Unicorn startups: how can we predict their success?

By Katerina Mansour - 03 May 2022

Startups have come to be known as high risk, high potential reward ventures. A key figure that is cited time and time again is that approximately 90% of startups fail. Some research also suggests that only a third of startups ever show a positive return. While the validity of these figures can be questioned based on factors such as geography, industry, venture-backing, and more, they’ve made a mark on people’s minds.

But despite the high rate of bankruptcy among startups, many experience incredible success. The growing number of unicorn startups attests to this fact. In today’s ecosystem, investors like VCs, CVCs or banks seek to find these hidden gems in order to ride the wave of success with them.

Early Metrics’ solution to measure growth potential

Early Metrics has developed a robust methodology to help these entities uncover the growth potential of a startup before an investment or partnership. This methodology assesses startups based on three pillars: the management team, the project and the ecosystem. Each pillar includes a wide array of carefully selected and backtested criteria that help us determine a final score out of 100.

We’ve rated approximately 4,000 startups thus far, many of which have become success stories. In this article, we’ll look at four of our rated startups that recently reached unicorn status.

Shift Technology

Comment Shift Technology compte attirer massivement les talents de l'IA

Shift Technology develops an AI-powered solution to help insurers fight against fraud. The startup’s solution scans through customer claims and customer data in order to automatically flag potential fraud scenarios.

How’s the startup doing today?

In May 2021, Shift Technology raised $220m and officially joined the ranks of unicorn startups. At that point in time, the startup said to have analysed over two billion claims in its efforts to help insurers better detect fraud.

The French startup’s success has led it to expand worldwide. Indeed, today it has offices in Paris, Boston, Tokyo, London, Madrid, Zurich, Singapore, Toronto, Sao Paulo and Hong Kong. Shift Technology was able to make a name for itself in this space and build a strong reputation. This contributed to rapid growth in terms of its client portfolio and revenue. The awards and funding it has received continue to boost its upwards trajectory. Indeed, as recently as January 2022, the startup was labelled Fintech of the year, for 2021, by Finance Innovation.

What did Early Metrics detect back in 2018?

As a result of our rating process, Shift Technology placed in the top 5% of our rated startups at that time. Among its strengths, we noted the partners’ ability to convince the ecosystem, through accomplishments like successful fundraising and awards. We also highlighted the project’s rapid execution. The founders were able to develop two products, build a large team and generate significant revenue quite rapidly. Lastly, market timing was ideal, as AI solutions to detect and prevent fraud already represented a fast-growing market.


Jobandtalent lève 100 millions d'euros auprès de SoftBank Vision Fund 2  pour son développement

Jobandtalent develops a mobile app to match job seekers with relevant temp jobs. In addition to job listings, the app also streamlines administrative tasks via features to handle contracts, work schedules, payslips, etc. The startup has namely focused on sectors such as logistics, retail and e-commerce and job positions that are in high demand but typically hard to find (warehousing, manufacturing, etc).

How’s the startup doing today?

In December 2021, the Jobandtalent became one of Spain’s nine unicorn startups. This accomplishment came following a $500m Series E that included the participation of SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

The Spanish startup was able to stand out from the competition by offering perks others didn’t. For instance, they offer better benefits for temp workers which help address worker precariousness. Furthermore, market factors indubitably played a strong factor in Jobandtalent’s growth. For example, the pandemic increased both the need for temp workers and the number of people seeking temp work.

What did Early Metrics detect back in 2018?

When we rated Jobandtalent in 2018, it became our highest-rated startup at the time. Within each of our three rating pillars, we identified a variety of positive signals from the startup’s project at the time. For example, we noted the partners’ prior experience in financial management (designing a business plan, managing budgets, etc). We also highlighted the startup’s strong and successful international ambitions (offices in Spain, the UK, Colombia, Germany, Sweden and Mexico). Lastly, we recognised the startup built strong barriers to entry. These barriers were namely linked to its large portfolio of corporate clients and the significant amount of funding raised.


Dataiku has developed a collaborative end-to-end platform for businesses to design, prototype, deploy and manage data products. Both tech and non-tech teams can use the platform to collaborate on the creation of analytical solutions.

How’s the startup doing today?

In 2019, Dataiku officially became a unicorn, and that was only the start of the story. The startup continued to impress investors after that milestone. In August 2020, it raised a $100m Series D and in August 2021, it raised a $400m Series E. After that last round in 2021, Dataiku reached a valuation of $4.6bn.

In addition to having a strong team and a robust solution, Dataiku grew in an ecosystem that very much needed solutions to better leverage data and AI for business. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in McKinsey’s 2021 report on the state of AI said their company’s investments in AI will continue to increase over the next three years. However, executives cite poor collaboration, siloed development processes, and lack of skills as key challenges surrounding AI. Indeed, while much progress has been made, solutions like Dataiku’s are still needed to help make it easier for businesses to fully leverage AI.

What did Early Metrics detect back in 2017?

When we rated Dataiku all the way back in 2017, it placed in the top 5% of our rated startups. One of its strengths was the partners’ mastery of the key technical skills necessary to develop and grow the solution. We also highlighted the strong innovativeness and market fit of the solution. The startup had also already secured competitive advantages thanks to its funding rounds and international presence. Indeed, although Dataiku was launched in France, it quickly expanded into the US market.


La start-up américaine Owkin s'ouvre à Bpifrance et MACSF | Capital Finance

Owkin develops an AI-powered platform to enable better and safer data collaboration within the healthcare sector. The startup’s federated learning platform enables hospitals, research centres, pharmaceutical companies academia and other healthcare professionals to bolster their research or development while respecting patient data privacy. The startup securely connects to decentralised datasets and trains AI models without having to pool/centralise data, which typically brings about security issues. A big use case is that of pharmaceutical companies which can use the raw medical data and patient outcomes collected for clinical trials, drug discovery and drug development.

How’s the startup doing today?

In late 2021, Owkin joined the ranks of French unicorn startups. This achievement occurred following a $180m investment from Sanofi.

Owkin positioned itself in a growing market with increasing demand for AI and precision medicine solutions from healthcare institutions. Estimates show the global precision medicine market reaching a value of $140 billion by 2028. Innovation in the health sector has led to somewhat of a race towards the development of innovative treatments. This is being achieved through a variety of solutions, enabling achievements such as the discovery of new biomarkers, better access to medical research and data, or the creation of digital therapeutics.

What did Early Metrics detect back in 2021?

Just a few months before it became a unicorn, Early Metrics had the opportunity to rate Owkin. Among its many strengths, we identified a highly competent management team. Indeed, we highlighted their expertise in the healthcare market, their strong technical skills and their ability to secure mentors and investors. We also noted the innovative aspect of their technology, which enables total data privacy. Lastly, they had also been able to garner good press coverage to increase brand awareness and visibility.

Key takeaways

No one can predict without a shadow of a doubt which startup will blow up and become a unicorn. However, based on extensive research and on a database of 4000 analysed companies, Early Metrics has been able to perfect a methodology to predict a startup’s growth potential. We continuously backtest this methodology to ensure it evolves with the times and continues to reflect reality as accurately as possible. We look forward to seeing the birth of even more unicorn startups in our database of rated companies!

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