The World’s 10 Most Innovative Economies
In the 21st century, innovation has become the heart and soul of economic policy. Developed and developing nations alike are in the race to leave industrialization behind, adapting instead to technology-focused, entrepreneurial societies.
Customized cancer treatment, faux meat products, and the smart home technologies are frequently positioned as ‘the next big thing’. But which countries are consistently innovating the most?
Today’s graphic comes from the seventh annual Bloomberg Innovation Index and highlights the 10 most innovative economies, and the seven metrics used to rank 2019’s top contenders.
Bloomberg calculated each country’s innovation score using seven equally-weighted metrics.
- R&D Spending
All research and development funding invested in an economy each year.
- Patent Activity
Number of domestic patents filed, total patent grants, patents per population, filings per GDP, and total grants awarded measured against the global total.
- Tertiary Efficiency
Total enrollment at post-secondary institutions, graduation levels, and number of science and engineering graduates.
- Manufacturing Value-added
Manufacturing output levels that contribute to exports and domestic economic growth.
Overall productivity levels of the working-age population.
- High-tech Density
Number of domestic high-tech public companies, measured against the number of domestic public companies and the global total of public high-tech companies.
- Researcher Concentration
Number of professionals currently engaged in research and development roles.
More than 200 countries were initially considered for Bloomberg’s Innovation Index. Any country reporting in less than six categories was automatically eliminated, leaving 95 countries remaining. Bloomberg publishes the results for the top 60 most innovative economies each year.
Notable Countries in the Top 60
The U.S. rejoined the top 10 after dropping to 11th in 2018 for low scores in education. Israel moved up five spots to 5th place, while Romania made the largest overall gain, jumping six spots to rank in the top 30.
|2019 Rank||Economy||Total Score||Change in Ranking|
|#1||🇰🇷 South Korea||87.38||0|
|#8||🇺🇸 United States||83.21||3|
Brazil rejoined the list at number 45, after not being included on the 2018 list. The United Arab Emirates made the list for the first time, marking the highest debut ever at number 46.
Tunisia and Ukraine were the two countries with the largest losses, which both fell out of the top 50 this year. To date, South Africa is the only Sub-Saharan nation to be ranked in the index.
Newcomers to the Innovation Index in 2019 are some of the largest emerging economies, such as India, Mexico, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.
Impact of Global Innovation
Innovation is complex─many factors play a role in the ideation, development, and commercialization of any new technology. And while innovation success can fuel economic growth, it is generally more accessible in high-income economies, where R&D funding is readily available.
“The battle for control of the global economy in the 21st century will be won and lost over control of innovative technologies.”
—Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Economics
The focus of an economy that prioritizes innovation, however, is not simply allocating resources for a group of people─it’s discovering new methods, models, and products that create a better quality of life for society.
Tech’s Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots
By embracing uncertainty and making timely pivots, we visualize the bizarre origin stories of the most successful tech companies today.
Tech’s Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots
When you’re building something great, things are bound to get messy.
As many as 80-90% of startups fold and those left standing also fail, repeatedly. Rarely does a business take a straight run at success, and that includes the likes of Apple, Facebook, and their fellow tech giants.
Product lines can come to a screeching halt. Ideas can be stolen. And, yes, even geniuses like Steve Jobs get forced out. But by embracing uncertainty and making timely pivots, the tech companies in the infographic above have become some of the most influential—and valuable—organizations on the planet.
Let’s take a closer look at some of tech’s intriguing beginnings and lucrative pivots.
Samsung’s Evolution from Fish to Phones
Samsung spent much of the 1950s and 1960s testing market waters. The South Korean company tried everything from insurance to textiles, and most oddly, trading dehydrated fish.
Following its experimental phase, Samsung released its first consumer electronic product in 1970—a black-and-white television.
After making a name for itself with TVs, Samsung entered the telecommunications hardware sector in 1980 by way of acquisition. Its product diversification strategy was a successful one. Samsung went on to gain international prominence throughout the 1990s and restructured in 1993 to focus on electronics, chemicals, and engineering.
- Today, Samsung is worth more than $275 billion.
- It has the second-largest market share of smartphone sales in North America, behind Apple.
Facebook Ratings to Friend Requests
Thanks to movies like “The Social Network”, Facebook’s origin story has been hotly discussed.
“Facemash” was developed in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room, as a platform that compared and rated pictures of coeds. When it pivoted from rating coeds to connecting coeds, “TheFacebook” quickly took off across Harvard and spread across the university ecosystem.
- In 2012, Facebook became the first social network to reach 1 billion users.
- It now boasts more than 2.7 billion users across the planet.
- In total, the company has more than 3.14 billion account holders across its platforms, which include acquired companies like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
— Henry Ford
About Them Apples: Mac Starts with Schools
From the jump, Apple was strategic.
To open up the market for personal computers, Steve Jobs (Apple’s now legendary co-founder), personally lobbied multiple levels of government to increase tax incentives for companies that donate to schools—a remarkable undertaking for a scrappy startup.
