Global Unicorn Index 2021

Source:Hurun Research Institute Author:Hurun Research Institute IssueTime:2021-12-20

The Hurun Research Institute today in association with the Guangzhou City Commercial Bureau and Huangpu District released the Global Unicorn Index 2021, a ranking of the world’s start-ups founded in the 2000s, worth at least a billion dollars and not yet listed on a public exchange. The cut-off date used was 30 November 2021.

GLOBAL UNICORN INDEX 2021

IN SEARCH OF START-UPS FROM THE 2000S WITH A VALUATION OF US$1BN, NOT YET LISTED ON A PUBLIC EXCHANGE.

 

IT’S OFFICIAL. 2021 IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL YEAR IN HISTORY FOR UNICORNS. HURUN RESEARCH FOUND 1,058 UNICORNS IN WORLD, ALMOST DOUBLE THE 586 OF LAST YEAR.

 

USA UNICORNS HAD AN AMAZING YEAR WITH 487 UNICORNS, UP 254. CHINA SECOND WITH 301 UNICORNS, UP 74. BETWEEN THEM, USA AND CHINA HAVE 74% OF WORLD’S UNICORNS, DOWN SLIGHTLY FROM 79% LAST YEAR.

 

INDIA OVERTAKES UK TO THIRD PLACE WITH 54 UNICORNS, UP 33, MORE THAN DOUBLE LAST YEAR. UK THIRD WITH 39 UNICORNS, UP 15.

 

TIKTOK OWNER BYTEDANCE SURGES TO BECOME MOST VALUABLE UNICORN IN WORLD WORTH US$350BN, UP US$270BN, OVERTAKING CHINA-BASED ANT WORTH US$150BN.

 

ELON MUSK’S SPACEX BREAKS INTO tOP three IN WORLD WITH US$100BN VALUATION, UP US$64BN, TO BECOME MOST VALUABLE UNICORN IN USA.

 

673 UNICORNS MADE THE HURUN LIST FOR THE FIRST TIME. OF THE NEW FACES, USA ADDED 347 AND CHINA ADDED 146 UNICORNS. NEW FACES INCLUDED BLOCKCHAIN STARTUP FTX (US$25BN), E-COMMERCE STARTUP J&T EXPRESS (US$20BN) AND LOGISTICS STARTUP LINEAGE LOGISTICS (US$18BN).

 

201 UNICORNS LEFT LAST YEAR’S LIST. 28% OR 162 ‘PROMOTED’ AFTER IPO OR ACQUISITION, AND 7% OR 39 ‘DEMOTED’ AFTER VALUATION DROPPED BELOW US$1BN.

 

NEW TO TOP 10: Stockholm-BASED fintech giant klarna UP US$41BN, sydney-BASED online design platform canva UP US$37BN, San francisco-BASED GROCERY DELIVERY INSTACART UP US$31BN, San francisco-BASED ai POWERED DATA STARTUP DATABRICKS UP US$32BN AND LONDON BASED FINTECH GIANT REVOLUT UP US$27BN

 

SAN FRANCISCO OVERTOOK BEIJING TO BECOME WORLD’S UNICORN CAPITAL. NEW YORK OVERTOOK SHANGHAI TO THIRD PLACE, FOLLOWED BY sHENZHEN. 6 of top 10 cities in china and usa. 20% OF WORLD’S UNICORNS BASED IN SILICON VALLEY.

 

no unicorns: Italy, Russia, SAUDI ARABIA and POland largest countries in the world by GDP without a unicorn

 

business management solutions, Financial services AND RETAIL sectorS most disrupted by unicorns, followed by healthcare, LOGISTICS, CYBER SECURITY, TRANSPORATATION and CONSUMER ELECTRONICS

 

FINTECH LED WITH 139 UNICORNS, FOLLOWED BY SAAS WITH 134 AND E-COMMERCE 122. OTHERS INCLUDE AI 84, HEALTHTECH 80, CYBER SECURITY 40 AND BIOTECH 31.

 

SEQUOIA WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL UNICORN INVESTOR FOR SECOND YEAR, INVESTING INTO ONE IN FIVE OF THE WORLD’S UNICORNS. TIGER FUND OVERTOOK SOFTBANK FOR SECOND PLACE, ROUNDING OUT ‘BIG 3 UNICORN INVESTORS’.

 

AVERAGE AGE OF UNICORN 8YRS, IE FOUNDED IN 2013. 68 UNICORNS FOUNDED WITHIN 3 YEARS.

 

49 UNICORNS CREATED FROM spIN-OFFS, 48 FROM CHINA.

 

INDIANS FOUNDED FURTHER 65 UNICORNS OUTSIDE INDIA, CHINESE FOUNDED FURTHER 23 OUTSIDE CHINA.

 

AFRICA 3 UNICORNS, UP 2: NIGERIA-BASED FINTECH START-UPS INTERSWITCH AND OPAY; SENEGAL-BASED FINTECH START-UP WAVE.

 

TOTAL VALUE OF ALL KNOWN UNICORNS IN WORLD DOUBLES TO US$3.7 TRILLION

 

 

(20 December 2021, Guangzhou, China & Mumbai, India) The Hurun Research Institute today in association with the Guangzhou City Commercial Bureau and High Technology Industry District released the Global Unicorn Index 2021, a ranking of the world’s start-ups founded in the 2000s, worth at least a billion dollars and not yet listed on a public exchange.  The cut-off date used was 30 November 2021. Hurun Research has been tracking unicorns in China since 2017 and the world since 2019.

