Unicorn hotspots: industries and cities with the most billion-dollar startups

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A unicorn is a startup valued at more than $1 billion without being listed on the stock market. To get an idea of how rare this is, only 1,191 unicorns exist globally across 48 countries, with the majority operating in just two.  

Aileen Lee coined the term in 2013. Back then, just 43 startups were valued at $1 billion or more. Today the number is 27 times higher, with at least 1,191 unicorns across the globe. Their collective value exceeds $3,853 billion and spans industries like fintech, AI, ecommerce and travel.

With a value of $140 billion, TikTok parent company Bytedance is by far the world’s most impressive unicorn. Other well-known unicorns include Bolt, Jasper AI, Vinted, Webflow and OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT.

Most popular industries for billion-dollar startups

These are the five sectors that have the highest number of unicorns.

IndustryNumber of unicorns globallyMost valuable startup in the sector
Internet software & services227Canva
Health96Devoted Health

Countries with the most unicorns

Unicorn companies are spread globally. As the two largest economies in the world, with extensive funding pools and innovation capabilities, the United States and China account for the highest share, with 644 and 172 respectively.  

CountryNumber of UnicornsTotal Value ($ billion)
United States644$2,074
United Kingdom46$207
South Korea16$33

Cities with the most unicorns

Silicon Valley is home to the most unicorns in the world, followed by Beijing and Bengaluru (Bangalore). India is home to the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem and is fast catching up to the US and China due to a massive increase in venture capital inflow.

CityNumber of UnicornsTotal Value ($ billion)
San Francisco169$741
Tel Aviv12$26
Sao Paulo12$30

Where to build a billion dollar startup

San Francisco

City skyline view of San Francisco
  • Unicorn status: Global leader
  • Number of unicorns: 169
  • Total valuation: $741 billion
  • Dominant industry: Internet software and services

Most valuable unicorns  

CompanyValuation (billion)Industry
Instacart$39Logistics & delivery
Databricks$38Data management & Analytics

There are more billion-dollar startups concentrated in San Francisco than anywhere else globally. The city’s world-class infrastructure and established business environment attract talent worldwide, and nearby Silicon Valley and Palo Alto are home to some of the most famous tech companies in the world.

Some of the most valuable startups include online payment software company Stripe, internet-based grocery delivery service Instacart, and enterprise software company, Databricks.

US states with the most unicorns after San Francisco include New York and Boston.


City skyline view of Beijing
  • Unicorn status: Global runner-up
  • Number of unicorns: 62
  • Total valuation: $303 billion
  • Dominant industry: Artificial intelligence

Most valuable unicorns  

CompanyValuation (billion)Industry
Bytedance$140Artificial intelligence
Yuanqi Senlin$15Consumer & retail

Widely considered one of the best cities in the world for startups, Beijing is known for its thriving tech and data industries and has a robust business ecosystem.

Beijing is home to 62 unicorns, one of which is ByteDance, TikTok parent company and one of the world’s highest-valued startups at $140 billion. Yuanfudao, an online education company, and Yuanqi Senlin (known as Genki Forest in the west) is a beverage-based company specialising in sugar-free and low-calorie drinks.

Cities with the most unicorns after Beijing are Shanghai and Shenzhen.


City skyline view of Bengaluru
  • Unicorn status: City to watch
  • Number of unicorns: 31
  • Total valuation: $108 billion
  • Dominant industry: Internet software & services

Most valuable unicorns  

CompanyValuation (billion)Industry
Swiggy$11Logistics & delivery
Ola Cabs$8Auto & transportation

India has the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem; one report predicts that by 2025, the country will be home to 250 unicorns. In Bengaluru, which ranks in the top 10 startup ecosystems globally, infrastructure and support are abundant for businesses. 

The most valuable startups in the city include educational tech company Byju’s, food delivery giant Swiggy, and Ola Cabs, a multinational ridesharing company. 

Other unicorn hotspots in India include Mumbai and Gurgaon.


City skyline view of London
  • Unicorn status: City to watch
  • Number of unicorns: 36
  • Total valuation: $189 billion
  • Dominant industry: Fintech

Most valuable unicorns  

CompanyValuation (billion)Industry

The UK is home to the most unicorns in Europe, and London leads the way. The city’s startup ecosystem consistently ranks among the world’s best, and London is a global leader in fintech startups. Today’s most valuable startups in London include global payment platform Checkout.com, fintech brand Revolut and cryptocurrency platform Blockchain.com. 

Other unicorn hotspots in London include Bristol and Aberdeen.

What makes a good unicorn ecosystem?

Like any startup ecosystem, environments that support unicorns require a potent mix of networks and resources to foster innovation.

Every component of these networks – from governments, local authorities and universities – is connected through geography, so entrepreneurs have the resources they need at every stage: mentorship, office space, investment options and networking opportunities. This encourages growth in startup communities locally throughout all stages of development.

Three things successful businesses have in common

Strong vision: Successful businesses have a clear and defined set of goals that help determine every decision. It helps build culture, passion and inspiration for everyone in the company.

Adaptability: Whether making decisions around tech, office space, ways of working or data, successful companies make decisions that help them stay agile and scale as conditions change. 

An empowered team: Collaboration, culture and empowerment are crucial to attracting and retaining the talent that builds successful companies.

Find an office for your startup or a place for your team to collaborate.

Data analysed from CBS Insights

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