What UK firm has just achieved ‘unicorn’ status?

The UK has had a new company join the elite list of ‘unicorn’ businesses – a start-up company that has reached the valuation of $1bn.

Sports fashion retailer Gymshark has this week sold a 21% stake in the business to global growth equity firm General Atlantic (GA) – which has led to the firm surpassing the valuation. GA has joined as a strategic partner to aid the company with its international expansion. The retailer also reported annual sales for 2019 exceeded £250m.

Founded eight years ago by Ben Francis when he was a student at Aston University, Gymshark joins an exclusive list of just 17 other companies who currently have the coveted ‘unicorn’ status in the UK.

Francis said: “I firmly believe Gymshark has the potential to be to the UK what Nike is to the US and Adidas is to Germany, and today is a significant step to realising that. It has been an incredible ride over the last eight years to get to this point, but today signals the next chapter in the Gymshark story. We are nothing without our community, so we will use this new investment partnership to get even closer to them on a truly global scale.

“I’m incredibly proud of what Gymshark has achieved to date from our roots in Birmingham, but it’s all about looking forward.”

Gymshark has risen to prominence through its use of social media influencers, rather than traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. The brand has 4.6m followers on its main Instagram account, alongside 2.8m Twitter followers.

The investment deal is the first time Gymshark has raised money from private investors and GA’s Head of Consumer for EMEA, Melis Kahya Akar, will join the Gymshark board immediately.

She said: “Fitness apparel is a large and resilient market with growth potential. Gymshark has managed to create a substantial social community around its products and services, generating brand awareness and loyalty. We are thrilled to be partnering with Ben and the team to build on Gymshark’s offering globally.”