 

This report includes the Most Successful Unicorn Investors in the World 2021, a ranking of the 100 most successful unicorn investors, and the Most Successful Unicorn Investors in China 2021, a ranking of the 30 most successful unicorn investors, based on the number of unicorns they have invested in.

 

Hurun Research found 1,058 unicorns in the world, based in 42 countries and 221 cities. On average, they were set up eight years ago, ie in 2013. 81% sell software and services, with only 19% selling physical products. 53% are consumer-facing, whilst 47% sell to businesses. They are disrupting business management solutions, financial services and retail. The total value of all known unicorns in the world is US$3.7tn, equivalent to the GDP of Germany.

 

There were 673 ‘new faces’ and 201 drop-offs.  Of the drop-offs, 28% or 162 were ‘promoted’ out of the unicorn list, after going public or being acquired, whilst 7% or 39 were ‘demoted’, after their valuations dropped below US$1bn. Of last year’s list, 175 unicorns saw their valuations rise, whilst 13 saw their valuations drop.

 

Unicorn founders are 44 years old on average, meaning that they founded their unicorn aged 36. Unicorns have 2 founders on average. One third are serial entrepreneurs, having sold out of a previous start-up. 40% met at a previous job, whilst 1 in 8 met at university. Computer Science and Business Studies were the most common degrees. One in five unicorns have at least one co-founder from outside of the country of origin of the unicorn. The USA, especially Silicon Valley, attracted the most unicorn founders from abroad, followed by Europe. India led the way for emigrant unicorn founders, followed by China, Israel and Russia.

 

 

Guangzhou Commercial Bureau head said, “We are delighted to partner with leading list and research house Hurun Report to put out the Global Unicorn Index 2021. Guangzhou is accelerating its ‘one click’ start-up ecosystem, its ‘connect and use’ investment ecosystem, and its ‘call and answer’ government and business ecosystem. Unicorns are emerging from strategic industries and the new economy, bringing with them new business models, new technologies and new investment opportunities. We hope that more unicorns will invest in and grow with Guangzhou.”

 

Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said: “I am delighted to release the Global Unicorn Index 2021 in Guangzhou, one of the best cities in China for business and entrepreneurship, and with a distinct advantage of lying at the heart of the Greater Bay Area.  I am also very much looking forward to March, when we will be hosting the Global Unicorn CEO Conference in association with the Guangzhou City Commercial Bureau and High Technology Industry District, inviting the world’s unicorns, investors and advisers to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship, new technologies and business models. For Hurun Group, the Greater Bay Area is of strategic importance, and so I am delighted to announce that we will be setting up our GBA Head office and our Global Unicorn Training Center, both in Guangzhou High Technology Industry District.”

 

“2021 is officially the most successful year for start-ups ever. There are today more than 1000 known unicorns, practically double the number from last year, mainly on the back of a surge in unicorns in the US.”

 

“The Global Unicorn Index 2021 is designed to highlight the world’s most successful start-ups. These unicorns are leading a new generation of disruptive technology, especially in business management solutions and financial services, and attracting the world’s top young talent.”

 

“Which sectors have the greatest potential? Half of the world’s unicorns are operating companies doing FinTech, SaaS, E-commerce, AI, HealthTech and Cyber security, specific sectors that the world’s smartest capital is investing into.”

 

“It is easy to see why unicorns are the most exciting companies in the world.  If a unicorn, especially from the top of the Hurun Global Unicorn Index, goes public, it attracts worldwide attention. When ByteDance goes public, for example, it is going to be world news. And when it goes wrong, as in the case of Alibaba’s failed IPO last year, or China’s taxi-app Didi, which delisted after just a few months due to data storage laws, or UK-based Greensill, which went bankrupt, ensnaring former British Prime Minister David Cameron in the process, it causes much soul searching and many more headlines.”

 

“Whilst no metaverse-related unicorns have appeared yet, expect this game-changing technology to spawn many in the future.”

 

“The speed of value creation is accelerating. It took the Hurun Unicorns only eight years to hit a billion-dollar valuation, meaning today’s unicorns started out in 2013 when their founders were 36 years old. What were you doing eight years ago? Founder teams and investors are becoming more experienced at knowing how to build billion-dollar businesses with focus on value-creation over sales.”

 

“The Hurun Global Unicorn Index is compiled using data from the world’s leading investors, making this perhaps the most serious attempt to capture all of the world’s unicorns into one list.”

 

“The countries with the most unicorns give a picture of which countries have the world’s best start-up ecosystems. Building a start-up ecosystem takes years, but once up and running, it can provide rewards for decades to come. Silicon Valley, centred around a world-class university like Stanford, launched the tech wave around the turn of the millennium but – twenty years later – is still going strong, attracting the likes of Elon Musk to set up shop there.”

 

“The US and China continue to dominate, with three quarters of the world’s known unicorns, despite representing only a quarter of the world’s population. The rest of the world is playing catch-up, growing their share of the world’s unicorns from 17% two years ago to 26% this year.”

 

“Countries with more unicorns are seen as having more dynamic economies. 42 countries are now able to boast of having at least one unicorn, up from 25 countries two years ago, but there are still large economies like Italy, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Poland leading the list of 160 countries without a single known unicorn. 13 countries officially produced unicorns for the first time, led by Mexico and Holland, and including Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Senegal, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Vietnam.”

