TBTech looks at the biggest unicorn companies in 2021
Despite facing the obstacles from the start of 2021, it has been an exciting and successful year for startups. Investors have continued to become more invested in small and medium-sized startups in the tech and innovative sectors.
A unicorn company is when a venture capital companies net worth reaches the US$1bn mark. As of December 2021, there are more than 900 unicorns worldwide. “The number of tech unicorns has increased over time. In 2013, there were only 39 startups that could achieve this benchmark valuation. However, the new and disruptive business models of these businesses have attracted more customers,” said Swati Verma, associate project manager for GlobalData’s thematic team.
“The pandemic caused a slowdown in unicorn creation in early 2020, but 2021 is the strongest year yet,” she added. “Tech unicorns aren’t just increasing in number, but we are also seeing an increasing number of high-value unicorns.”
The number of unicorns has increased significantly in the midst of a rise in venture capital investments, making 2021 a record-breaking year for privately held startup companies achieving unicorn status.
- US companies dominate the list of unicorns, while Indian startups have received more funding amid China’s crackdown on tech companies.
- Fintech and internet software and services have produced the most unicorns.
- According to data from CB Insights, as of 20 August 2021, 38 unicorns are valued at $10bn or more.
With over 900 unicorn companies globally today, here is a glimpse of the top four unicorn companies with the highest net worth:
ByteDance is a multinational company founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012 that specializes in internet technology. With products available in over 150 markets, they have offices in 126 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo. As of November 2019, ByteDance had over 60,000 employees and 15 research and development centers around the globe. As of March 2021, the company had an estimated value of US$250bn in private trades. ByteDance has long been celebrated for its proven model of rolling out apps and monetizing them. Some of the new business units within ByteDance includes TikTok, Douyin, Dali Education, Lark, BytePlus, and Nuverse.
Stripe is a technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the internet. From new startups to public companies, businesses of every size use our software to accept payments and manage their businesses online. Stripe combines a payments platform with applications that put revenue data at the heart of business operations. According to Forbes Magazine, Stripe is valued at $115bn in “secondary market” transactions. Stripe’s valuation had increased by 54 times since 2014, the year when it joined the unicorn startups club with a valuation of $1.75bn. Stripe is dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin, with offices in London, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, and has over 4,000 employees.
Space X is an American company that specializes in transportation and aerospace manufacturing. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, and has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, and in 2012 the Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX reached a valuation of $100.3bn after a secondary share sale, CNBC reported in October 2021. SpaceX is headquartered in Hawthorne, California, with 10 office locations across the US and has over 6,000 employees.
DiDi Global Inc is the world’s leading mobility technology platform. It offers a wide range of app-based services across Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa, as well as in Central Asia and Russia, including ride hailing, taxi hailing, chauffeur, hitch and other forms of shared mobility as well as auto solutions, food delivery, intra-city freight and financial services. In addition, DiDi provides car owners, drivers and delivery partners with flexible work and income opportunities. As of 13 December 2021, DiDi Global is worth $31.3bn. Some of its investors include Apple, GRS ventures, Alibaba, SoftBank, etc. DiDi Global has offices in Beijing and California with over 15,500 employees.
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What it takes to become a unicorn
To find out what it takes to become a unicorn in this day and age, Emily Bauer interviewed many growth leaders and founders whose organizations have already achieved unicorn status. Bauer pulled some of the key points from these interviews and wrote an article to show what unicorns have done to get to where they are. Here are some of her key points:
- The organization needs to offer a simple solution to an already existing problem.
- Even if they are not the first to the market, they need to have a distinct position.
- Unicorns have the right people, skills, tools, and data to make great ideas happen. Investors will want to see that the company is serious about pursuing the idea whether they have funding or not.
- Unicorns are often thought of as companies that come out of nowhere and grow fast. But that doesn’t mean the founders achieved success overnight. They’ve likely been working towards this milestone, in some form or another, for a very long time.
- To drive unicorn-level growth, an organization’s product needs to have mass appeal. A startup cannot scale up if it can’t capture a larger market, which is why it’s so important to optimize for the casual user if you’re serious about driving growth.
- No rule says a startup needs to be wildly profitable to become a unicorn. The key is to find the right balance between incoming cash flow and what a startup reinvests in its business. Instead of growing margins to impress investors with fast ROI, startups need to focus on perfecting the product.
- If a startup wants to be a unicorn, it needs to act like one from the start. It needs to create a strong foundation that can support rapid growth so that when things do take off, it can scale with confidence, and that the team can keep up the pace.