Not all unicorn investments are the same. If you invest in later rounds, the company is more likely to become a unicorn, but your typical multiple will be low by venture standards. If you invest at earlier-stage, the company is less likely to achieve a unicorn valuation—but if it does, the multiple on your investment will be much higher.

To understand the returns investors might expect on unicorn deals based on when they invested, we looked at the median multiple of 612 investments made by AngelList GPs into companies that went on to become unicorns. Our unique dataset allows us to look at multiples on a price-per-share basis that takes dilution into account.

The multiple is defined as the gross return on invested capital (not including fees and carry).

## Median Multiple on a Unicorn Investment

The median multiple on an investment into a pre-seed or seed-stage startup (roughly 75% of deals on AngelList occur at pre-seed or seed) that went on to become a unicorn was **31.4x**, while the average multiple was 67.6x, as of the end of 2021. This means if $100k (the median check size for deals on AngelList) was invested into a pre-seed or seed-stage startup that went on to become a unicorn, the investment holding would be worth $3.14M—not including any fees or carry that would be subtracted from this figure on exit.

Of course, the median multiple on a unicorn investment is heavily skewed by the round in which the GP invests. When we grouped pre-seed and seed deals with later-stage deals, we found the median multiple falls to **9.4x**, with an average multiple of 30.9x.

This data illustrates the risk / reward associated with venture: Investing in early-stage startups is risky. However, a successful early-stage deal will typically generate a higher multiple because the entry price per share is lower. The valuation of a later-stage company typically doesn’t rise as much because winning later-stage investments tend to follow a less extreme power law. Further, these investments need less of a valuation increase to achieve unicorn status.

## Median Unicorn Multiple Over Time

The median multiple on unicorn investments has increased dramatically on AngelList over the past two years. At the beginning of 2020, the median multiple was just 2.2x and the average was 5x.

Since then, many existing investments have had time to season and become unicorn investments. We’ve grown from 77 unicorns backed by AngelList funds and syndicates at the end of 2020 to 190 at the end of 2021. However, more unicorns doesn’t necessarily guarantee a rise in median multiple. Consider that the valuation step-up required for a portfolio of Series C investments to become unicorns is typically far less than the step-up for a portfolio of early-stage investments.

It’s more likely the median multiple increased because more startups that became unicorns did so at increasingly larger valuations. Examples of unicorn companies with outsized valuations invested into on AngelList include Stripe ($95B), FTX ($32B), OpenSea ($13B), and Notion ($10B).

## Invest in Unicorns on AngelList

43% of all U.S. unicorns have had a GP invest in them through AngelList. If you’re interested in backing the next wave of potential startup unicorns, visit our website.