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The Fastest Startups to Hit $1 Billion Valuations

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For the founders coding in the trenches of Silicon Valley, achieving the status of a “unicorn” is still the Holy Grail. The term, which references the presumably rare and mythological uni-horned creature, is used to describe a tech startup that has hit a $1 billion valuation or more.

At the time the term was coined, unicorns were indeed rare. Aileen Lee’s data from 2003-2013 showed that just four unicorns were born a year, and that only 39 existed as of November 2013. However, while actual unicorns continue to be (very) difficult to find, the ones of the tech variety have been proliferating like bunnies.

By the count of VentureBeat, there are now 229 of them with a cumulative $1.3 trillion valuation.

The Unicorn Baby Boom

Fleximize recently created an interactive visualization that breaks down the fastest startups to reach a $1 billion valuation by geography, sector, year, and also the timeframe needed to reach the mark. We’ve pulled out the key visuals in this post, but we highly recommend viewing their interactive list which provides data on each company as well.

We’ll show the whole list of unicorns later in this article, but for now we will focus on the high level stuff: how many more unicorns are being born? Are startups achieving unicorn status faster than before?

Unicorn Births Per Year

Unicorns by year

The above chart shows unicorn births each year from 2005 until today. There’s two important things to consider here:

Time to Achieve Unicorn Status: Despite the current froth in the venture capital market, it appears that the amount of time it takes to become a unicorn has remained relatively consistent. The average is around six years to go from the founding of the company to a $1 billion+ valuation.

More Unicorn Births: While it takes the same amount of time to become a unicorn, tech culture has become much more mainstream. Today, millions of startups are launched each year and 90% of them fail. However, the ones that get past the gauntlet raise billions of dollars from VCs.

According to the above chart, there were 65 new unicorns in 2014, and an additional 91 in 2015.

Unicorns by Birthplace

Unicorns by geography

The majority of unicorns are still born in North America, which holds 61.4% of the population. However, Asia is rising fast with 58 unicorns (26.0%). It’s also worth noting that Asian unicorns spend a little less time in the womb, taking five years to be born. This is comparatively lower to the international average of six years.

Unicorns by Profession

Unicorns by industry

The unicorns that are born the fastest are ones focused on industries such as real estate, on-demand, social media, or e-commerce. These took four or less years on average.

Education tech and media companies took a long time to reach unicorn status – 16 years and 12 years respectively. That said, the dataset is quite small with only five companies in these categories combined.

The Fastest Startups (The Whole List)

Below is the full list of companies valued at $1 billion or more.

The absolute fastest startup?

It’s Jet.com, an online retailer said to possibly rival Amazon, that uses real-time pricing algorithms to give consumers better deals. It hit a $1 billion valuation in just four months in 2015.

All Unicorns: How long it took to get a $1 billion valuation

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The Habits of Highly Effective Leaders

This infographic delves into what it takes to become an effective leader, and how those qualities can impact a company—beyond employee satisfaction.

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How Strong Leadership Impacts the Bottom Line

Organizations of all shapes and sizes are under immense pressure to retain good talent.

High employee turnover can directly impact a company’s bottom line—with many studies suggesting poor leadership is one of the main causes.

Today’s infographic from Online PhD Degrees explores what it takes to be an strong leader, and the behaviors of poor leaders that should be avoided at all costs.

In today’s rapidly changing world, how can the qualities of a strong leader positively shape a company’s future?

The Benefits of Investing in Leadership

Effective leadership is worth its weight in gold, with 58% of employees claiming they would choose having a great boss over a higher salary.

Not only that, 94% of employees with great bosses feel passionate about their jobーnearly twice as many as those working for a bad boss. A strong leader increases employee loyalty, creating a conducive environment for reaching a company’s goals.

In fact, research shows that companies with strong leaders are crucial when it comes to outperforming industry competitors and are three times more prepared to react to the speed of change. Moreover, a company with a strong leader is almost five times more likely to have higher customer engagement and retention rates.

How to Lead Effectively

While each company has its own processes and demands different skill sets, there are core behaviors that separate leaders from managers:

  • Clear Purpose: Clearly articulating the company’s future vision to all levels of staff in a clear and concise way.
  • Contagious Passion: While managers light fires under people to motivate them, leaders light fires in people.
  • Self-Accountability: The expectation to work harder than employees and set a standard of excellence.
  • Flexible Determination: Leaders are agile and open to change.
  • Sustainable Outlook: Focusing on long-term goals proves to a team that a leader is invested in the long-haul.
  • Dual Focus: Beyond thinking big picture, leaders provide employees with a clear and actionable strategy for success.
    • Effective leaders are born from this combination of behaviors. However, one of them has the farthest-reaching impact, both on employees and a company’s bottom line: purpose.

