The eSports Boom, and Numbers Behind the Sector's Explosive Growth
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The eSports Boom, and the Numbers Behind the Sector’s Explosive Growth

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The oldest professional sport teams can trace their start back to the mid-19th century, a period when casual past times such as baseball or football transitioned into more organized leagues.

Since this tipping point, pro sports has thrived around the world, and the business of sports has evolved into a multi-billion dollar ecosystem for teams, leagues, players, merchandisers, sponsors, broadcasters, and event spaces.

Today, this evolution still continues – and it is being driven by the emergence of eSports (electronic sports), an exciting frontier for fans and business alike.

eSports Extravaganza

Today’s chart breaks down the eSports boom, including data on the sector’s rapid growth, prize pools, and the most valuable eSports companies today.

Visualizing the eSports Boom, and the Numbers Behind Its Explosive Growth

Despite having a reputation in the media and in popular culture as being on the fringes, it is clear that gaming is now a truly mainstream phenomenon.

In fact, the global gaming industry has now eclipsed $135 billion in revenue worldwide – a figure that is twice as much as the film and music industries combined.

With hundreds of millions of avid fans around the world, demand to watch the most elite gamers has reached a fever pitch – and now, it’s not uncommon to see sold-out arenas, big name sponsorship deals, and massive prize pools in the name of eSports.

Defining the eSports Ecosystem

Like any professional league, eSports creates the foundation for an entire ecosystem of opportunities.

Players
Players are central to the ecosystem, since they are the stars and they have their own personalities. One famous star is Kuro Takhasomi (KuroKy), who has brought in a whopping $4.2 million in prize money from Dota 2 tournaments so far. He has earned more than any other player in eSports.

Teams
Because the games played are mostly team-based, there is a crucial element of teamwork involved. eSports franchises are currently selling for millions of dollars. It’s worth noting that these franchises don’t just employ players – they also hire staff that can better ensure the success of players, such as coaches, trainers, and personal chefs.

Games and Developers
Some of the most important games in the eSports world right now include: Dota 2, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Call of Duty.

Competitions
Leagues and tournaments can offer massive prize pools for players. The biggest single pool so far was $25.5 million, offered for a Dota 2 tournament in 2017 (“The International”). It’s the second-largest prize pool offered in any kind of sport, behind the U.S. Open (tennis).

Organizers
Running eSports events is big money, and organizers of events can tap into sponsorship and fan revenue. Sometimes game publishers will organize the events, but third-party ones also exist in the ecosystem.

Sponsors
Sponsors like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Mercedes-Benz have shelled out millions of dollars to sponsor events and reach the massive audiences associated with eSports. In more recent news, SAP signed a deal to sponsor one of the biggest names, Team Liquid.

Broadcasters
Broadcasters, both traditional and online (YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, etc.), are also in to get a part of the action. Recently, game developer Blizzard signed a broadcasting deal with Disney to broadcast Overwatch League playoffs on ESPN, ABC, and Disney XD.

What do you think is the most exciting part of the eSports boom, and why?

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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Here are the world’s biggest startups with a valuation above $10 billion.

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World’s Biggest Startups Top Unicorns of 2021 Shareable

The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Many entrepreneurs start businesses around the world, but only the most successful new companies become “unicorns”—the biggest startups with a valuation above $1 billion.

Some unicorns are little-known companies making quiet but impactful strides in software, healthcare, automotive, and other fields. Others have already become well-known industry leaders, like aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and game developer and publisher Epic Games.

In total, there are more than 800 unicorn startups globally. That said, this visualization specifically hones in on the world’s decacorns (unicorns with valuations above $10 billion) as of December 2021 according to CB Insights.

Private Startups Valued at Over $10 Billion

The world’s most prominent unicorns constantly see their valuations change as they enter different rounds of funding or maturity.

In December 2021, there were 35 startups with a valuation above $10 billion, spread out across different countries and industries.

