Owler, a tracking company that offers a service it calls competitive intelligence, is stepping out of its comfort zone of monitoring companies in similar industries, and, quite frankly, veering away from the entire concept of intelligence, with a new report that claims to look into the future to predict which unicorns are going to fail.
Surprisingly, the company’s morbidly titled “Dead Unicorn Study” is not a work of Brony fan fiction but a breakdown of the privately held companies worth $ 1 billion — those who have achieved every kid’s dream of reaching unicorn status — that are most likely to bite the dust in the future.
Here’s a quick summary of their prognostications: At some point, all these companies will be toe up, horn in the ground.
The companies findings, which it actually decided to share with others, predicts that the unicorns most likely to fail are: GrabTaxi, Theranos, CloudFlare, Lookout, Lazada, Snapchat, Powa, Houzz, Didi Dache, and Magic Leap. Owler ordered the list from least likely to unicorn to fail to most likely. So, Magic Leap, you are really screwed.
Owler’s list isn’t completely unscientific. The list was generated by ranking each unicorn based on key metrics like revenue per employee, revenue against funding, valuation against funding, and total acquisition spend.
But the company wasn’t just satisfied with guessing which ten $ 1 billion private companies are going to go into the crapper first. It also decided that Snapchat, which has raised more than $ 800 million, stands out among the other companies on its list of hypothetical dead mythical creatures. In fact, Owler estimates that Snapchat’s time on this earth is only about a year and a half.
Wow! These guys are good.
The reasons Owler states for Snapchat being close to life support are that the company has… wait for it… a high spend-to-revenue ratio (as if you couldn’t say the same thing about countless other startups), and is dependent on what it calls an “incredibly fickle youth-oriented market” which has not allowed the company to expand its user base. Mind you, Snapchat has a user base of more than 100 million.
In the press release proclaiming the company’s gift of magical foresight, Owler chief executive Jim Fowler says of Snapchat’s incredible growth, “Such virality is capricious, and shows the company is at risk. Therefore, of any on Unicorn, Snapchat is the most likely to go under — and in a timeline of 15 to 20 months.”
The only thing I can say about Fowler’s statement is that it is quite impressive how he was able to use the word ‘capricious’ in the same sentence as ‘virality’ with such adroitness.
In a world where JustFab, Square, and Jawbone live in the lofty realms of the unicorn, Snapchat, which has convinced investors to take common stock, something VCs rarely if ever do, is not only smart enough to keep on growing, but has positioned itself for an exit of massive proportions.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]