The Unicorn Initiative

A Joint Research Project Between CBL and the Brattle Group.

The Unicorn Initiative is a joint research project between the UC Center for Business Law San Francisco and The Brattle Group.

There is no shortage of unicorn lists, but these tallies leave a key question unanswered for policy makers: what are the outcomes? How and when are unicorns exiting?  What is the nature and frequency of unicorn litigation?  Until recently, systematic analysis of these questions was premature.  But now a critical mass of companies have been unicorns long enough to identify some patterns that may help policy makers and others understand better this relatively new and evolving market.

NEW March 2022 (Website): The Unicorn Initiative: Exits.

NEW March 2022 (Report): The Unicorn Initiative: Exits.

In the new Unicorn Initiative: Exits report, researchers from UC Law SF and Brattle analyzed the exit transactions of hundreds of unicorns to better understand their outcomes. The authors evaluated data on US unicorns between 2005 and 2021, describing the types of unicorn companies, their financing, and exit status.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Mergers are infrequent forms of exit for unicorns compared to the larger population of startups.
  • Most IPOs cluster around a 1-5x exit multiple while outcomes for mergers vary widely, and
  • While exits for unicorns are predominantly positive there are a non-trivial number of negative exits (fire-sale mergers or insolvencies).

The full report was coauthored by UC Law SF Professor Abe Cable, Brattle Associate Adrienna Huffman, and former Research Analyst Shuyi Deng. Research Analyst Monet Lee contributed research assistance.

WATCH VIDEO: Panel Discussion from November 4, 2021, featuring Prof Abe Cable (UC Hastings), Ali Temaseb (DCVC), Rachel Proffitt (Cooley), Monique Winkler (SEC) and Evan Epstein (UC Law SF):


You can read more research by Prof Abraham Cable on unicorns here.


The UC Center for Business Law San Francisco was founded with the mission of bringing together leading scholars, business leaders, practitioners, regulators and students to engage in the study, teaching and practice of business law at UC Law SF. The Center aims to be the leading business law venue in San Francisco, one of the world’s great centers of commerce, finance and technology.


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