 

“As a continent, Europe’s start-up hubs underperform. Despite representing 20% of the world’s economy, Europe has only 11% of the world’s unicorns. One key reason is the lack of stock exchanges for start-ups, especially when compared with the US and China. New York is the most popular destination for a public listing for start-ups, followed by China. The recent launch of the Beijing Stock Exchange, following on from the STAR market in Shanghai, shows China’s commitment to providing a platform for start-ups and an opportunity for retail investors to gain access to their growth.”

 

“A comparison of unicorns in the USA and China throws up some interesting dynamics. In the US, SaaS and Fintech made up a third of their unicorns, whilst in China, E-commerce, HealthTech and AI made up a third.”

 

“A significant 28% of last year’s unicorns were ‘promoted’ out of this year’s list, mainly by going IPO and a small number being acquired. A further 7% dropped off because their valuation fell below US$1bn.”

 

“A successful start-up ecosystem requires rolemodels, both individuals, such as those from the Hurun Rich Lists, and companies, such as those from the Hurun 500 most valuable companies series. If a city or country can attract the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and companies to set up shop there, that will have a roll-on effect. Entrepreneurship is infectious and cities with lots of rolemodels are likely to attract the brightest and best young entrepreneurs. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”

 

“World-class universities are of critical importance to a successful start-up ecosystem. Stanford underpinned Silicon Valley’s early success, and today we are seeing deeper engagements of top universities with successful start-ups that – in turn – are fostering new generations of talent.”

 

“The role of investors is evolving to mentorship and scale-up opportunities, rather than just providers of cash. The world’s leading unicorn investors are building ecosystems with their portfolios, hugely attractive to the world’s fastest-growing start-ups. Being able to say you have one of the top unicorn investor brands as an investor adds significant credibility to a start-up.”

 

“Unicorns are supposed to be hard to find, but investors like Sequoia, Tiger Fund and Softbank make it look easy.”

 

“A unique feature of China’s start-up ecosystem is the ability of big tech companies to spin off unicorns, with 48 of the world’s 49 ‘spun-off’ unicorns coming from China, such as Ant Group, spun off from Alibaba in 2014. Curiously, the ‘World’s Big 4’ on the Hurun Global 500 most valuable companies, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet, are not as active as their China counterparts when it comes to investing into unicorns.”

 

“Hurun Report is committed to promoting entrepreneurship through its lists and research. Hurun’s ‘startup series’ has four main components. It begins with the Hurun U30s Entrepreneurs to Watch, a list of the top entrepreneurs under the age of 30. Next up are two ‘future unicorn’ lists: Hurun Cheetahs, most likely to ‘go unicorn’ within 5 years and currently with a valuation of between US$200 million and US$500 million, and Hurun Gazelles, most likely to ‘go unicorn’ within 3 years and currently with a valuation of between US$500 million and US$1 billion. The Hurun Global Unicorn Index is the pinnacle of the world’s start-ups.”

 

“You have built your start-up into a unicorn with a billion-dollar valuation. Now, what’s next? The Hurun Global 500, currently requiring a valuation of US$30 billion. 7 unicorns last year have managed that jump, led by Airbnb, cloud data security provider Snowflake, China e-cars Xpeng Motors and Chehejia, crypto exchange Coinbase, games and app development platform Unity Technologies and big data analyser Palantir.”

 

“For every successful unicorn you see, there are thousands of failed companies, as well as a new generation of future unicorns coming through.  I hope this list of the world’s unicorns can help young entrepreneurs find role models for their businesses.”

 

“India is in the midst of a start-up boom, more than doubling its unicorns to take the country’s official tally of unicorns to 54, and overtake the UK to third place in the world. Whilst there are a further 65 unicorns founded by Indians abroad, mainly in Silicon Valley, the percentage of homegrown unicorns has increased from one third to 45%, suggesting that the start-up ecosystem in India is maturing.”

 

 

Top 10 Unicorns in the World

 

This year’s Top 10 make up 25% of the total value of the world’s unicorns. 4 are from the USA, 3 from China and 1 from each of Australia, UK and Sweden.

 

There were 5 new faces: Stockholm-based payments platform Klarna, Sydney-based online design platform Canva, San Francisco-based AI powered data startup Databricks, San Francisco-based Instacart, and London-based fintech start-up Revolut. They replaced Didi Chuxing, Lufax, Airbnb, Kuaishou and Palantir, which went public in the last year, raising US$15.5bn between them.

 

Table 1: Global Unicorn Index 2021 TOP 10

Rank

Rank Change

Company

Valuation (US$bn)

Valuation change (US$bn)

Country

Sector

Year Founded

1

1

ByteDance

350

270

China

Social Media

2012

2

-1

Ant Group

150

0

China

FinTech

2014

3

2

SpaceX

100

64

USA

Aerospace

2002

4

1

Stripe

95

59

USA

FinTech

2010

5

53

Klarna

46

41

Sweden

FinTech

2005

6

102

Canva

40

37

Australia

SaaS

2012

7

24

Instacart

39

31

USA

On-Demand Delivery

2012

8

40

Databricks

38

32

USA

Big Data

2013

9

0

Cainiao

34

7

China

Logistics

2013

10

38

Revolut

33

27

UK

FinTech

2015

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

Started only nine years ago, Beijing-based ByteDance is officially the world’s biggest unicorn, surging US$270bn in value to US$350bn. With its flagship TikTok closing in on 3 billion daily users, it has now grown to become a serious challenger to Facebook. Founder Zhang Yiming, 38, stepped down as CEO in the last year.

