Almost six months after its previous publication, on July 1, 2021, Y Combinator (YC), a US seed-stage accelerator, released its YC Top Companies list.
The accelerator gives reasons for this in a statement, “YC companies raise money year-round — leading to the YC Top Companies list becoming outdated almost as soon as it’s published. To combat this, moving forward, the list will be refreshed every six months, in February and July,”
The list, which contains startups valued at over $150m or more, now features 163 companies, with 6 and 157 of them being public and private companies, respectively. Private companies valued at over a billion dollars (Unicorns) are now over 40 in number.
Overall, the list features companies with a combined valuation of $400 billion. Airbnb is its most valuable public company ($93 billion on the New York Stock Exchange as at press time), and Stripe, its most valued private company ($95 billion).
While the valuations of public companies are readily available on the stock market, the popular accelerator ranks private companies based on valuations from funding rounds no older than four years.
While YC admits that valuations are a poor way to rank companies, it argues that it is the most commonly available metric to compare companies in the startup world. Other metrics, like revenue, are often kept private.
It also points out that the list is not exhaustive as YC alumni could opt out for any reason.
Flutterwave’s unicorn status ranks it among the very top
When Y Combinator published the first list of its most valuable companies in 2018, no African company made the 101-company list.
In 2019, a Nigerian fintech startup, Flutterwave, having raised $20m in total, ranked 97 out of 102 YC companies. This ranking put its valuation at slightly over $150 million.
The 2020 list was notable for Nigerian fintech, Paystack’s omission despite a $200m acquisition from Stripe.
The accelerator’s top company list also features only Flutterwave from Africa this time around, but the company has moved 75 places to 40 out of 159 private companies.
The company tops five other unicorns like San Francisco based Sift, Sendbird, and Lattice, which are all valued at over a billion dollars.
Note: Flutterwave was 39 when this list first emerged, but it weirdly shifted down one place to 40 and has remained so as at press time.
This ranking follows the company’s landmark $170 million Series C, which confirmed its unicorn status.
Since that massive investment, the company has been in the media on the back of various partnerships, the most notable of them being one with Paypal that would enable Nigerian merchants to receive money from other countries across the globe.
Like the previous list, Paystack is absent once again, and it might be due to any of the two reasons we stated in this piece:
Consequently, the money that went to Paystack’s cap table, besides retention bonuses or the value founders and investors received from the acquisition, was not up to $150 million. Or Paystack chose not to be listed for reasons best known to them.
Twice a year, Y Combinator invests $125k (formerly $150k) in selected startups in exchange for 7% equity.
Per YC’s startup directory, it has invested in 2,609 startups since its inception in 2005, with almost 20% (514) becoming inactive in this period. To date, it has invested in 56 African startups.
While companies like Flutterwave and Paystack might be some of its most successful stories, 3 of them — Petasales, Tress, and Passerine Aircraft –have become defunct.
Kyane Kassiri, Rally Cap Ventures Venture Partner and Lateral Capital Investor, explained in this thread that while entering YC might be an excellent feat for African startups, it is not a measure of success. It also doesn’t detract from the work of those that do not get in.
Intelligence by Techpoint reveals that 59% of startups that raised at least $1m in the past decade did not go through an accelerator.