CompanyValuationCountryCategory
Bytedance$140BChinaArtificial intelligence
SpaceX$100.3BU.S.Other
Stripe$95BU.S.Fintech
Klarna$45.6BSwedenFintech
Canva$40BAustraliaInternet software & services
Instacart$39BU.S.Supply chain, logistics, & delivery
Databricks$38BU.S.Data management & analytics
Revolut$33BUKFintech
Nubank$30BBrazilFintech
Epic Games$28.7BU.S.Other
Chime$25BU.S.Fintech
FTX$25BChina (Hong Kong)Fintech
BYJU's$21BIndiaEdtech
Xiaohongshu$20BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
J&T Express$20BIndonesiaSupply chain, logistics, & delivery
Fanatics$18BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Yuanfudao$15.5BChinaEdtech
DJI Innovations$15BChinaHardware
SHEIN$15BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Checkout.com$15BUKFintech
goPuff$15BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Plaid Technologies$13.4BU.S.Fintech
Grammarly$13BU.S.Internet software & services
Devoted Health$12.6BU.S.Health
Faire$12.4BU.S.Artificial intelligence
Brex$12.3BU.S.Fintech
SenseTime$12BChinaArtificial intelligence
Bitmain Technologies$12BChinaHardware
Biosplice Therapeutics$12BU.S.Health
JUUL Labs$12BU.S.Consumer & retail
GoodLeap$12BU.S.Internet software & services
ZongMu Technology$11.4BChinaAuto & transportation
Global Switch$11.1BUKHardware
Celonis$11BGermanyData management & analytics
Weilong$10.9BChinaConsumer & retail

Many of the most valuable startups are already giants in their fields. For example, social media company Bytedance is the developer behind video network platform Douyin and its international version, TikTok, and has amassed a valuation of $140 billion.

Financial services and payment software company Stripe jumped from a valuation of $36 billion to $95 billion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even less universally prominent names like Swedish fintech Klarna ($45.6 billion) and Australian graphic design platform Canva ($40.0 billion) are well known within their respective fields.

But private valuations don’t last forever. Many eventually go public, like electric vehicle maker and Tesla competitor Rivian, which had a valuation of $27.6 billion before listing on the NASDAQ.

The Biggest Startups by Industries and Countries

Breaking down the world’s biggest startups by industry highlights that tech is still king in most investing circles.

More than 77% of unicorns valued above $10 billion are categorized directly in tech-related fields, primarily in financial and commerce software.

Startups Valued Above $10B By IndustryNumber
Fintech9
E-commerce & direct-to-consumer4
Artificial intelligence3
Hardware3
Internet software & services3
Consumer & retail2
Data management & analytics2
Edtech2
Health2
Other2
Supply chain, logistics, & delivery2
Auto & transportation1

And many of the unicorns categorized in non-tech fields are still technology companies at their core. In fact, Indonesia’s logistics and package delivery company J&T Express is one of the few unicorns not directly in tech, though it still uses automated sorting in its warehouses.

It was one of the few startups to come from somewhere other than the U.S. or China, which together accounted for over 70% of the 35 biggest startups. The UK (3) was the next most-frequently listed headquarters, while Australia, Brazil, Germany, India and Sweden each had one of these unicorns on the list.

With constantly fluctuating valuations and technological breakthroughs always around the corner, the next $10 billion unicorn could come from almost anywhere.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

When it comes to social networks, Meta is the dominant player, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across its four platforms.

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The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

Currently, there are over 4.5 billion people around the world who use some form of social media—about 57% of the global population.

Yet, while social media’s audience is widespread and diverse, just a handful of companies control a majority of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, owns four of the five most widely used platforms.

This graphic highlights the biggest social networks across the globe, measured by their monthly active users (MAUs).

Note: We’ll be using terms like “social network” and “social platform” interchangeably to refer to various messaging, video, and image-sharing platforms that have social attributes built in.