 

Since its failed IPO this time last year, Hangzhou-based Ant Group has lost its title of the world’s most valuable unicorn to ByteDance, and has been restructuring its payments and lending businesses after multiple rounds with regulators.

 

SpaceX. Elon Musk founded what has become the largest unicorn in the US in 2002. Since then LA-based SpaceX has raised US$6.6bn in 51 funding rounds, with the latest one valuing the unicorn at US$100bn, moving it up 2 places to third. SpaceX’s key projects include Starlink, aimed at providing Internet connectivity to the whole world, and the Starship rocket, which aims to land humans on the lunar surface and Mars.

 

Stripe. Started by Irish brothers John and Patrick Collison in 2010, San Francisco-based payment solutions platform Stripe was up one place to 4th. In March, Stripe announced a US$600mn investment round, valuing it at US$95bn.

 

With a valuation of US$46bn Klarna, Sweden-based payments platform, ranked 5th in the Global Unicorn Index 2021. Klarna, founded by Niklas Adalberth, Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Victor Jacobsson, was up 53 places to break into the Top 10. Stockholm-based Klarna is Europe’s largest unicorn.

 

Sydney-based online graphic design platform Canva is 6th. In its latest round of funding in September, Canva raised US$200mn, which valued the company at US$40bn.

 

On-demand grocery delivery platform Instacart, founded in 2012, is the world’s seventh largest unicorn with a valuation of US$39bn. Instacart shot up 24 places to a Top 10 spot. Instacart has raised a total of US$2.7bn in funding over 17 rounds.

 

San Francisco-based Databricks, a Data and AI company, is 8th. In August, Databricks raised US$1.6bn in a Series H round, valuing it at US$38bn.

 

China logistics platform Cainiao kept its Top 10 place, after seeing its valuation rise to US$34bn.

 

With a valuation of US$33bn, London-based digital bank Revolut has grown into the UK’s largest unicorn, making the Top 10 in the world. In July, Revolut raised US$800mn in a new funding round led by Softbank Vision Fund and Tiger Global Management. Revolut has raised a total of US$1.7bn over 14 rounds.

 

 

Where are the World’s Unicorns based?

 

The world’s unicorns come from 42 countries around the world, up from 29, spread around 221 cities, up from 145.

 

The USA led with 487 unicorns, up 254, followed by China on 301, up 74, together accounting for 74% of the world’s unicorns. SpaceX is the USA’s biggest unicorn.

 

The USA added 347 ‘new faces’ this year, whilst China added 146.  The USA had 94 drop-offs, of which 89 were promoted out of the unicorn list (75 IPOs & 14 acquisitions) and 5 dropped out because they no longer made the cut. In China, 72 dropped off, of which 41 were promoted (38 IPOs & 3 acquisitions), and 31 no longer made the cut.

 

India was third with 54, led by online educator BYJU’S worth US$21bn, mobile ad-tech firm InMobi (US$12bn), travel-stay finder OYO Rooms (US$9.5bn).

 

The UK was fourth with 39 unicorns, led by digital banking and payments platform Revolut (US$33bn).

 

Germany overtook South Korea for fifth place, whilst France overtook book Brazil and Israel for sixth place. Europe’s largest unicorn was Sweden-based payments platform Klarna worth US$46bn.

 

By city, San Francisco is the world’s unicorn capital with 151, up 83, followed by Beijing with 91. New York added 52 unicorns to third place. Shanghai and Shenzhen were in fourth and fifth. Bengaluru, Paris and Berlin broke into the Top 10, at the expense of Palo Alto, Nanjing and Redwood. 6 of the Top 10 cities are in China and the USA. As a region, Silicon Valley leads the world with 208 or 20% of the world’s unicorns.

 

To make the World’s Top 30 start-up ecosystems, required at least 7 unicorns today. Chicago, Mumbai, San Jose and Cambridge, USA, broke into the Top 30 list for the first time.

 

Table 2: Top countries and cities where the world’s unicorns are based

Rank

Country

No. of Unicorns

 

Rank

City

No. of Unicorns

1-

USA

487 (+254)

 

1

San Francisco

151 (+83)

2-

China

301 (+74)

 

2

Beijing

91 (-2)

3

India

54 (+33)

 

3

New York

85 (+52)

4

UK

39 (+15)

 

4

Shanghai

71 (+24)

5

Germany

26 (+16)

 

5-

Shenzhen

32 (+12)

6

France

19 (+12)

 

6

London

31 (+15)

7-

Israel

17 (+9)

 

7

Bengaluru

28 (+20)

8

Canada

15 (+12)

 

8

Hangzhou

22 (+2)

9

Brazil

12 (+4)

 

9

Paris

18 (+12)

10

South Korea

10 (-1)

 

10

Berlin

17 (+12)

11

Indonesia

7 (+2)

 

11*

Chicago

15 (+12)

11

Singapore

7 (+5)

 

12

Palo Alto

12 (+0)

13

Japan

6 (+3)

 

12-

Boston

12 (+4)

14-

Australia

5 (+3)

 

12

Mountain View

12 (+6)

14*

Mexico

5 (+5)

 

12

Gurugram

12 (+6)

16

Sweden

4 (+2)

 

16

Redwood City

11 (+1)

16

Switzerland

4 (-1)

 

16

Tel Aviv

11 (+6)

18

Spain

3 (+1)

 

16

Sao Mateo

11 (+7)

18*

Netherlands

3 (+3)

 

19

Guangzhou

10 (+2)

