Chicago got its latest “unicorn” last month when Outcome Health raised a whopping $500 million at a $5 billion valuation. It was a major milestone for the previously bootstrapped tech company, but it was also a significant moment for Chicago’s tech ecosystem as a whole, which has historically lacked the volume of mega funding rounds and successful exits compared to cities on the coasts.
But Outcome is the latest example of how Chicago’s tech sector is maturing, and proving that fast-growing, billion-dollar startups can take off in the Windy City.
Outcome’s story has been well known in Chicago for years, but raising a $500 million “seed round,” as co-founder Rishi Shah has joked, puts the company on the map globally. Outcome’s $5 billion valuation not only makes it the most valuable tech business in Chicago, but it’s also the 25th most valuable private tech company in the world, worth more than Magic Leap, Vice Media, Slack, Instacart and DocuSign.
Outcome, a maker of digital wall boards for doctor’s waiting rooms and exam rooms that help patients better understand their condition and care, is now the 6th tech company to earn unicorn status in Chicago. Here’s a check in with all the $1 billion+ tech companies in Chicago.
Valuation: $5 billion
Outcome Health, previously named ContextMedia, is Chicago’s most valuable private tech company after raising the largest VC round in Chicago since Groupon’s $950 million in 2011. Outcome’s $500 million round was back by Goldman Sachs, Alphabet’s growth equity investment fund CapitalG, Pritzker Group Venture Capital and other investors. Outcome’s wallboard technology is in 231,000 healthcare offices across the US, and it expects to be in 70% of all US physician practices by 2020.
Founded by Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal, Outcome has over 600 employees in Chicago and New York. It did $130 million in revenue last year, which is up from $60 million in 2015 and $7 million in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Valuation: $2 billion
Uptake, a predictive analytics startup founded by Groupon founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, reached a $2 billion valuation in February when it raised a $40 million round from Revolution Growth. Uptake, which was founded in 2014, has raised $135 million to date.
Uptake is the fastest startup ever to reach a $2 billion valuation, according to Pitchbook, having achieved the milestone in just 2.6 years, outpacing companies like Snapchat, Pinterest, Blue Apron and Groupon. The startup, which is led by Keywell, uses predictive analytics in old-school industries like rail, construction, energy and mining to help large companies know when their equipment will fail before it actually malfunctions. Its clients include Caterpillar and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
Valuation: $2 billion
Avant, an online lending startup led by Al Goldstein, reached unicorn status in 2015. It has raised over $650 million in equity funding since it launched in 2012 and counts RRE Ventures, Tiger Global, August Capital and Peter Thiel among its investors.
The startup, which experienced huge growth through 2015–amassing 900 employees and expanding to a new 80,000 square foot office in the Loop–hit a rough patch in 2016. Avant cut a third of its staff and scrapped new product launches for auto loans and credit cards as regulators proposed new federal restrictions on the sector, and as competitors like Lending Club experienced their own struggles. But the tide has slowly started to turn back in the company’s favor, and earlier this year Avant said it was hiring again and hopes to be profitable in the first half of 2018.
Valuation: $1.5 billion
Mu Sigma became a unicorn in 2013, making it Chicago’s oldest $1 billion tech company. The Northbrook-based company, founded in 2004, has raised over $200 million in funding from investors that include Sequoia Capital, General Atlantic and MasterCard.
Mu Sigma uses big data to help companies make smarter decisions, and its clients include Wal-Mart, Dell and Microsoft. Though technically headquartered in the Chicago area, most of the company’s 3,500 employees are based on Bangalore, India. The company’s technology is used by more than 140 Fortune 500 companies.
Valuation: $1 billion
SMS Assist, maker of a cloud-based property management platform for businesses, became a unicorn a 2016 when it raised $150 million from Goldman Sachs. The company, which launched in 1999, has raised over $250 million to date from investors that also include Insight Venture Partners and Pritzker Group Venture Capital.
The company’s technology helps property managers maintain multiple buildings by tracking maintenance orders, as well as providing invoicing, automatic service audits and data analysis on properties. It counts Fortune 500 companies such as Family Dollar, JPMorgan Chase, Jones Lang LaSalle and O’Reilly Automotive as customers. SMS Assist recently hired former Rackspace CEO Taylor Rhodes as its chief executive officer.
Valuation: $1 billion
ExteNet Systems hit a $1 billion valuation in 2015 when the Lisle-based company recapitalized in a deal led by Digital Bridge Holdings and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners. The deal allowed for ExteNet’s previous investors–such as Palomar Ventures, Quantum Strategic Partners, SBA Communications, Columbia Capital, Centennial Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds and CenterPoint Ventures–to cash out, according to the Chicago Tribune.
ExteNet enables mobile connectivity for customers via its Distributed Networks, allowing Wireless Service Providers to provide 3G and 4G LTE services. Its customers include the Empire State Building and Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins baseball team.
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