      Purpose and Performance

      The Global Leadership Forecast finds that a strong and well-executed purpose can build organizational resilience and improve long-term financial performance.

      effective leadership purpose

      Leaders who amplify an organization’s purpose create a culture of optimism where employees feel safe in proposing new ideas that will shape the trajectory of a company.

      The Future of Leadership

      To stay competitive, continuous learning and re-skilling should be at the heart of every organization’s leadership strategy. Leaders of the future should possess the ability to redesign jobs in a more fluid way and lean in to the changing nature of work.

      “If we don’t disrupt our business, somebody else is going to do it for us.”

      —McKinsey Analysts

      While management is a foundational skill, organizations need to invest in their leaders to ensure constant growth. Embracing the traits of an effective leader can not only provide improved returns—it also empowers organizations to thrive in an uncertain future.

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Ranked: The 20 Easiest Countries for Doing Business

Entrepreneurship is challenging at the best of times. Here are the countries where at least starting a new business is easy to do.

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Easiest Countries to do Business

Ranked: The 20 Easiest Countries for Doing Business

Contrary to popular belief, the hardest part about running a business may not be finding customers, it’s getting one started.

Depending on the public policies and application processes of your country, you might struggle or succeed in opening and operating a business.

If you live in New Zealand, for example, you can get a new enterprise up and running in half a day. If you live in Luxembourg or Argentina, however, it’s a different story─with the process sometimes taking over a year.

Today’s chart uses data from the World Bank’s annual Doing Business 2020 report, which delves into the ease of doing business in countries around the world.

Measuring the Ease of Doing Business

Now in its 17th year, the Doing Business (DB) report measures how easy it is for someone to start and run a company in an economy, using 12 key factors throughout a business lifecycle:

  1. Starting a business
  2. Employing workers
  3. Dealing with construction permits
  4. Getting electricity
  5. Registering property
  6. Getting credit
  7. Protecting minority investors
  8. Paying taxes
  9. Trading across borders
  10. Contracting with the government
  11. Enforcing contracts
  12. Resolving insolvency

Of the 190 countries reviewed last year, only 115 made it easier for entrepreneurs to do business.

Note to readers: this year’s DB score did not factor in Employing Workers or Contracting with the Government when ranking economies.

Top 20 Easiest Countries to Run a Business

RankCountryDB Score
#1🇳🇿 New Zealand86.8
#2🇸🇬 Singapore86.2
#3🇭🇰 Hong Kong85.3
#4🇩🇰 Denmark85.3
#5🇰🇷 South Korea84
#6🇺🇸 United States84
#7🇬🇪 Georgia83.7
#8🇬🇧 United Kingdom83.5
#9🇳🇴 Norway82.6
#10🇸🇪 Sweden82
#11🇱🇹 Lithuania81.6
#12🇲🇾 Malaysia81.5
#13🇲🇺 Mauritius81.5
#14🇦🇺 Australia81.2
#15🇹🇼 Taiwan80.9
#16🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates80.9
#17🇲🇰 North Macedonia80.7
#18🇪🇪 Estonia80.6
#19🇱🇻 Latvia80.3
#20🇫🇮 Finland80.2

In the top spot for the fourth year in a row, New Zealand only requires half a day to start a business. Singapore also stands out for having the shortest timeframe when it comes to paying business taxes and enforcing business contracts.

Only two African nations─Rwanda and Mauritius─are listed in the top 50 countries, with Mauritius being the only one to crack the top 20 list.

Latin American economies are noticeably missing from the rankings, as many countries in this region are fraught with bureaucracy and prolonged processes.

Most Improved Scores

Several developed and developing economies made significant strides in 2019 to implement reforms that opened doors for new business owners.

The Doing Business 2020 report shows that the cost of starting a business has fallen over time, particularly in developing economies.

Top 10 Most Improved Economies, 2018-2019

Top 10 most improved economies for doing business

Saudi Arabia made the greatest improvement overall, adding 7.7 points to its score.

Bahrain also made improvements over the most number of factors (9). While Jordan showed improvement in the fewest factors (3), it showed the second highest jump in DB Score.

Gains Among Low-Income Countries

The DB 2020 study also shows that developing economies are making progress: it’s now cheaper than ever before to run a business in developing economies.

However, a significant disparity still remains when we consider the difference in business costs between high-income and low-income economies.

An entrepreneur starting a company in a low-income economy will spend about 50% of per capita income (PCI) to launch a venture, whereas an entrepreneur in a high-income economy spends only 4% PCI to accomplish the same task.

Put another way, entrepreneurs located in the bottom 50 economies spend an average six times more to open a new company as those in a high-income economy.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth

Generally, more entrepreneurs will enter a market where they can easily conduct business─adding more value to local economies.

While the rankings clearly illustrate the link between ease of doing business and economic growth, there are still significant barriers in place that not only deter entrepreneurship but also inhibit a relatively simple strategy for growth.

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