China's share of the world's billion-dollar startups is growing

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2017-10-18 00:24

The creation of billion-dollar startups, which are also known as "unicorns", is shifting from being mainly associated with the United States toward a Chinese and European phenomenon, according to a new research.

A unicorn is defined as a startup company valued at $1 billion or more and there are currently 214 of them in the world, according to the report by US-based venture capital database CB Insights.

Between 2013 and 2017, 127 US companies achieved unicorn status, according to CB Insights, and 59 companies in China reached the same valuation of $1 billion or more during the same period.

The United Kingdom produced 12 unicorns, a further nine came from India and eight from Germany. Several of the companies have since lost their unicorn status.

The report found that a decreasing proportion of unicorns are originating in the US.

Last year, 43 percent of companies globally that achieved unicorn status were from the US, down from 75 percent in 2013.

"While the US has been the historic leader in unicorn births, other countries are starting to catch up," the reports states. "In recent years, new unicorns born outside the US have proliferated, particularly in China, which has consistently grown its share of new unicorns every year since 2014."

CB Insights found that 33 percent of startups that achieved unicorn status between January and October were from China, while 41 percent were from the US. China surpassed the US in the first quarter of 2017, when it saw the birth of four unicorns, compared to three in the US.

Sixteen companies have achieved unicorn status in China so far this year. Notable entrants include bike-sharing company Mobike, which raised $600 million in new funding from a range of investors and is now valued at $3 billion, and internet content aggregator Bytedance, which received $1 billion of financing from CCB International and Sequoia Capital China and is now valued at $11 billion.

All of the current top 10 most-highly-valued unicorns are from the US and China. US-based ride-sharing firm Uber is the highest-valued unicorn at $68 billion, followed by Chinese transport company Didi Chuxing, which reached a valuation of $50 billion in the second quarter of this year.

Chinese electronics and software company Xiaomi is worth $46 billion, making it the world's third-largest Unicorn, ahead of US-based accommodation rental service Airbnb, which has a valuation of $29.3 billion. Online group-buying platform China Internet Plus Holdings and peer-to-peer lender, both from China, are on the current list of the world's top 10 highest-valued unicorns.

The world's unicorns have a cumulative valuation of $738 billion. Eighteen percent of unicorns are in the e-commerce sector, followed by internet software and service companies, which account for 14 percent of unicorns, and fintech, which has 12 percent.

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