The World’s 73 Most Valuable Start-ups By Dennis K. Berman

It’s my job to know about every company on Earth. But I have a confession to make. I’d never heard of Dianping or Coupang. Or Adyen or Qualtrics. Or for that matter,Beibei or Moderna

Who the heck are these companies? And why should you care?

You should care because they are among the most valuable startups on Earth, a list of 73 firms that have recently achieved (paper) valuations of $1 billion or more.

The Wall Street Journal has been tracking these companies for over a year, and has since extensively updated and refreshed last year’s 36-member list.

It’s amazing to see the list change so much in just 13 months. There is a flood of venture capital out there, and firms are eager to put big sums to work. That’s helped push the number of $1 billion-plus firms to 73.

Most are exactly what you’d expect: California-based software firms.

But there is a whole range of companies that I — and I suspect most other people — have never heard of. Beibei, for instance, sells higher-quality baby gear in China. Adyen is an Amsterdam-based payments processor. And Moderna is developing a new class of “messenger RNA” drugs in Cambridge, Mass.

To be fair, these companies are inherently obscure. And yet I suspect that 99.999% of Americans have never even heard the name of the biggest company on our list, the Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, which carries a paper valuation of some $46 billion.

Looking back at it, there are three lessons I drew from working on this project. What do you think? Would love to hear from you and get a dialogue going.

1) It’s still REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard to get to this point. It seems as if it is getting easier to grow a company to this size, given the jump from 38 to 73. But that’s largely a statistical mirage. The truth is that it’s just not. There were 16,700 venture-backed companies since 2011. Roughly speaking, that means that just .4% of companies made it to a $1 billion valuation since then. Odds say that you will not be one of them.

2) Europe is Earth’s entrepreneurial doughnut hole. Of course there is a new crop of European startups doing interesting things. But given its size and population, the continent remains very underrepresented, with just 6 of the 73. Asia, by comparison, has 15 companies on the list.

3) Copycats work. It’s fascinating to see the success of a group of second-generation copycats, such as Groupon-inspired Coupang of Korea or Uber-inspired Ola Cabs in India. These companies are taking a good idea and adapting them to global markets. The fascinating next step — which I do believe will come soon — is U.S.-based founders duplicating innovations coming directly from Asia.

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.


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