20

Ireland

2 (+1)

 

19

Nanjing

10 (-1)

20

Colombia

2 (+1)

 

19

San Paulo

10 (+3)

20*

Turkey

2 (+2)

 

22*

Mumbai

9 (+8)

20

Malta

2 (+0)

 

22

Los Angeles

9 (+5)

20

Austria

2 (+1)

 

24

Sunnyvale

8 (+3)

20

Finland

2 (+1)

 

24*

San Jose

8 (+5)

20*

Thailand

2 (+2)

 

26

Seoul

7 (-2)

20

Nigeria

2 (+1)

 

26*

Seattle

7 (+5)

20*

UAE

2 (+2)

 

26*

Cambridge, USA

7 (+4)

20*

Norway

2 (+2)

 

26

Atlanta

7 (+3)

20

Philippines

2 (+1)

 

26

Hong Kong

7 (+2)

20*

Denmark

2 (+2)

 

26*

Singapore

7 (+5)

* New to list

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

A comparison of the USA and China

Both countries are remarkably similar in terms of concentration of unicorns by city, with the Big Two cities of each country making up over half of the country’s unicorns. In China, third and fourth placed-cities of Shenzhen and Hangzhou make up a further 20% compared to Chicago and Boston with 5%.

 

By industry, the ‘Big Five’ of each country represents half of their unicorns, although the US unicorns are doing SaaS and Fintech, whilst China’s are in E-commerce and HealthTech.

 

Table 3: China Unicorns by City                        USA Unicorns by City                                  

 

City

No. of Unicorns

% of China Unicorns

 

 

City

No. of Unicorns

% of USA Unicorns

1-

Beijing

91 (-2)

30%

 

1-

San Francisco

151 (+83)

31%

2-

Shanghai

71 (+24)

24%

 

2-

New York

85 (+52)

17%

3-

Shenzhen

32 (+12)

11%

 

3

Chicago

15 (+12)

3%

4

Hangzhou

22 (+2)

7%

 

4

Palo Alto

12 (+0)

2.5%

5

Guangzhou

10 (+2)

3%

 

4

Boston

12 (+4)

2.5%

5-

Nanjing

10 (-1)

3%

 

4

Mountain View

12 (+6)

2.5%

7-

HK

7 (+2)

2%

 

7

Redwood City

11 (+1)

2.3%

8*

Suzhou

5 (+5)

2%

 

7

San Mateo

11 (+7)

2.3%

8-

Chengdu

5 (+1)

2%

 

9

Los Angeles

9 (+5)

1.8%

8

Qingdao

5 (+2)

2%

 

10

Sunnyvale

8 (+3)

1.6%

* New to list

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

Table 4A: China Unicorns by Industry   

Rank

Industry

Unicorn %

% of Total Value

Key unicorns

1

E-commerce

14%

9%

Shein, Cars

2

HealthTech

10%

5.2%

Ping An Healthcare Technology, WeDoctor

2

Artificial Intelligence

10%

5.1%

SenseTime, Didi Autonomous Driving

4

SaaS

6%

4%

Xiaohongshu, 58

4

Semiconductor

6%

3%

Horizon Robotics, Huaqin

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

Table 4B: USA Unicorns by Industry

Rank

Industry

Unicorn %

% of Total Value

Key unicorns

1

SaaS

20%

16%

Figma, ServiceTitan

2

FinTech

12%

19%

Stripe, Chime

3

Artificial Intelligence

9%

9%

Grammarly, Talkdesk

3

HealthTech

9%

6%

Ro, Color

5

Cyber Security

7%

5%

Tanium, Lacework

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

India. Indians founded 119 unicorns, of which 65 are outside of India and 54 are in India. Of those founded abroad, significantly all are in the USA, led by the Bay Area, with two in each of the UK and Singapore, and one in each of Germany and Mexico. For the full 65 list, see the Appendix 2.

 

 

Can’t find a unicorn here

 

Italy is the only Top 10 country in the world without a unicorn.

 

Table 5: Largest countries in the world without a unicorn

Rank

Country

Ranking in World by GDP

GDP (US$bn)

1

Italy

8

1,886

2

Russia

11

1,483

3

Saudi Arabia

20

700

4

Poland

21

594

5

Venezuela

25

501

6

Egypt

32

363

7

Bangladesh

39

324

8

South Africa

40

302

9

Pakistan

44

264

10

Romania

46

249

Source: Hurun Research Institute.  GDP rankings and dollar values based on World Bank 2020 estimates

 

 

North America overtook Asia as the continent creating the most unicorns in the world, whilst Asia pipped the USA in terms of total valuations of unicorns, on the back of ByteDance and Ant, which between them are worth US$500bn.

 

Table 6: Continents where the world’s unicorns are based

Rank

Continent

No. of Unicorns

% of Total Value

1↑

North America

509

43%

2↓

Asia

411

45%

3 -

Europe

114

10%

4 -

South America

16

1%

5 -

Oceania

5

1%

6 -

Africa

3

0.1%

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

New Faces

 

Hurun Research identified 673 new unicorns in 38 countries. The USA added 347, followed by China with 146 and India with 41. These new unicorns are worth US$1.4tn, equivalent to the GDP of Russia.

