Economic Growth

These Asian cities are breeding unicorns

The skyscrapers of the Central Business District rise behind the capital's embassy neighbourhood in Beijing, China, July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Silicon Valley in California leads the way internationally, but Beijing is hot on its heels. Image: REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Consider the unicorn, a mythical animal representing something highly desirable but difficult or impossible to find. The term is also used to describe the statistical rarity of a startup company valued at more than $1 billion.

In Asia, China is leading the way. Beijing has birthed 29 unicorns since 2012, according to data compiled by CB Insights. Shanghai follows, with 11, and then Indian cities New Delhi and Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore).

Image: CB Insights

In Beijing, one of the largest transactions was ecommerce giant, which was valued at about $26 billion in its 2014 initial public offering. DiDi, a ride-sharing and technology conglomerate that rivals Uber is another example, raising $15 billion on a valuation of $56 billion. And online consumer lending firm Qudian was valued at $7.9 billion.

Shanghai might be behind Beijing, but it still boasts some hefty transactions. Online food delivery service ELEME Inc. was sold for $9.5 billion and consumer finance marketplace PPDAI Group was valued at $3.9 billion.

While Silicon Valley in California still leads the way internationally, Beijing is hot on its heels. In the period that Beijing saw 29 unicorns, Silicon Valley had 57, but the Chinese cities are ramping up to compete as investors start to look beyond California.

Image: CB Insights

The proliferation of unicorns in Asia shows the region’s growing influence in the technology sector. This chart shows how company creation is increasing, with financing on the up:

Image: CB Insights

Chinese cities Shenzhen and Hangzhou, home of the Alibaba headquarters, are seen as Asia’s hubs with high potential for the future, according to CB Insights. Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong, produced five tech unicorns between 2014 and 2017.

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