A Growing Herd!

Following my recent article on where the top Venture Capital investors are, let us now look at where the Unicorns are. Unicorns are privately held startup companies valued at USD 1 billion or more. CB Insights, a tech market intelligence platform, recently published a list of the world's Unicorns. Based on that list, we can draw a couple of conclusions in terms of industries and countries.

First off however, let the fact sink in that to date, there are than +860 Unicorns around the world, and the number keeps growing.

During recent years, there has been a dramatic year-on-year increase in the number of Unicorns.

Who are the largest Unicorns?

Looking at the top 10 most valued (USD Billions) Unicorns, the leader is Bytedance (owner of TikTok and other products) at $B 140, followed by SpaceX, Stripe (Fintech), Klarna and others. Note that among the top 10, 4 are Fintech companies, 5 of the companies joined CB Insight's Unicorn list after 2018, and 5 of the companies originate in the US.

Source: CB Insights: The Complete List of Unicorn Companies

To put the valuations of the top 10 Unicorns in perspective, let us compare them with the market capitalization of GM, GE, Apple and Alphabet (Google). Impressive, to say the least! Take for example SpaceX, valued at $B 74 compared to General Motor's $B 84 market capitalization. SpaceX has a history of around 128 successful launches, vs. GM's Y2020 production output of almost 7 million vehicles. Perhaps an irrelevant or questionable comparison, but still it says something about the valuation of SpaceX.

Unicorn industries

Most of the Unicorns are in industries (areas) which we today associate closest with digital disruptors: Fintech (banking), Internet software and services, and E-commerce & direct-to-consumer. However, what is up-and-coming, and what already constitute a large part of the Unicorn herd, are companies in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sphere.

Looking at the aggregate per industry valuation ($B), Fintech clearly distinguishes itself from the other industries. Why this is so might be (speculation) that these Unicorns are valued by those that are close to the use of their services (investors and banking), in addition to the fact that many of these Unicorns are located close to some of the world's largest global financial centers (countries).

Where in the world are the Unicorns?

Following our previous article, where the Top Venture Capital Investors are located geographically, we see that the Unicorns are mostly in the US, followed by China, India and the UK.

Breaking down the figures and looking at the number of Unicorns per country and per industry, the following picture emerges.

Looking at Unicorns per country and industry, we find that there are quite many spread around the world within the Fintech sector, yet still, the highest concentration are in two of the world's financial centers (the US and the UK). We also find that Artificial Intelligence (AI) Unicorns are mostly in the US and China. Another group of Unicorn outliers is within the US Internet Software & Services, having 111 out of the world's 148.


The number of Unicorns has risen dramatically over the last few years and is likely to rise further as valuations and available investment capital in the Venture Capital industry keep growing. What a few years ago was an eyebrow-raising valuation (e.g. Skype), is now becoming a mile-stone figure on the journey toward an IPO.

Another observation is that while many of the Unicorns have a high valuation, at par with industrial giants such as GE and GM, they still have some distance to catch up with digital giants such as Alphabet (Google), Apple, and other giants such as Microsoft and Amazon. Not all Unicorns will be able to reach the upper stratosphere of Google and Apple, but some are likely to do so from the e.g. Fintech and AI spheres - whose services can alter the way large groups of our population do their everyday tasks and work.

Data source: CB Insights, The Complete List of Unicorn Companies, accessed 2021-10-13