China trails US in creating unicorns, India grabs third place: Hurun ranking

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

China fell further behind the U.S. in the number of startups valued at more than $1 billion, according to a report Monday published by China-based researchers. However, the two countries continue to dominate the worldwide list of “unicorns,” as the highly valued unlisted companies are called.

The Global Unicorn Index 2021, compiled by Shanghai’s Hurun Research Institute, showed that Chinese unicorns accounted for 301, or 28%, of 1,058 unicorns worldwide, as of the end of November. In all, 42 countries had at least one unicorn. Collectively, the companies were worth $3.7 trillion.

Some 74 new Chinese unicorns were added to the list, compared with 254 in the U.S., which had 487, or 46%, of the global total. Despite the slower growth in China, the two countries together accounted for nearly three-quarters of the world’s unicorns. India, which added 33 companies to the list, for a total of 54, ranked third.

“The U.S. and China continue to dominate, with three-quarters of the world’s known unicorns, despite representing only a quarter of the world’s population,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher for the report. But Hoogewerf added: “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.”

ByteDance, the parent of video app developer TikTok and Chinese sister app Douyin, was the most valuable unicorn on the list, with its valuation surging to $350 billion, up from $270 billion at the end of March last year. “With its flagship TikTok closing in on 3 billion daily users, [ByteDance] has now grown to become a serious challenger to Facebook,” the report said.

Valued at $150 billion, online financial service provider Ant Group fell to second place after Chinese regulators blocked its listing last year and ordered a revamp of its payment and lending businesses. The moves were part of Beijing’s antimonopoly investigation into the parent company Alibaba Group Holding.

Logistics company Cainiao, another Alibaba’s unit, with a value of $34 billion, ranked ninth, making it the third Chinese company in the top 10.

SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, led U.S. unicorns with a $100 billion valuation and moved up two places up to third. The private aerospace company, which has raised $6.6 billion in 51 funding rounds since 2002, aims to take people to the moon as Musk pursues his vision of interplanetary travel.

Three financial technology companies, Stripe of the U.S., Sweden’s Klarna and the U.K.’s Revolut also made the top 10.

Indian online educator Byju, worth $21 billion, topped that country’s unicorn list, followed by mobile advertiser InMobi at $12 billion and accommodations provider Oyo, at $9.5 billion.

Hurun called 2021 the most successful year for startups, backed by the presence of an entrepreneurship ecosystem comprising affluent business people, world-class universities and, more importantly, venture capitalists.

“The role of investors is evolving to mentorship and scale-up opportunities, rather than just providers of cash,” said Hoogewerf. “The world’s leading unicorn investors are building ecosystems with their portfolio, [which is] hugely attractive to the world’s fastest-growing startups.”

Sequoia led the ranks of U.S. investors, which also included Tiger Fund, Accel and Goldman Sachs. All of these more than doubled their investments in the 2021 unicorn list compared with last year.

SoftBank of Japan, Tencent of China and Temasek Holdings of Singapore were among active Asian investors.

The unicorn list also saw 201 companies removed from the ranking: Of those, 137 went public, 25 were acquired and 39 saw their valuations fall below $1 billion. Some of the biggest decliners in value included Katerra, a U.S. construction company, and Ucar, a Chinese ride-sharing company.

“For every successful unicorn you see, there are thousands of failed companies,” as well as a new generation of future unicorns coming through,” said Hoogewerf.

The Hurun Global Unicorn Index 2021 was calculated based on portfolio details announced by top investment companies, which Hurun cross-checked against specialized databases, industry players and unicorn co-founders.

This article was first published in Nikkei Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.