The Asia-Pacific region has taken over this Silicon Valley phenomenon
By Sharon Lewis
Unicorns were mythical, until Aileen Lee made them real. She used the term in 2013 to label US software startups that were valued at US$1 billion or above. At that time, the world knew of only 39 such companies, all of them U.S.-based. Today, there are over 500, and their combined value has rocketed from $150 billion to $2 trillion.
Since 2013, terms such as decacorn (startups valued at over $10 billion) and hectacorn (valued at over $100 billion) have entered business language. When Lee wrote about unicorns, she was talking only about the US market. But today, the city with the most startups is not California–it’s Beijing.
As of 2020, more than a third of the world’s unicorns are based out of China. Southeast Asian countries such as India, Indonesia and Singapore are also bagging points on the global unicorn leaderboard. Here are Southeast Asia’s top ten unicorns valued at over $10 billion.
This online payments service provider is not just Asia’s biggest hectacorn, it’s also the world’s highest-valued startup. Ant Financial is Alibaba’s financial wing, and recently acquired a minority stake in Swedish fintech unicorn Klarna.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: ~$125-150 billion Total funding: $22 billion Key Investors: Temasek Holdings, GIC Singapore, China Investment Corporation
Meet the company fueling the TikTok rage. It doesn’t stop there; Bytedance also runs social media app Helo, which offers itself in 14 Indian languages, and popular Chinese video app Xigua, amongst others.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $75 billion Total funding: $4.6 billion Key Investors: Softbank, SIG Asia Investments, Primavera Capital Group
DiDi is China’s app-based ride-hailing service. Users can hitch rides to 400 cities in China with multiple options such as cabs or private cars, ride-sharing, bikes, or enterprise accounts for travel. In 2016, DiDi made headlines for acquiring its competitor Uber China, bringing a decisive end to China’s ride-hailing war. DiDi also pushes the envelope with its app-based car insurance service.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $53 billion Total funding: $21.2 billion Key Investors: Tencent, Temasek Holdings, Weibo, Apple, Mirae Asset Global Investments
Otherwise known as lu.com, this fintech startup is an online marketplace for trading financial assets. Lufax reportedly serves over 40 million users, and has more than a thousand domestic and international financial partners on its platform.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $39 billion Total funding: $3 billion Key Investors: Blackpine, COFCO, Primavera Capital Group
- Alibaba Bendi Shenghuo Fuwu Gongsi
Another Alibaba venture, Alibaba Bendi Shenghuo Fuwu Gongsi (Alibaba Local Services Company) was formed after Alibaba-acquired Ele.me (online food delivery service) and Koubei (online restaurant guide business) were merged.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $30 billion Total funding: $4 billion Key Investors: Alibaba Group, Softbank Vision Fund
A close competitor of Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese avatar, Kuaishou is gaining a lot of popularity in the APAC region as well as in Russia. Between 2018 and 2019, the company doubled its daily active user base to 200 million.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $29 billion Total funding: $4.4 billion Key Investors: Morningside Venture Capital, Tencent Holdings, Oakhouse Partners
This digital tech company leverages high-end technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain to provide tech solutions to a range of industries, including finance, agritech, computing and marketing.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $18 billion Total funding: ~490 million Key Investors: Sequoia Capital China, Harvest Global Investments, COFCO
One97 is the company behind India’s online payment giant Paytm. What started off as a simple payments app blew up into a “digital goods marketplace”, where you can get anything from a caller tune to a bus ticket, or even a conversation with a Bollywood star.
Headquarters: India Estimated valuation: $16 billion Total funding: $4.4 billion Key Investors: Sapphire Ventures, Ant Financial, Alibaba Group, Mountain Capital, Softbank
Initially a ride-hailing service, users can now opt for delivery services, hotel bookings, and even insurance on this superapp. Its latest project, Grab Ventures Ignite, is an accelerator program developed in partnership with Infocomm Media Development Authority.
Headquarters: Singapore Estimated valuation: $14 billion Total funding: $9.9 billion Key Investors: Softbank, GGV Capital, Tokyo Century, Emtek Group, Didi Chuxing, Microsoft
A subsidiary of Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com, this supply chain and logistics company offers end-to-end logistics management services for ecommerce companies, from warehousing to after-sales. The company also makes drone deliveries, a service that has proved essential during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Headquarters: China Estimated valuation: $14 billion Total funding: ~53 million Key Investors: Hillhouse Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, Tencent
China is clearly ruling this roster, but startups such as GO-JEK (Indonesia) and OYO Rooms (India) are catching up. As more startups hit the billion mark, the challenge before them is to accelerate their growth rates in a ferociously competitive market hit by global volatilities.
Data collected from TechCrunch, Crunchbase and Statista.