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If winter is coming, how well are unicorns prepared?

Winter2

What if the private market tourists go home for the winter?

What would happen to the unicorns if the funding pipeline froze?

The slowdown in the Chinese economy, combined with the European debt crisis and the recent plunge in oil prices, has contributed to a global economic environment that has experienced increasing uncertainty. The culmination of these events played a role in the drop in the U.S. stock market that we saw last month, fueling a lot of buzz about how long valuations in the venture capital industry can remain at their lofty levels. If these trends continue, and the markets take a turn for the worse, companies looking to fundraise will find it harder to secure more funding through both the public and private markets.

The companies that may be hit especially hard are unicorns (startups valued at $1 billion or more). After raising large rounds at such high valuations, many will be expected to be working toward an IPO or will need to raise another large round from the private sector.

It’s hard to blame these startups for grabbing money while it’s cheap, but winter may be coming for raising capital and the jury is out on whether some of these companies are prepared to survive. Paper gains burn up pretty quickly, after all. Erin Griffith (Fortune), Brad Feld (Foundry Group), Nick Bilton (Vanity Fair) and Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures), among others, have written about the potential death of some of these unicorns, a notion that has led to a new buzzword: unicorpses.

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