5 Billion-Dollar Companies You Don't Know - Yet

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Reinventing Phlebotomy, the new Theranos HQ
There are some pretty big privately held companies out there that aren't very well known. With many of them, that will undoubtedly change. Most people didn't know about Uber or Pinterest a couple of years ago, either, but now they're household names.

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource track venture-backed private companies that have raised financing that values the businesses north of $1 billion. They call it The Billion Dollar Startup Club.

Uber and Pinterest are in there, and the other familiar names on the list include peer-to-peer lodging provider Airbnb, photo messaging platform Snapchat and payment facilitator Square. But more interesting are some of the potentially game-changing companies on that list that you may not know -- yet.


The most valuable member in the club after Uber and Chinese smartphone maker Xioami is Palantir, with its $15 billion valuation. Safety online is a pretty big deal these days, and Palantir's a "big data" darling that lets companies analyze data to improve everything from their responsiveness to their online security. Its reputation is validated because it counts the CIA and FBI as customers. Palantir may never become a household name to the ears of consumers, and that would be fine. What matters here is that Palantir has become a household name in corporate boardrooms, and it has done exactly that with some of the most critical government, commercial and nonprofit institutions on the planet, helping them solve problems that they didn't even know they had.


The Amazon.com (AMZN) of India is a company that was started by a pair of former Amazon employees. Flipkart has raised $2.5 billion in financing with a valuation of $11 billion. Flipkart isn't afraid to follow in Amazon's footsteps. It has been rolling out its own line of tablets and other products, just as Amazon has done in recent years. It's a fair bet that you don't do any shopping online in the world's second-most populous nation, but always remember that Amazon started as a modest stateside bookseller in the 1990s. Successful companies start to make noise overseas, and Flipkart could eventually be a global e-commerce juggernaut.


Folks weary of having tubes of blood drawn for a medical test may want to warm up to Theranos. The company with a $9 billion valuation is shaking up the health-care industry with a diagnostic test that requires as little as one-thousandth of the amount of blood being collected for traditional analysis. Beyond appealing to people who get woozy at the sight of a hypodermic needle, the tests are easier to complete and they're also far cheaper than current reimbursement rates. That was enough to get the Cleveland Clinic to tap the Theranos diagnostic test as one of the top 10 innovations of the year for 2015.


The shared office phenomenon has been brewing in most major cities, but it's usually a local-minded entrepreneur who is at the heart of building a communal work space for indie contractors. WeWork is thinking bigger. Folks can pay as little as $45 a month for access to workspaces, and that includes discounts on business services. More established startups can pay as little as $550 for a glass-walled office within the complex. WeWork has set up 15 shared spaces in New York City alone, with a presence now in a dozen other cities. It all adds up to a $5 billion valuation for WeWork and a convenient way to work for many people.


The smallest of the five private companies to watch is Houzz and its $2.3 billion price tag. It arms interior designers with access to people looking to spruce up their digs. You can browse more than 5 million photos, connect with 2.5 million professionals, and shop more than 3 million curated products. It may not be fair to call Houzz unknown. After all, the viral nature of its catalog of home ideas has helped it top a million followers on Facebook (FB). However, it's still early enough in its growth cycle to single out here.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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