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Next Billion-Dollar Startups: In A Tough Year For Tech Firms And Venture Funding, Why These 25 Should Prosper

While we were choosing the companies for this year’s Next Billion-Dollar Startups list, two that we were strongly considering–Gather and Calibrate–laid off more than 20% of their employees. With markets down and tech investors skittish, it’s a nerve-wracking time to find startups that are going to thrive.

One reason we feel confident: The companies on this year’s list have far higher revenue than did those in last year’s frothier markets. The average estimated 2021 revenue for companies on this year’s list is $24 million, double that of last year’s $12 million average. Some are quite a bit larger than that. Flexible-lease, furnished-apartment startup Landing (which we profiled in the August/September issue of the magazine) expects $200 million in revenue this year, while semiconductor startup Astera Labs should reach $100 million.

“The market is doing gymnastics these days. We don’t control that,” says Astera CEO Jitendra Mohan, a first-time founder who previously worked for Texas Instruments. “What keeps me up at night is making sure we don’t while away this opportunity due to missteps.”

Tracking the list’s 175 alumni: 116 unicorns, 22 acquired, nine public before hitting the mark. Just five imploded or shut down.

Then, too, a number of companies on this year’s list have stockpiled cash to continue to grow–and to help buffer them against any future storms. Among them: AtoB, which offers payment cards for truckers, which raised a previously undisclosed $75 million in equity funding. “There’s a good healthy appetite from investors when the business model is strong,” says AtoB cofounder and CEO Vignan Velivela.

As for last year’s list, 10 of the 25 companies on it have already reached or surpassed the $1 billion valuation mark, though it remains to be seen whether some of those valuations prove too lofty in the new environment.

Productboard, which allows product specialists to monitor customer feedback in one space, raised $125 million at a valuation of $1.7 billion in February. Then, in April, Viz.ai, which uses artificial intelligence to detect strokes and treat them quickly, raised $100 million at a $1.2 billion valuation; in July the firm announced that it had received FDA clearance for its technology to detect subdural hematomas, following regulatory clearance earlier in the year for detecting brain aneurysms.

And amid a funding frenzy for blockchain startups, San Francisco-based Alchemy, which makes it easier to read and write on blockchains like Ethereum and Flow, raised $200 million in February at a valuation of $10.2 billion, triple what it was worth just three months earlier.

Longer term, of the total 175 alumni of this list since 2015, 116 have become unicorns, another 22 were acquired and nine went public before hitting the mark. Just five imploded or shut down.

In times of volatility, like now, the best founders focus on what they can control–their own operations–rather than where the market is at. “You’re not betting on me as CEO because I can predict the future,” says Sumir Meghani, cofounder and CEO of Instawork, which matches hourly workers with the companies that need them. “We raised our Series C [$60 million in July 2021] to make sure this is the last round of capital we have to get to be profitable.”