Unicorns in China: Beijing leads world in billion-dollar startups

China has become a rich source of unicorns. The beautiful, magical creatures—private start-up companies that have reached a billion-dollar valuation— are so named because of their statistical rarity.

Unicorns also travel in packs that orbit buzzing cities. When one thinks of start-ups, their minds often leap to San Francisco or New York. But in recent years, these western centres have been dwarfed by a new dark horse on the start-up scene. Today, Beijing has the most unicorn companies in the world.

With over 200 privately owned billion-dollar start ups, China is the second largest source of unicorn companies after the USA. Then, according to data presented by TradingPlatforms.com, Beijing is the city with the most unicorn companies in the world with 93 including the top 2 Unicorns in the world. These unicorns reside primarily in the tech sectors.

Globally, China and the USA lead the world in Unicorns by a long distance, combining for 79% of the world’s unicorn companies for a total of 460. The USA leads with 233 with China closing in at 227. This dwarfs the next country on the list, which is the United Kingdom, with only 24 Unicorns. Globally, there are 586 Unicorns in the world, a rise of 92 from 2019.

The number of Unicorns in China in 2020 has also increased by over 50% in two years.

Beijing is the leading source of Unicorns with 93, leading from popular startup hub San Francisco which has 68. All but one city on the list are from the USA and China, with London the only outsider. China has five cities in top 10.

But the horserace is still close with a look at yearly increases: USA added 30 Unicorns in 2020 while China added 21, equivalent to the total number of Unicorns in the UK or India. San Francisco had the largest increase in Unicorns for a city with an additional 13. Beijing added 11 Unicorns to their tally.

Unicorn companies share another magical property beyond their scarcity: the sectors boasting high concentrations of unicorns are also sectors embedded in the magic of technology. The E-commerce sector produced the most Unicorns in China, with 39 as of August 2020 followed by artificial intelligence with 21. Fintech, or financial technology, takes third with 18 unicorns, followed by logistics and media technology with 16 each. Even though Fintech had only half the number of unicorns, it was by far the most valuable sector.

The Chinese FinTech industry’s combined market value from unicorn companies was an estimated $239B as of August 2020, compared to the E-commerce industry’s $70B valuation. Alibaba’s Ant Financial is the largest Unicorn in the world with a market value of $125B.

The start-up scene has never been an easy one to break into, much less to establish a billion-dollar valuation in. But in Beijing (and in China nationwide) there’s a little more of the magic in the air that makes unicorns possible, and it is evident in the statistics surrounding the rise of unicorn companies in China.