 

Table 7: Top 10 new faces

Rank

Company

Valuation (US$bn)

Country

Sector

Year Founded

1

FTX

25

Bahamas

Blockchain

2018

2

J&T Express

20

Indonesia

E-commerce

2015

3

Lineage Logistics

18

USA

Logistics

2012

4

Genki Forest

15

China

Food & Beverages

2016

4

Gopuff

15

USA

On-Demand Delivery

2013

6

Plaid

13.5

USA

FinTech

2013

7

InMobi

12

India

Adtech

2007

7

GoodLeap

12

USA

FinTech

2003

9

Sunshine Insurance

11

China

Insurance

2005

10

Didi Huoyun

10

China

Logistics

2020

10

Digital Currency Group

10

USA

Blockchain

2015

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

Biggest losers

 

39 unicorns from the last year saw their valuation drop below US$1bn. China led with 31, followed by the USA with 5, India by 2 and UK by 1.

 

Augmented reality platform Magic Leap led the way with the biggest drop in valuations, down US$8bn to US$2bn this year.

 

Table 8: Drop-offs with valuations falling below US$1bn

Rank

Company

Valuation 2020 (US$bn)

Country

Sector

Year Founded

1

Katerra

4

USA

Construction

2015

1

Zume

4

USA

Big Data

2015

3

Greensill

3.5

UK

FinTech

2011

4

Paytm Mall

3

India

E-commerce

2010

4

Singulato

3

China

E-Cars

2014

4

UCAR

3

China

Shared Economy

2015

4

Yiguo

3

China

E-commerce

2005

4

Yixia

3

China

Media & Entertainment

2013

4

Youxia

3

China

E-Cars

2014

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

What industries do they come from?

 

Hurun Research has broken down the industries of these unicorns into three.  First is the industry they are disrupting, second is their core industry and third is the detailed industry they are operating.

 

 

Industries Disrupted

 

Financial Services, Business Management Solutions, Healthcare and Retail have seen the biggest increase in number of unicorns in the past year.

 

Table 9: Industries most disrupted by unicorns

Rank

Industry

% of Unicorns

1 (+3)

Business Management Solutions

18.1% (+104%)

2 (-1)

Financial Services

17.0% (+131%)

3 (-1)

Retail

9.7% (+56%)

4 (+1)

Healthcare

9.3% (+219%)

5 (+1)

Logistics

4.4% (+62%)

6 (+9)

Cyber Security

4.2% (+238%)

7 (+1)

Transportation

3.5% (+37%)

8 (+9)

Consumer Electronics

2.7% (+222%)

9 (-2)

Automobile

1.8% (-32%)

9 (+8)

Food & Beverages

1.8% (+111%)

9 (+11)

Energy

1.8% (+138%)

9 (+1)

Education

1.8% (-5%)

13 (-1)

Hospitality

1.6% (+0%)

14 (-3)

Life Sciences

1.5% (-11%)

14 (-11)

Media & Entertainment

1.5% (-53%)

14 *

Gaming

1.5% (+45%)

17 (+1)

Real Estate

1.4% (+15%)

17*

Communications

1.4% (+200%)

* New to list

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

What is the core business of these unicorns?

 

FinTech and SaaS are the core industries of today’s unicorns, followed by E-commerce and AI.

 

Table 10: Industries of the unicorns

Rank

Industry

No. of Unicorns

% of Total Value

1 (+1)

FinTech

139

19.5%

2 (+2)

SaaS

134

10.4%

3 (-2)

E-commerce

122

8.4%

4 (-2)

Artificial Intelligence

84

6.0%

5 (+1)

HealthTech

80

4.7%

6 *

Cyber Security

40

2.5%

7 (+3)

Biotech

31

1.9%

8 *

Blockchain

30

4.0%

9 (-4)

Shared Economy

29

2.4%

10 (-3)

Big Data

27

2.4%

* New to list

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

FinTech. There are 139 fintech unicorns in the world today. 31% are payment technology-related unicorns. The most valuable FinTech unicorn is Ant Group (US$150bn), followed by payments platform Stripe (US$95bn) and Klarna (US$46bn). FinTech dominates with US$720bn or 19% of the total value of all unicorns.

 

SaaS. With 134 unicorns, SaaS is second. Top SaaS companies are Australia based Canva (US$40bn) is one of the most valuable software startup followed by Shanghai-based Xiaohongshu (US$20bn) and San Francisco-based software startup Airtable (US$12bn). The total value of all SaaS unicorns is US$383bn.

 

E-commerce. There are 122 e-commerce unicorns with a total value of US$310bn. Guangzhou-based apparel retailer Shein and Indonesia’s J&T Express lead the industry with US$20bn valuations, followed by Beijing-based Cars with US$10bn. With 42 unicorns, China has the largest number of e-commerce unicorns followed by USA (28) and India (15).

 

Artificial Intelligence boasts 84 unicorns up from 63 the previous year. With a US$13bn valuation San Francisco-based AI-powered writing assistant Grammarly leads the industry followed by China-based SenseTime (US$12bn). AI unicorns are worth US$219bn or 6% of the total value of all unicorns. The USA leads with 44 AI unicorns, followed by China with 30.

 

HealthTech has 80 unicorns, making it the fifth largest sector with 7.6% of the unicorns. San Francisco has seen the most unicorn activity in HealthTech and is home to 13 unicorns. With its own online healthcare ecosystem, PingAn Healthcare Technology is the most valuable at US$9bn, followed by Hangzhou-based WeDoctor (US$7bn).

