Who are the UK’s next unicorns?

Jobbio's Kirstie McDermott reveals where the next unicorns are coming and how the UK shapes up against other parts of the world

When it comes to the place that births the most unicorns – start-up companies that are privately held with a billion-dollar valuation (around £708m) – the United States still holds sway. A new study from payments company Tipalti has discovered that there are now 1,147 global unicorns and of those, 615, or just under 54 per cent, are from the U.S.

It’s not hard to understand why: easier access to VC funding, the existence of Silicon Valley with all the cachet and access it confers, plus the quality of technical graduates from universities such as MIT, Stanford and California Institute of Technology deliver a pipeline of talent to the industry, and are just three of the strengths underpinning its continued success.

Unicorns are, somewhat ironically, becoming less rare. Tipalti’s 2020 report stated that the U.S. was home to just 235 unicorns, which also helped the U.S maintain a 48 per cent global share that year. The 2022 figures mean that many other countries are also experiencing an uptick, including the UK.

Big business

Already home to a number of unicorns, the UK can count the Scottish multinational brewery and pub chain Brewdog; Oaknorth, a bank for SMEs, providing business and property loans; Improbable Worlds Limited, which makes metaverse infrastructure and applications; Darktrace, which specialises in cyber-defence; and Graphcore, which makes semiconductors for AI and machine learning, among its billion-dollar successes.

The UK is in fourth place globally in unicorn output terms, coming in behind China and India in second and third places. This year, it has 43 unicorn companies, or just under 4 per cent of the global total.

Two years ago, that figure stood at 23 unicorns, indicating growth in the sector, but the big question is, who will be its next unicorn companies? Each year, Viva Technology seeks to answer this question with its Top 100 Next Unicorns list, where it categorises the 100 most promising scale-ups in Europe, including the UK and Israel.

This year, it identified 24 soonicorns, or futurecorns for the UK, among them cloud native banking platform 10x Banking; data privacy firm Privatar; Soldo, the multi-user expense account which companies use to manage their budgets; and Peak, which provides decision intelligence services. But it isn’t all tech companies Viva Technology is topping for billion dollar success: in the mix too are innovators such as Bloom & Wild, the popular online flower delivery platform, and delivery auction site Anyvan.

So why is the UK so good at unicorns? It far outranks Germany, which, despite having the largest economy in Europe, can only count 29 unicorns this year. Some experts believe there is a particular ecosystem at play; a mix of good universities, risk-tolerant financial institutions, plus a long history of banking, which has led to a particular rise in Fintech unicorns – the UK has 26, including Monzo and SaltPay.

If you’d like to work at a unicorn, or a company that may soon have a billion-dollar valuation on its head, then the GrowthBusiness Job Board is an excellent place to begin. Check out three companies hiring below.


Powering communication between businesses and their customers, across any channel, MessageBird is used everywhere: in takeaways, package returns or within customer service.  Headquartered in Amsterdam since 2011, its global business reaches billions of devices, serves over 25,000 customers and operates across nine hubs. Its team is now around 700-strong, and forms part of the company’s “Work Anywhere” ethos. MessageBird is also currently hiring: discover UK-based roles right here.

Thought Machine

Thought Machine’s mission is a bold one – to create technology that can run the world’s banks according to the best designs and software practices of the modern age. It aims to properly and permanently rid the world’s banks of the problems generated by poor technology, running on legacy infrastructure. If this inspires you, you’ll be attempting a difficult task, and Thought Machine needs great people, working together, towards this common goal. Interested? Check out open roles here.


More than just a credit card company, Mastercard is working to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere, by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, its innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realise their greatest potential. Mastercard’s decency quotient, or DQ, drives its culture and everything it does inside and outside the company, cultivating a culture of inclusion for all employees. Want to work here? There are a number of UK-based roles on offer now.

Discover thousands of job opportunities at some of the UK’s largest tech companies on the GrowthBusiness Job Board

Read more

Tech unicorns UK – complete guide to the billion-dollar club

Related Topics