27 Fintech Unicorns, and Where They Were Born
The 27 Fintech Unicorns, and Where They Were Born
Everyone wants faster, cheaper, and more customized financial services – and since technology now makes this possible, the world is embracing the fintech revolution.
In 2015, investments in fintech nearly doubled to $22.3 billion. And although there were 1,108 deals made, there are only 27 companies that can call themselves unicorns – private companies valued at over $1 billion or more.
Locating the Fintech Unicorns
Today’s infographic breaks down data on the 27 fintech unicorns, and it comes from Glance Technologies, a Canadian-based payments company that just IPO’d on the Canadian Securities Exchange.
In total, the world’s fintech unicorns add up to a total valuation of $138.9 billion, and here’s how that is distributed by geography:
|Rest of World||5||$11.5B||$1.8B|
Amazingly, the 27 fintech unicorns have only been born in six countries: United States, China, Sweden, India, the Netherlands, and the UK.
The United States has more than half of all fintech unicorns (14), including nine in Silicon Valley. China has eight unicorns, while the UK has two. Sweden, India, and the Netherlands each have one.
While the U.S. can say it is home to more unicorns, the Chinese ones have far more value so far. The biggest four fintech unicorns worldwide were all born in China: Ant Financial ($60 billion), Lufax ($18.5 billion), JD Finance ($7 billion), and Qufenqi ($5.9 billion). This is because China has more than 500 million smartphone users, with a more evolved market for payments and P2P lending.
Fintech Unicorns by Sub-Sector
Fintech is a broad net that encompasses everything from health insurance apps to robo-advisors. As a result, different sub-sectors within fintech are maturer with more unicorns and success stories (payments, lending), while others do not have any unicorns yet (wealth management, blockchain).
Here are the 27 fintech unicorns, organized by sub-sector:
|Sub-sector||Unicorns||Valuation||% of total|
The biggest fintech startups are in payments and lending, which combine for nearly 80% of the value of all unicorns combined. Meanwhile, all other sub-sectors including insurance, enterprise/SaaS, financial services, and consumer financing add up to roughly 20%.
Will future fintech unicorns follow similar tracks to their predecessors?
The biggest success stories have come from payments and P2P lending, especially in China. Today, however, the Chinese payments market seems pretty hard to crack, with big dogs like Alibaba, JD.com, and Tencent all having their hands in the cookie jar. Recently, P2P lending has also been under scrutiny by regulators in China, and even U.S. lending champions such as Lending Club are having challenges as of late.
Perhaps the next fintech giant will come from somewhere outside of the status quo.
Ranked: Who Made the Most U.S. Unicorn Acquisitions Since 1997?
Roughly 30% of unicorns making an exit get acquired. But which companies have made the most U.S. unicorn acquisitions in the last 25 years?
Who Made the Most U.S. Unicorn Acquisitions Since 1997?
The elusive unicorn is no longer a myth in the U.S. startup world, with over a thousand private startups reaching a $1 billion valuation in the last 25 years.
While some of these startups eventually go public and go on to become household names, it’s also common for founders to exit through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), by selling their startup to another organization. In fact, over half of the 1,110 unicorns in the U.S. have made some sort of an exit—either through an IPO, a direct listing, a SPAC or an acquisition—since 1997.
Ilya Strebulaev, professor of finance and private equity at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, brings us this visualization featuring the companies that acquired the most unicorns over the last 25 years.
Strebulaev’s database lists 137 private and public companies along with PE firms who’ve acquired at least one unicorn since 1997, totaling 177 acquisitions.
The Biggest U.S. Unicorn Acquirers
In total, 27 companies have acquired two or more unicorns, accounting for nearly 38% of all acquisitions. 110 companies have acquired just one unicorn.
|Company/ PE Group||Acquired|
|Johnson & Johnson||3|
|Merck & Co.||3|
|Searchlight Capital Partners||1|
|Internet Capital Group||1|
|Hellman & Friedman||1|
|Fresenius Medical Care||1|
|Keurig Dr Pepper||1|
|Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma||1|
|Mubadala Investment Company||1|
|Saudi Arabia's PIF||1|
|Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan||1|
|Littlejohn & Co||1|
|SoftBank Investment Advisers||1|
|Hewlett Packard Enterprise||1|
|VMware & EMC Corp||1|
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, leads the pack with the most unicorn acquisitions in the U.S., purchasing five unicorns since its founding in 2008, including: Kustomer, WhatsApp, Instagram, CTRL-Labs, and Oculus VR.
Notably, WhatsApp—which closed at a purchase price of $19 billion—was Meta’s most expensive acquisition yet, over nine times their next most expensive purchase, Oculus VR.
Meanwhile, Alphabet (now the parent company of Google) and Cisco are tied in second place with four U.S. unicorn acquisitions each.
- Alphabet: YouTube, Actifio, Nest Labs, Looker Data Sciences
- Cisco: Cerent, Duo Security, AppDynamics, Jasper
Unlike its Big Tech peers, Apple has only made the one U.S. unicorn acquisition: navigation company HopStop that helped bring public transit features to Apple Maps.
Meanwhile, 56% of acquirers received venture capital funding of their own when they were private companies. This includes pack leaders like Meta, Cisco, Alphabet, and Amazon.
Are Unicorn Acquisitions Slowing Down?
Unicorn acquisitions are driven by two factors: the rate at which new unicorns are minted, and the climate for M&A transactions more broadly.
To begin with, the minting of new unicorns is largely influenced by the venture funding environment. Funding opportunities increase when interest rates go down, which makes riskier, venture-scale ideas more enticing. During the last decade of persistently low interest rates up until 2022, unicorns flourished more than ever.
Meanwhile, as tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Meta began seeing outsized profits in the 2010s, venture investors and their LPs looked to get in on the ground floor of tech startups that could emulate their success, often paying premium valuations for the chance. Simultaneously, big tech looked to acquire unicorns themselves, both to augment their business lines and to squash potential competitors.
However, the era of “easy money” may have come to an end, and privately-held startups have seen valuations drop in recent years. This means that for the next little while—at least until monetary policy stops tightening—unicorns could become a rarer sight.
Unicorn acquisitions may also see a similar fate. Persistent inflation and the government anti-trust push are just some of the other factors that have led to VC-backed startup acquisitions falling to their lowest quarterly levels in a decade. The more expensive the valuation, the harder to find a buyer, which means that some unicorns may even lose their $1 billion tag even when they do get acquired.
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