companies had difficult years, but the reports of dying unicorns are greatly exaggerated,” he said. 

Although Term Sheet readers predicted a recession in 2019 and people continue to whisper of a downturn in 2020, Giovanni does not share the sentiment. He points out that this has been the fourth consecutive year of growth in U.S.-listed IPO volume by tech companies, which he believes will only continue in 2020. “We’re in the middle of what we’ve been talking about for two years as a ‘megacycle,’” he said. “I’d expect 2020 to be the fifth year in a row of growth in the tech IPO market.”

Even with the example of WeWork, which withdrew its IPO, Giovanni says it is a natural part of the market cycle and that private write-downs and busted valuations are “not a new phenomenon.”

He does have a point. I found it particularly interesting that Giovanni’s believes direct listings are an “innovation” that’s here to stay. The direct listing allows shareholders sell existing stock directly to the public, leaving investment banks to serve merely as advisers in the process, not underwriters.

Giovanni notes that “many more companies are considering direct listings” than before, such as Spotify and Slack. And many, like Airbnb, will pursue them as an avenue for going public in 2020.

Read the full story here.

WAG’S CEO IS OUT: Hilarie Schneider is out as CEO of dog-walking startup Wag less than two years after taking the top job. She has been named the new chief executive and president of online retailer Shutterfly. 

Schneider’s departure comes at a difficult time for the company. Wag, which counts SoftBank as one of its largest investors, recently underwent a vast round of layoffs while also having to deal with issues around insufficient growth, financial underperformance, and even runaway dogs. According to this CNN investigation, the company’s woes became even more pronounced after SoftBank pumped a massive round of funding into the startup and its valuation soared to more than $600 million.

Garrett Smallwood, who previously served as VP of product, partnerships, and corporate development at Wag, will take Schneider’s place as CEO of Wag.

… SOULCYCLE’S CEO IS ALSO OUT: Melanie Whelan has resigned from her position as chief executive officer of SoulCycle. She will also step down from being a director on the company’s board. 

Whelan’s tenure hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. She oversaw SoulCycle’s scrapped IPO, grappled with increasing competition from newly-public rival Peloton, and attempted to navigate a SoulCycle boycott from customers over a fundraiser for President Donald Trump hosted by Stephen Ross, the chairman of its parent company.

Sunder Reddy, SoulCycle’s chief financial officer, will take over as interim CEO. Read more.

THANKSGIVING LONGREADS: If you have some time to unwind during this weekend, I’ve got some great Fortune reads for you: 

  • How the Trouble-Ridden Debut of a Breakthrough Vaccine Sparked a Panic: French pharma giant Sanofi developed Dengvaxia, the first and only vaccine approved to protect against the dengue virus. But then the vaccine rolled out in the Philippines and caused a scare that could have dire consequences. Read more. 
  • Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz Is Rewriting a Toy Story: Ynon Kreiz is 18 months into his tenure as the chief executive of Mattel, and he’s cautiously optimistic about the iconic toymaker’s future. After years of strategic missteps and bad luck, Kreitz hopes to pivot Mattel to become less of a toy company and more of “a higher-margined media enterprise built on a stable of valuable brands.” Take a look inside his master plan for a much-needed turnaround. Read more.
  • In the Wake of Brexit, Amsterdam Is the New London: The Netherlands has long been a friendly place to business outsiders in Europe. Some 4,000 foreign companies, about half of them American, have set up in the country since the 1970s. Some pros: Amsterdam has an international airport, English is widely spoken, and ultrafast Internet service is ubiquitous. Now, Britain’s looming departure is amplifying these advantages. Read more.

*HOUSEKEEPING* Term Sheet won’t be in your inbox this Thursday and Friday because of Thanksgiving. Additionally, I’m taking next week off (Dec. 2 to 6), so please send deal announcements to my colleague Lucinda Shen ( Have a great holiday!

Polina Marinova
Twitter: @polina_marinova


- Bounce, an India-based operator of electric and gasoline scooters, raised approximately $150 million in Series D funding at a valuation of more than $500 million, according to TechCrunch. Investors include B Capital and Accel Partners India. Read more.

- Loom, a San Francisco-based enterprise collaboration video messaging service, raised $30 million in funding. Sequoia led the round, and was joined by investors including Kleiner Perkins, Figma, Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger, and Mathilde Collin

- Arteza, a Wilmington, Delaware-based direct-to-consumer arts and crafts supplies company, raised $24 million in Series A funding, from Volition Capital. 

- Rossum, a London-based deep learning startup focused on data extraction, raised $4.5 million in funding. Investors include LocalGlobe, Seedcamp, Miton, and StartupYard.

- Vivun, an Oakland, Calif.-based developer of software for presales, raised $3 million in seed - funding. Unusual Ventures led the round.

- Andrena, a Princeton, N.J.-based provider of high-speed wireless Internet, raised $2.6 million in funding. 645 Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Castle Island Ventures, Marstar Investments, Imagination Capital, 9Yards Capital, Afore Capital, Max Ventures, and FJ Labs.

- Virgil, a Paris-based property company, raised 2.1 million euros ($2.3 million) in funding. Investors include Alven Capital, LocalGlobe and Kima Ventures.


- Silver Lake agreed to invest $500 million into City Football Group, a U.K.-based private owner and operator of soccer clubs. The deal values City Football Group at $4.8 billion after the investment.


- EN Engineering acquired QC Data, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based intelligent infrastructure services firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 


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