After his federal lobbying fell through, Jobs was successful in the state of California. By initially focusing on education—and giving their computers away for free to the California school system—Apple amassed a potential user base and claimed mindshare.
“… for about $1 million, Apple put an apple in every elementary, middle, and high school in California.”
— Hacker Education
Today, an Apple computer is the go-to tool of the creative class. In 2018 alone, the company sold 18.21 million Mac computers. By early 2020, there were 1.5 billion active iPhone devices, and by the end of August 2020, Apple was worth more than $2 trillion.
Apple proves that even with a solid strategy and excellent products, the corporate machine can still veer out of control. Jobs was famously forced out of the company in 1985.
In his absence, ventures backfired. After his return in 1997—and the subsequent introduction of the iPod—Apple went on to become one of the most lucrative tech companies in the world.
Sony Sticks to Electronics
Sony’s brand name has long been synonymous with quality—but its first electronic product didn’t make it to market.
After WWII, Sony wanted to make a rice cooker to serve post-war Japan, so the company developed a simple wooden rice cooker with electrodes attached. Due to inconsistent electrical power throughout the country, the project was shelved.
Sony, however, stuck to electronics. After establishing its brand name with TVs, Sony branched out into gaming and is now the largest video game console manufacturer and game publisher.
- As of 2020, its global revenue neared $77 billion.
- The company brings in 26.7% of sales from game and network services.
- Meanwhile, nearly $4.5 billion in revenue stems from its mobile communications segment.
YouTube’s Dating Game
Gen Z has become the first generation to watch more YouTube than TV. But when YouTube was founded in 2005, it was a bit more akin to Tinder.
Back when video dating was still a thing, YouTube aimed to take the experience online. The company even went so far as to offer women money to upload videos. However, the idea didn’t click. YouTube’s co-founders decided to release a platform that would allow for any video type—and from there, sparks flew.
- YouTube was acquired by Google in 2006 for $1.7 billion.
- By 2019, it had more than 1.68 billion users worldwide.
“If you’re competition-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
— Jeff Bezos
Twitter Ditches Talk for Type
For the platform known for a deluge of words and character-count limits, it may be a surprise that Twitter was meant to be a podcasting platform called “Odeo”.
When Apple announced its entry into the podcasting world, the team realized they couldn’t compete. Instead, Odeo turned to its engineering manager Jack Dorsey to pivot the company into his side project, now known as Twitter. Although original Odeo investors weren’t happy with the move, the strategy proved successful.
- In 2019, Twitter raked in $3.46 billion in revenue.
- It averages 150 million daily users.
- Twitter collected advertising revenue of nearly $3 billion in 2019.
- It was valued at nearly $35 billion in 2020.
Rubber Boots to Phones: Nokia’s Puzzling Pivot
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Nokia made a very different kind of product—rubber boots. The Kontio product line was successful, but in the early 1990s, the company pivoted to focus on mobile connectivity and hardware.
Released in 2003 and 2005, the Nokia 1100 and 1110 still hold the record for the world’s most popular phones, with more than 250 million units sold of each.
Although Android and iPhone have sped past Nokia as smartphone manufacturers, Nokia is still worth about $24 billion. While its phones were incredibly popular, the pivot took a financial toll, and the company’s mobile and services division was acquired by Microsoft in 2013.
Shopify Rides into Sales
Frustrated with the online sales experience, the founders of Snowdevil—a Canadian secondhand snowboard shop—decided to create their own online experience. Instead of their gear taking off, it was their platform that caught wind with consumers, and the team knew they were on to something.
In the span of two years, 2004-2006, Snowdevil became Shopify. Less than a decade later, it went public in 2015.
- Today, Shopify claims 20% of global market share among ecommerce platforms.
- It has more than 800,000 online sellers using the platform.
Nintendo Games Span Centuries
When it comes to gaming, Nintendo has more than 150 years of experience to draw from.
Beginning with hand-painted cards in the 1800s, Nintendo sold cards for multiple games, including gambling. Their nature-inspired and cartoon-like style was carried into the 20th century when Nintendo partnered with Disney to create playing cards.
Like other tech companies, Nintendo has ventured into some unusual markets over the years, including ramen noodles.
However, its primary focus has remained on games. In 1985, Nintendo released what would become the world’s most popular video game, Super Mario Bros—which has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
The Winding Road to Success
Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” philosophy—pressure testing and pivoting—can be a lucrative, albeit grueling, one.
It’s an adaptive strategy that isn’t relegated to tech companies alone. Pivots large and small are often a key part of any company’s evolution, from products and services to marketing strategies.
Beyond bizarre beginnings and pivots, if there’s one thing successful companies have in common, it’s the audacity to evolve.
Mapped: The Top Female Founder in Each Country
Who are the leading female founders worldwide? From Brazil to Singapore, we show the global landscape of companies with women at the helm.