 

Cyber Security has 40 unicorns led by Emerville-based Tanium (US$9bn), followed by San Jose-based Lacework (US$8.5bn) and New York-based Fireblocks (US$8bn). These unicorns make up 3.7% of the global list and their combined valuation comes to US$93bn

 

Biotech is in seventh place with 31, or just under 3% of the unicorns. At the top is clinical-stage biotechnology company Biosplice Therapeutics (US$12bn), followed by Chicago-based Tempus (US$8.1bn). The total value of all biotech unicorns comes to US$70bn or just under 1.9% of the total.

 

Blockchain has 30 unicorns led by Bahamas-based FTX (US$25bn) and Malta-based crypto exchange Binance (US$15bn), followed by New York-based Digital Currency, San Francisco-based Kraken and Ripple with US$10bn each. These unicorns make up 3% of the global list and their combined valuation comes to US$147bn.

 

Shared Economy is in ninth place with 29 unicorns and the total value of industry unicorn comes to US$89bn or just 2.4%. The sector is led by Indonesia-based online car-hailing platform GO-JEK (US$10.5bn) comes second followed by Indian hotel aggregator OYO (US$9.5bn).

 

Big Data has 27 unicorns, making it the 10th largest sector with 2.5% of the unicorns. Top big data companies are US-based AI-powered data startup Databricks (US$38bn) followed by China-based Ping An International Smart City (US$8bn) and US-based data science platform Dataiku (US$4.6bn).

 

Table 11: Core business of the world’s unicorns

Rank

Sector

No. of Unicorns

Total Value (US$bn)

1

Market Place

67

149

2

Payments

43

377

3

Banking

20

42

4

Online car-hailing

14

44

4

Biopharmaceutical

14

20

6

Online education

13

27

7

Crypto Currency Exchange Platform

12

73

8

Aerospace

11

117

8

Cloud Data Services

11

17

8

Express delivery

11

62

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

Years to Unicorn

 

The average age of the Global Unicorn Index 2021 is eight years, of which 68 are less than three years old. Three went unicorn within their first year of operations.

 

Table 12: Youngest unicorns

Year Founded

Unicorn

Valuation (US$bn)

Sector

Country

2021

ClickHouse

2

Big Data

USA

Candy Digital

1.5

FinTech

USA

Mensa Brands

1

Investments

India

2020

Didi Huoyun

10

Logistics

China

Wiz

6

Cyber Security

Israel

Xiaodu

5

Consumer Goods

China

Clubhouse

4

Social Media

USA

DJ New Ease

4

Logistics

China

1inch

2

Blockchain

USA

Flink

2

On-Demand Delivery

Germany

Capchase

2

FinTech

USA

Huitian Aerospace

1.5

Aerospace

China

RSMC

1.5

Semiconductor

China

Cerebral

1

HealthTech

USA

Merama

1

E-commerce

Mexico

SellerX

1

Investments

Germany

Cider

1

E-commerce

China

Drata

1

Cyber Security

USA

Gorillas

1

E-commerce

Germany

Heyday

1

E-commerce

USA

Lepu Scientech

1

HealthTech

China

Pacaso

1

Real Estate Tech

USA

Playco

1

Gaming

Japan

Razor Group

1

E-commerce

Germany

Stytch

1

Cyber Security

USA

Wego

1

HealthTech

China

Xiao ice

1

Artificial Intelligence

China

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

Which investors are the best at finding unicorns?

 

Sequoia kept its title as Number One Most Successful Unicorn Investor in the World, whilst Tiger Fund overtook Softbank to make up the ‘Big Three’ of the world’s most successful unicorn investors. Between them, the ‘Big Three’ invested into 50% of the world’s known unicorns. Insight Partners and Coatue broke into the Top 10 for the first time at the expense of IDG and Alibaba.

 

The vast majority of the investors are headquartered in the USA with 79, followed by China with 11. Singapore and the UK each had 2, with France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan and Russia with one each.

 

For the full list of the Most Successful Unicorn Investors in the World 2021, see the Appendix 1.

 

Table 13A: Most successful investors into unicorns – Top 10

 

Rank

Investor

No. of Unicorns

HQ by Country

Key Leadership Team

1-

Sequoia

206 (+97)

USA

Doug Leone, Roelof Botha and Neil Shen

2

Tiger Fund

147 (+112)

USA

Chase Coleman, Scott Shleifer

3-

Softbank

146 (+95)

Japan

Masayoshi Son, Rajeev Misra

4

Accel

74 (+51)

USA

Philippe Botteri, Andrew Braccia

5*

Insight Partners

71 (+52)

USA

Jeff Horing, Lonne Jaffe

5

Goldman Sachs

71 (+39)

USA

David Solomon, John Waldron

7

Andreessen Horowitz

70 (+46)

USA

Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz

8

Tencent

68 (+16)

China

Pony Ma Huateng, Liu Chiping, Li Zhaohui

8

Hillhouse

68 (+31)

China

Zhang Lei

10*

Coatue

67 (+62)

USA

Philippe Laffont, Thomas Laffont

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

Which investors are the most successful at finding China unicorns?

 

When analysing the most successful investors of Chinese unicorns, Sequoia was still first, investing into 96 of the 301 China-based unicorns, followed by Hillhouse, IDG Capital and Tencent.