Top Social Platforms by Monthly Active Users

To measure each platform’s MAUs, we dug into various sources, including the most recent company SEC filings, and quarterly earnings reports.

A majority of Meta’s user base comes from its most popular platform, Facebook—the social media giant currently has around 2.9 billion MAUs worldwide.

RankPlatform nameParent companyCountryMonthly active users, in millions
#1FacebookMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,910
#2YouTubeAlphabet🇺🇸 U.S.2,291
#3WhatsAppMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,000
#4MessengerMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,300
#5InstagramMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,287
#6WeChatTencent🇨🇳 China1,225
#7KuaishouKuaishou🇨🇳 China1,000
#8TikTokBytedance🇨🇳 China1,000
#9TelegramTelegram🇦🇪 UAE600
#10QzoneTencent🇨🇳 China600
#11QQTencent🇨🇳 China591
#12WeiboSina🇨🇳 China566
#13DouyinBytedance🇨🇳 China550
#14SnapchatSnap🇺🇸 U.S.538
#15TwitterTwitter🇺🇸 U.S.463
#16PinterestPinterest🇺🇸 U.S.454
#17RedditReddit🇺🇸 U.S.430
#18LinkedInMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.310
#19QuoraQuora🇺🇸 U.S.300
#20SkypeMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.300
#21TiebaBaidu🇨🇳 China300
#22ViberRakuten🇯🇵 Japan250
#23TeamsMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.250
#24imoPageBites🇺🇸 U.S.212
#25LineNaver🇰🇷 South Korea169
#26PicsartPicsart🇺🇸 U.S.150
#27LikeeBigo Live🇸🇬 Singapore150
#28DiscordDiscord🇺🇸 U.S.140

Where in the world are Facebook users located? The platform’s biggest user base comes from India, with an audience size of almost 350 million. Its second-largest user base is the United States, with 193.9 million users, while Indonesia comes in third with 142.5 million.

But Facebook isn’t the only social giant in Meta’s network of platforms. WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion MAUs, making it Meta’s second-largest platform, and the third-largest social network overall.

Like Facebook, a significant number of WhatsApp users are located in India, with roughly 390 million users. Brazil has a large portion of WhatsApp users as well, with an audience size of 108 million.

The Billion Users Club

Meta currently dominates the social network landscape, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across all four of its platforms. However, a few other companies also hit the one billion MAU mark across all their platforms on the list:

RankParent company# of companies on the listCountryCombined MUAs
1Meta4🇺🇸 U.S.7.5 billion
2Tencent3🇨🇳 China2.4 billion
3Alphabet1🇺🇸 U.S.2.3 billion
4Bytedance2🇨🇳 China1.6 billion
5Kuaishou1🇨🇳 China1 billion

After Meta, Tencent has the second-highest reach thanks to its three platforms—WeChat, Qzone, and QQ. Of the three, WeChat is currently the most popular. On average, WeChat users send about 45 billion messages a day.

Third on the list is Alphabet, thanks to its one platform, YouTube. Founded in 2005, this video streaming platform currently has over 50 million content creators, who share approximately 500 hours of video content every minute.

Close behind Alphabet is Bytedance, with a combined 1.6 billion MAUs across its two platforms—Douyin and its international counterpart TikTok. While the apps share a lot of similarities, they function as completely separate entities, with different registration, content policies, and regulations.

Global Social Networks? Not Always

While social media networks often transcend country borders, it’s worth noting that the online realm does not completely escape the constraints and regulations of our physical world.

Since 2009, Facebook has been banned in China for not complying with censorship rules. Facebook was also blocked in Iran and Syria around the same time and has been blocked sporadically since.

In 2020, the Trump administration tried to enact a similar ban against TikTok, but the order was blocked by a federal judge and eventually revoked by the Biden administration a year later.

Despite various bans and roadblocks, it’s clear that social media platforms have seeped into the lives (and onto the screens) of users across the globe. And as internet access worldwide continues to grow, so too will the number of social media users.

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