Mapped: The Top Female Founder in Each Country
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.
Companies with at least one female founder generate 78 cents of revenue for every dollar of venture funding, while male-led startups generate roughly 31 cents.
Yet, startups with only female founders receive just 3% of total invested dollars globally.
The above infographic from Business Financing explores the global landscape of female-led startups. It shows the top female founders according to the highest amount of capital raised, in each country profiled.
Global Rankings: The Top 10 Female Founders
Which female founders have received the most funding worldwide?
Based on data from Crunchbase, individuals were selected across 102 countries if they were a founder or co-founder of an active company as of May 21, 2020. Companies were selected depending on their status in seed, early stage venture, or late stage venture funding.
With $22 billion in funding, Lucy Peng, co-founder of Ant Group and Alibaba tops the list. Peng taught economics for five years before co-founding Alibaba with 18 others in 1999. Today, she is worth over $1 billion.
Peng’s 2.1% stake in Ant Group is estimated to be worth roughly $4.8 billion. Ant Group filed for an IPO worth an estimated $225 billion valuation in August 2020.
|Rebekah Neumann||$19.5B||The We Company||Real Estate||U.S.|
|Tan Hooi Ling||$9.9B||Grab||Transportation||Singapore|
|Kate Keenan||$1.4B||Judo Bank||FinTech||Australia|
|Victoria van Lennep||$1.2B||Lendable||FinTech||United Kingdom|
|Frances Kang||$581M||WeLab||FinTech||Hong Kong|
|Sophie Kim||$282M||Market Kurly||Agro & Food||South Korea|
|Ilise Lombardo||$278M||Arvelle Therapeutics||Biotech & Health||Switzerland|
Following Peng is Rebekah Neumann, who has raised $19.5 billion with The We Company. Neumann studied business with a minor in Buddhism at Cornell, and later co-founded the gig-focused firm in 2010 with her husband Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey. Following the notoriously disastrous IPO of WeWork, she and her husband have since left the company.
Coming in third is Tan Hooi Ling who founded Grab in Singapore. The ride-hailing app is a major competitor of Uber in Asian markets.
Cristina Junqueira, who co-founded digital banking firm NuBank, also makes it into the top 10 list. Currently, NuBank operates as the largest fintech firm in South America, with over 20 million users. Meanwhile, Lithuania’s first tech unicorn, Vinted was co-founded by Milda Mitkute and serves as the largest secondhand clothing platform worldwide.
Unicorns Bucking the Trend
While funding for female-led startups has been disproportionately low over the years, the number of unicorns—private companies valued in excess of $1 billion—headed by women has grown over fivefold.
Since 2013, women-led unicorns have jumped from just four to 21 in 2019. While these numbers are still objectively quite small, they continue to climb.
Among the newly minted unicorns in 2019 was Airwallex, a company that allows businesses to track cross-border revenues. In April, the startup raised $160 million, valuing it at $1.8 billion.
Along with Airwallex, Scale, Glossier and The RealReal are also found on the list.
New Waves of Venture Capital
In 2019, 2,300 venture deal rounds included startups with at least one female founder. Of these, a number of startups raised over $100 million in funding in 2019 on a worldwide level.
|Guild Education||$157 million||U.S.|
|Luckin Coffee||$150 million||China|
|Northern Arc||$130 million||India|
|Kuaikan Manhua||$125 million||China|
|SpringWorks Therapeutics||$125 million||U.S.|
|Rent the Runway||$125 million||U.S.|
|Genera Energy||$118 million||U.S.|
|Kronos Bio||$105 million||U.S.|
Interestingly, funding data shows that women VCs are three times more likely than men to invest in women. This, coupled with the growing number of female partners at venture capital firms, is bringing a new perspective to tech financing.
At the same time, it’s opening up new markets. For instance, the $57 billion child care industry is largely overlooked by the VC world. San Francisco-based Winnie raised $9 million in funding in 2019, capitalizing on a marketplace specifically for parents.
Consumer products and markets focusing on solutions for women present areas of significant growth, particularly on a global level.
What’s Next For Female Founders?
While just a fraction of all venture funding is allocated to women-led companies, trends illustrate clear resilience.
Female-founded firms continually outperform—and shareholder returns are only getting better every year. As both startup and venture capital ecosystems continue to evolve, the future of women-led entrepreneurship is as bright as ever.
Financing4 weeks ago
The 25 Largest Private Equity Firms in One Chart
Agriculture1 month ago
The Economics of Coffee in One Chart
Politics1 month ago
Charting America’s Debt: $27 Trillion and Counting
Leadership4 weeks ago
The World’s Most Influential Values, In One Graphic
Technology7 days ago
50 Years of Gaming History, by Revenue Stream (1970-2020)
Politics4 weeks ago
Animated Map: U.S. Presidential Voting History by State (1976-2016)
Markets2 weeks ago
Mapped: The Top Export in Every Country
Misc1 month ago
The 50 Highest Cities in the World