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What do these 12 start-ups have in common? McKinsey alums have turned them into unicorns

McKinsey alumni are enthusiastic entrepreneurs: about 20 percent go on to found their own companies after leaving the firm. Alums have founded or cofounded a number of familiar companies, including Ashoka, Innocent Drinks, Match.com, and Viking River Cruises.

What you may not know is that a number of start-ups founded by alumni in the past decade have become unicorns, or privately held start-ups—usually tech based—valued at $1 billion or more. To put that in a broader context, McKinsey alumni have, as of this writing, founded about 3.5 percent of the world’s current unicorns.

Read on to find out about some of these companies and their founders.

[Note: Although three of the companies listed below have graduated from unicorn status—one through acquisition, two through IPOs—these took place so recently that we have included them to acknowledge their achievements.]

Careem

Cofounders: Mudassir Sheikha (2008–12) and Magnus Olsson (2006–12)
Headquarters: Dubai
Value: Sold to Uber for $3.1 billion

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Photo from Careem on Twitter

Careem, a car-booking service, operates in 14 Middle Eastern countries. At the end of March, Uber announced that it would acquire the company. Careem will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary, still led by its founders. Read our 2018 interview with Mudassir Sheikha and watch our 2019 interview with Magnus Olsson.)

CommonBond

Cofounder: David Klein (2003–06)
Headquarters: New York City
Value: Undisclosed but reported at $4 billion

Unicorns
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Student loans are a big issue in the United States: students (and former students) owe $1.5 trillion. David Klein cofounded online lender CommonBond in 2012 to offer loan refinancing, as well as private student loans with low rates and great customer service.

Compass

Cofounder: Robert Reffkin (2000–02)
Headquarters: New York City
Value: $4.4 billion

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Photo from Robert Reffkin on Twitter

Robert Reffkin cofounded real-estate technology company Compass just five years ago, but it already operates in 20 major US cities—and he’s eyeing international expansion. In 2018 alone, Compass opened 70 new offices and hired more than 600 people. (Read our January interview with Robert.)

DoorDash

Cofounder: Tony Xu (2007–09)
Headquarters: San Francisco
Value: $7.1 billion

Unicorns
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Don’t feel like cooking? DoorDash can help. Founded in 2013, the app pairs drivers and local restaurants to deliver meals to users wherever they are. (Cofounder Tony Xu started out doing deliveries himself.) The company is now the leading US on-demand food-delivery service in consumer-spending market share.

Go-Jek

Cofounder: Nadiem Makarim (2006–11)
Headquarters: Jakarta
Value: $10 billion

Unicorns
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Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first decacorn (a start-up with a valuation of $10 billion or more), began life in 2010 as a motorbike taxi company. It has since grown exponentially in size—it boasts a fleet with two million drivers—and in scope. Go-Jek is now a “super-app,” offering two dozen user services, such as online payments, restaurant orders, and grocery deliveries. Users can even use the app to order a massage.

Grab

Cofounder: Hooi Ling Tan (2006–13)
Headquarters: Singapore
Value: Undisclosed but reported at $14 billion

Unicorns
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Based in Singapore and operating in eight Southeast Asian countries, Grab was initially just a ride-hailing app. Over the past seven years, it has added services such as food deliveries, payments, and assistance planning travel routes on public transportation; it even offers specially trained drivers to take pets to the vet. Like Go-Jek, Grab has evolved from a unicorn into a decacorn—the region’s first, reaching that status in November 2018.

InMobi

Founder: Naveen Tewari (2000–03 and 2005–05)
Headquarters: Bangalore
Value: $2 billion

Unicorns
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InMobi, a global mobile-advertising platform, was the first Indian start-up valued at $1 billion, according to VCCircle. In 2018, Fast Company ranked InMobi as number three in its Top Ten Most Innovative Companies list for India.

Jumia

Cofounders: Jeremy Hodara (2006–12) and Sacha Poignonnec (2007–12)
Headquarters: Ikeja, Nigeria
Value: Undisclosed but reported at $1 billion

Unicorns
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Founded in 2012, Internet platform Jumia became Africa’s first unicorn just four years later. It’s the continent’s largest e-commerce business, with operations in 14 countries. Jumia operates a network of services that include food deliveries, secure payments, travel booking, and classified ads. The company launched an IPO on the NYSE in April.

Nauto

Co-founders: Stefan Heck (1996-13), Nauto's current CEO, and Frederick Soo (2011-14), current Head of Product Development at Mythic, Inc.
Headquarters: Palo Alto
Value: $1B

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Photo from Nauto on Twitter

Nauto, founded in 2015, is an AI technology company that develops software to improve the safety of self-driving cars. Major automakers are taking note: Nauto has received investments from GM, BMW, and Toyota.

Oscar Health

Cofounder: Mario Schlosser (2002–07)
Headquarters: New York City
Value: $3.2 billion

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Co-Founder and CEO of Oscar Health Mario Schlosser speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 at Pier 36 on May 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch licensed under CC by 2.0)

Mario Schlosser launched Oscar Health, a tech-based, consumer-focused health insurer, in 2012 with classmates from Harvard Business School. Oscar currently offers individual and group plans in six US states. Mario says his goal is to “humanize and simplify the healthcare experience.”

Zilingo

Founder: Ankiti Bose (2010–12)
Headquarters: Singapore
Value: Undisclosed but reported at $1 billion

Unicorns
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The Singapore-based e-commerce platform doesn’t discuss its valuation, but a TechCrunch article quoted a source as saying that Zilingo is “a rounding error away” from $1 billion. The site gives visibility to small Southeast Asian fashion vendors lacking their own online presence. In addition to retailing, Zilingo has recently focused on B2B opportunities in the supply chain—which helped the company to realize fourfold growth in the past year.

Zocdoc

Cofounders: Oliver Kharraz-Tavakol (2001–07), Zocdoc’s current CEO, and Cyrus Massoumi (2004–07), founder and now managing partner of Humbition
Headquarters: New York City
Value: $2 billion

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From left, Oliver Kharraz; Chris Dixon and Cyrus Massoumi of ZocDoc speak at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2012 day 3 at Pier 94 on May 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for TechCrunch/AOL licensed under CC by 2.0)

Zocdoc, the leading digital healthcare marketplace in the United States, helps millions of patients each month to find nearby in-network doctors, see their availability in real time, and instantly book appointments online. Healthcare is in Oliver Kharraz’s DNA: he is the most recent MD in a 300-year family history of doctors.

One to watch . . .

ThirdLove

Cofounder: Heidi Zak (2002–05)
Headquarters: San Francisco
Value: Reported at $750 million

Unicorns
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“The best bra is one you never think about,” says Heidi Zak, founder of online company ThirdLove, which offers bras (as well as underwear, loungewear, and nightwear) in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. While the company may not be a unicorn yet, keep your eyes on it: founded in 2012, ThirdLove was named to Forbes’s 2018 Next Billion-Dollar Start-ups list.

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