 

Table 13B: Most successful investors into China unicorns – Top 30

Rank

Investor

No. of China Unicorns

1

Sequoia Capital China

96

2

Hillhouse

52

3

IDG Capital

50

4

Tencent

41

5

CICC

30

6

Qiming Venture Partners

25

7

Matrix Partners China

24

8

YF Capital

22

9

GGV Capital

20

9

Shunwei

20

11

Softbank

19

12

Alibaba

18

12

ZhenFund

18

14

5Y Capital

17

15

CDH Investments

15

16

Warburg Pincus

12

17

SIG

11

17

Sinovation Ventures

11

19

Capital Today

9

20

Ant Group

8

20

Baidu

8

20

Northern Light

8

23

Chengwei Capital

7

23

CMC Capital

7

23

Goldman Sachs

7

23

Legend Capital

7

23

Temasek

7

23

Xiaomi

7

29

DCM

6

29

DST

6

29

Eastern Bell Capital

6

29

Yunqi Partners

6

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

 

Start-up or incubated?

 

49, up from 20 last year, of the world’s unicorns were incubated by large companies before being spun off and attracting outside investors. All were from China other than Ovo, a US$2.9bn fintech spin-off from Indonesia-based Lippo.

 

Leading the way were Alibaba with 5 spin-offs, JD and Baidu with 3 each.

 

Table 14: Unicorns spun off from large corporations

Spun off from

Company

Country

Valuation (US$bn)

Sector

Alibaba

Ant Group

China

150

FinTech

Cainiao

China

34

Logistics

Taobao Dianying

China

2

E-commerce

Banma

China

1.5

Artificial Intelligence

Alisports

China

1

Entertainment

JD

JDT

China

30

Digital Technology

JD Chanfa

China

5

Enterprise Services

JD Mro

China

2.4

E-commerce

Baidu

Xiaodu

China

5

Consumer Goods

Du Xiaoman Financial

China

3

FinTech

Kunlunxin Tech

China

2

Semiconductor

Didi

Didi Huoyun

China

10

Logistics

Didi Autonomous Driving

China

5.5

Artificial Intelligence

Ping An

Ping An Healthcare Technology

China

9

HealthTech

Ping An International Smart City

China

8

Big Data

Geely

Zeekr

China

9

E-Cars

Caocao

China

2.5

Shared Economy

FSH

Huitongda

China

5.5

E-commerce

Hosjoy

China

1

SaaS

SF-Express

Hivebox

China

3.5

Logistics

Shunfeng Express

China

1.5

Logistics

58

Zhuanzhuan

China

3

E-commerce

58 Home Services

China

1.4

SaaS

Haier

COSMOPlat

China

2.4

Industrial Internet

RRS

China

1.5

Logistics

Skyworth

Coocaa

China

1.5

Consumer Goods

Skywell

China

1.5

E-Cars

Lepu

Lepu Biotech

China

1

Biotech

Lepu Scientech

China

1

HealthTech

Lianjia

Ziroom

China

6.5

Shared Economy

BGI

MGI

China

5

HealthTech

Great Wall Motor

Svolt

China

4

New Energy

NetEase

NetEase Music

China

3

Entertainment

China UnionPay

China UMS

China

3

FinTech

Lippo

Ovo

Indonesia

2.9

FinTech

Hillhouse

Cowell Health

China

2

HealthTech

HaiDiLao

Shuhai

China

2

Logistics

Foxconn

Jusda

China

2

Logistics

Hualan

Hualan Bio

China

1.9

Biotech

Xpeng

Huitian Aerospace

China

1.6

Aerospace

BYD

BYD Micro

China

1.5

Semiconductor

Meinian

MediTrustHealth

China

1.4

HealthTech

Yonghui

Yonghui Fresh Food

China

1.2

New Retail

Huazhu

CJia

China

1

Shared Economy

36Kr

Kr Space

China

1

Shared Economy

Shou Qi

Shouqi

China

1

Shared Economy

Wego

Wego

China

1

HealthTech

COFCO

Womai

China

1

E-commerce

Xiaomi

Smartmi

China

1

Consumer Goods

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

Unicorns recently listed

 

Of the 201 companies from last year that left the Hurun Unicorns, 162 were ‘promoted’, as in 137 went IPO and 25 were acquired, whilst 39 were ‘demoted’, because their valuation dropped below US$1bn.

 

Of the promotions, 7 shot straight into the Hurun Global 500, becoming one of the 500 most valuable companies in the world, led by San Francisco-based online marketplace for lodging Airbnb. Others include Snowflake, e-cars Xpeng Motors and Chehejia, crypto exchange Coinbase Global, Unity Technologies and Palantir Technologies.

 

New York was the preferred destination for a public listing for 105 of last year’s unicorns, followed by Shanghai with 7, HK with 6 and London with 5.

 

Xpeng Motors was the best-performing ex unicorn, seeing its share price almost triple to US$47bn and a place on the Hurun Global 500.

 

Table 15A: Best-Performing Unicorns since IPO

 Rank

Company

% Rise in value since IPO

 

Current Valuation (US$bn)

Industry

Country

1

Xpeng Motors

159%

47

E-cars

China

2

Asana

158%

17

SaaS

USA

3

QuantumScape

151%

12

New Energy

USA

4

Nuvei

149%

14

FinTech

Canada

5

ChargePoint

119%

8

New Energy

USA

6

Chehejia

115%

37

E-cars

China

6

Unity Technologies

115%

44

Gaming

USA

8

Palantir Technologies

106%

40

Big Data

USA

9

DigitalOcean

102%

10

SaaS

USA

10

Novogene

85%

3

Biotech

China

Source: Hurun Research Institute

 

Table 15B: Worst-Performing Unicorns since IPO

 Rank

Company

% Fall in value since IPO

Current Valuation (US$bn)

Industry

Country

1

17zuoye

-95%

0.1

EdTech