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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021



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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.

Bytedance$140BChinaArtificial intelligence
Canva$40BAustraliaInternet software & services
Instacart$39BU.S.Supply chain, logistics, & delivery
Databricks$38BU.S.Data management & analytics
Epic Games$28.7BU.S.Other
FTX$25BChina (Hong Kong)Fintech
Xiaohongshu$20BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
J&T Express$20BIndonesiaSupply chain, logistics, & delivery
Fanatics$18BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
DJI Innovations$15BChinaHardware
SHEIN$15BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer$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
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
E-commerce & direct-to-consumer4
Artificial intelligence3
Internet software & services3
Consumer & retail2
Data management & analytics2
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 50 Largest Private Equity Firms

In this graphic, we show the largest private equity firms in the world—from titan Blackstone to China’s leading alternative funds.



The World’s 50 Largest Private Equity Firms

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In 2023, private equity firms controlled $8.2 trillion in assets globally according to McKinsey & Company, a figure that has rapidly expanded since the industry first emerged 40 years ago.

As large investors such as pension funds and insurance companies increasingly look to private markets, these alternative asset managers have seen their assets grow by more than twofold in the last five years.

This graphic shows the top 50 private equity firms worldwide, based on data from Private Equity International (PEI).

The Top 50 Private Equity Firms

To determine the rankings, private equity firms were defined as those that raise capital with the purpose of directly investing in businesses, covering diversified private equity, venture capital, growth equity, buyouts, along with turnaround or control-oriented distressed investment capital.

The ranking does not include funds of funds, private investment in public equity (PIPE), or funds that follow a secondaries, real estate, infrastructure, hedge fund, debt or mezzanine strategies.

Below, we show the 50 biggest private equity companies around the world, measured by the scale of capital raised over the five-year period ending March 31, 2023:

RankingFund ManagerCityCapital Raised
1BlackstoneNew York$125.6B
2KKRNew York$103.7B
4Thoma BravoChicago$74.1B
5The Carlyle GroupWashington DC$69.7B
6TPGFort Worth$55.0B
7Advent InternationalBoston$52.9B
9General AtlanticNew York$48.7B
10Warburg PincusNew York$48.5B
11Silver LakeMenlo Park$48.3B
12Goldman SachsNew York$45.4B
13Bain CapitalBoston$44.3B
14Clearlake Capital GroupSanta Monica$44.0B
15CVC Capital PartnersLuxembourg$41.8B
16Vista Equity PartnersAustin$41.5B
17Clayton, Dubilier & RiceNew York$41.1B
18Hellman & FriedmanSan Francisco$40.9B
19Insight PartnersNew York$40.2B
20Leonard Green & PartnersLos Angeles$39.6B
21Permira AdvisersLondon$34.8B
23Brookfield Asset ManagementToronto$31.2B
24Nordic CapitalSaint Helier$31.1B
25Genstar CapitalSan Francisco$29.9B
26Francisco PartnersSan Francisco$28.3B
27Tiger Global ManagementNew York$28.3B
28Blue Owl CapitalNew York$27.2B
29Partners GroupZug$26.7B
30Ares ManagementLos Angeles$26.6B
31Hillhouse Capital GroupSingapore$26.4B
32L CattertonGreenwich$24.1B
33Neuberger Berman
Private Markets
New York$23.7B
34PAI PartnersParis$23.7B
35TA AssociatesBoston$23.5B
36Apollo Global ManagementNew York$22.8B
37Stone Point CapitalGreenwich$22.3B
38BC PartnersLondon$20.3B
39Adams Street PartnersChicago$20.2B
40BlackRockNew York$19.9B
41BDT & MSD PartnersChicago$19.5B
42Veritas CapitalNew York$19.0B
45HarbourVest PartnersBoston$17.5B
46China Reform Fund
Management Corporation
47Andreessen HorowitzMenlo Park$16.7B
48Thomas H. Lee PartnersBoston$16.0B
49Summit PartnersBoston$16.0B
50PSG EquityBoston$15.8B

Private equity titan Blackstone is the top in the United States and the world, raising $125.6 billion in capital from 2018 to 2023.

Headquartered in New York, Blackstone’s total assets under management stood at $991 billion as of the first quarter of 2023, and have since surpassed $1 trillion this year. For perspective, this is comparable to the GDP of the Netherlands.

Following next in line are KKR and Sweden’s EQT, each raising over $100 billion. In fact, this was the first time three firms achieved this $100 billion equity-raise milestone in PEI’s ranking over a five-year period. This was particularly notable given a challenging fundraising landscape amid higher borrowing costs and lagging dealmaking activity.

North American Firms Dominate Private Equity

As we can see, the vast majority of the biggest private equity firms are based in America, accounting for 36 of the top 50 firms globally. North American PE firms made up $1.34 trillion (72%) of the $1.85 trillion raised by the top 50 firms in the ranking.

Falling in second by a wide margin is Europe, with nine firms making up $179 billion (9.7%) of the total funds raised. Many of Europe’s largest private equity firms are based in London, England, with the most prominent asset managers in the city being Hg and Permira Advisors.

Across Asia, the top alternative investment firm was Singapore-based Hillhouse Capital Group, which launched in 2005. The firm has backed several internet companies spanning from Tencent, the largest publicly-traded company in China, to Baidu, but has faced increasing setbacks amid regulatory crackdowns and a sluggish Chinese stock market.

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