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The 57 Startups That Became Unicorns in 2017

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Chart: The 57 Startups That Became Unicorns in 2017

57 New Unicorns in 2017

Collectively, they’re now worth $116.5B

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

For a startup, reaching the coveted $1 billion unicorn valuation is an important milestone – but as we’ve found out in recent years, it’s not necessarily a guarantee of future success.

In 2017, there were 57 startups that crossed the unicorn threshold, and they range from well-known companies, such as Reddit or Quora, to rapid-risers like China’s Toutiao (now valued at $20 billion), which has seemingly come out of nowhere.

Investors have conviction that these companies will provide the platforms and products of the future, and they are placing big bets on them to deliver.

Will they live up to the hype, or will they ultimately end up in the unicorn graveyard?

Unicorn Births by Year

With 57 new unicorns, this year ranks third overall in terms of births per year.

Year# of UnicornsNotable Unicorn Birth
20095BloomEnergy
20106Groupon
201115Airbnb
201213Pinterest
201320Uber
201462Slack
201581Vox Media
201643Compass
201757Reddit

While 57 unicorns in 2017 is still a high number, it’s also clear that the froth has died down from the unicorn bonanza that occurred in 2015.

Venture capitalists have clearly dialed it down a notch, re-focusing on the selective quality of investments rather than the overall quantity of big bets.

Notable Unicorns in 2017

Based on data from PitchBook, we’ve included the full list of unicorns in the chart today.

However, here are some that caught our eye:

Toutiao (China)
Valuation: $20 billion

Founded in 2012, Toutiao is the behemoth on this year’s new unicorn list. Based in Beijing, Toutiao is a news and information platform that focuses on recommendations using AI technology. The company pushes content to users based on previous user interactions as well as the detailed analysis of new content. The platform has 120 million active users and has also gone on a recent buying spree, acquiring names like Flipagram and Musical.ly.

Coinbase (United States)
Valuation: $1.6 billion

The cryptocurrency sector is exploding with growth, and Coinbase has been along for the ride since 2012. The most important crypto platform in the U.S. has such a strong influence in the sector, that the “Coinbase Effect” is now a talking point for traders everywhere. Whenever Coinbase introduces a cryptocurrency to its base of 10 million users, the added visibility and liquidity can make the price go bananas. It’s happened with Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash so far, and now every move by Coinbase is closely tracked by crypto power users and influencers.

Alisports (China)
Valuation: $1.0 billion

Alibaba’s foray into sports isn’t going unnoticed. In conjunction with Sina Corp (a Chinese telecom) and Yunfeng Capital Co (venture capital), Alibaba hopes that Alisports will carve out a huge chunk of the RMB 5 Trillion Chinese sports market. It’s also worth noting that Alisports sees e-sports as having huge potential, and as a central piece of its platform.

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Chart of the Week

A Visual History of the Largest Companies by Market Cap (1999-Today)

See how the world’s largest companies have changed over time, and how this helps tell a broader story about what the market is thinking.

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A Visual History of the Largest Companies by Market Cap

The macro narrative that underlies the market is constantly under revision.

While this is partially a function of shifts in investor sentiment, it’s also driven by game-changing events as well as much more structural market forces.

For example, how does the macro narrative change after a commodity price crash? What about when the unprecedented scale of technology is truly understood by the market?

An Evolving Narrative

In this week’s chart, we look at how the big picture narrative has changed over time by using a very simple approach.

We have visualized the market capitalizations of the 10 largest public companies in the world over five-year intervals from 1999 until today, and it gives us a series of snapshots of what the market was “thinking” during these specific periods.

Not only is it evident as certain industries rise to prominence, but there are also some interesting individual stories to follow. We can see iconic companies – such as Apple – ascend into the public consciousness, while others fall off the radar completely.

YearDescriptionTop CompanyWho Dominates Top 10?
1999Dotcom BubbleMicrosoft ($583B)Five tech companies in the mix
2004Post-BubbleGE ($319B)Diverse mix of companies by industry
2009Financial CrisisPetroChina ($367B)Six non-U.S. companies make list
2014$100 OilApple ($560B)Last year for oil companies, tech starts ascending
2019Big Tech EraMicrosoft ($1,050B)Seven companies are tech

The composition of the top 10 changes in each of the snapshots above, and this simple approach helps capture the market narrative for each timeframe.

During the Dotcom Bubble, you can see that half of the list was dominated by tech companies. This was short-lived, and the years 2004, 2009, and 2014 have much more diverse lists.

You can also see the impact of the financial crisis on U.S. company valuations. In 2009, there is an equal distribution of Chinese and American companies. Royal Dutch Shell (UK/Netherlands) and Petrobras (Brazil) help round out the top 10.

Finally, over the last five years, you can see the impact of lower oil prices and the growing scale of tech. Back in 2014, Exxon Mobil was the second largest company in the world by a solid margin, but today it’s been displaced by companies like Facebook, Amazon, Tencent, and Alibaba.

The Big Tech Era

Here is the current top 10 list of the world’s largest companies by market cap:

RankCompanyIndustryMarket Cap
#1🇺🇸 MicrosoftTech$1,050 billion
#2🇺🇸 AmazonTech$943 billion
#3🇺🇸 AppleTech$920 billion
#4🇺🇸 AlphabetTech$778 billion
#5🇺🇸 FacebookTech$546 billion
#6🇺🇸 Berkshire HathawayDiversified$507 billion
#7🇨🇳 AlibabaTech$435 billion
#8🇨🇳 TencentTech$431 billion
#9🇺🇸 VisaFinancial$379 billion
#10🇺🇸 Johnson & JohnsonConsumer Goods$376 billion

In total, the five biggest tech giants brought in a combined $801.5 billion in revenue last year, and $139 billion in net income.

The Staying Power of Microsoft

With a valuation today of just over $1 trillion, Microsoft is again the world’s largest company by market capitalization.

In this way, the above lists come full circle, since Microsoft was also the biggest company in 1999.

While the software giant experienced short periods where it did drop out of favor, Microsoft was the only company to make the list in our five snapshots above.

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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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