Mobile unicorns multiply to hit a quarter of a trillion dollars

February 14, 2015


Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (in late 2013), there were 38 tech Unicorns worth over 130 billion dollars. Mobile internet has changed things in the last 12 months. A lot.

68 mobile unicorns added $28B shareholder value in Q4 2014 to become worth $261B.

Or (queue Dr. Evil voice) a quarter of a trillion dollars.

And that’s excluding Facebook (64% mobile revenue, 59% mobile only users, 84% total mobile users) which at over $200B skews the analysis.

What is the collective noun for unicorns?

Mobile Internet Billions Valuation Pyramid

Although unicorns are rare mythical beasts, surprisingly there is a collective noun for them: a “blessing of unicorns.” As it wouldn’t look right for a blessing of mobile unicorns to live in a stable, we’ve put them in one of our valuation pyramids. There are many striking things about this pyramid, including its size at 68 companies and counting, that it accounts for the bulk of tech unicorns globally, and the companies themselves. Some are household names like Uber and Twitter, but others like iQiyi or Mogujie you might not know so well.

30 Tim Cooks a day

To put the $28B value added last quarter in perspective, that’s $300M or more than 30 Tim Cooks (who got paid over $9M last year) a day. Uber, Snapchat, Flipkart and Meituan added the most value per company, and 15 new mobile internet unicorns joined the club. But it wasn’t all plain sailing, as fourteen of the billion dollar companies lost value (in some cases multiple billions of dollars). Admission also doesn’t guarantee lifetime membership, with two former unicorns falling below $1B in Q4 for a total of five dropouts last year.

Pareto rules

Pareto Rules - Mobile Internet Billions Valuation Distribution

Pareto’s 80/20 rule was on the money: twenty companies drive 70% of all the value in the mobile internet billions list. The top 5 (from Uber to LINE) are worth over 40%, the top 10 (adding from Snapchat to Square) over half, the top 20 (adding from Pinterest to Gungho) over 70%, and the top 30 (adding from Wanda E-Commerce to Momo) over 80%. Not all unicorns are created equal.

The next unicorn could come from any mobile internet sector

Mobile Internet Billions Sectors

The $261B value of the mobile internet billions list is spread across sectors, with six sectors accounting for 89% at $229B. The big six sectors are travel/transport (including Uber, Didi Dache and Yongche), mCommerce (dominated by Asian companies such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and One97), social networking (including Twitter and Snapchat, and which should count Facebook but doesn’t because it swamps everything else), messaging (such as WhatsApp and Daumkakao), games (with 11 companies from King to GREE) and utilities (like UCWeb). However there are sixteen mobile internet sectors on the list, so the next unicorn could come from any sector.

America dominates by value, Asia by volume

Mobile Internet Billions Value Map

America is the king of mobile internet value creation, with twenty four companies delivering $144B of shareholder value or over half of all the value in the list. This is partly due to monster valuations of some US players (including Uber, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat over $10B), with an average US company worth $6B. Asia dominates by volume with thirty eight companies worth $102B, but its $2.7B average valuation is less than half that of America. Yet Asia is accelerating compared to the West, with twelve out of fifteen new entrants coming from China, India, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. China holds the speed record with Wanda E-Commerce worth $3.2B only four months after it was founded by illustrious parents Wanda, Tencent and Baidu.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the list is its link to fundamental growth. With over $700B mobile internet revenue forecast for 2017, the mobile internet billions list could pass $300B by the end of the year. The full list is below, and you can read more in this free download.

Mobile Internet Billions List 2015

Note: The companies listed all have substantial parts of their business from mobile internet, but exclude mobile infrastructure (e.g. Qualcomm), device (e.g. Apple) or substantial but minority mobile internet businesses (e.g. Tencent with WeChat). The valuations come from a mix of stock markets, acquisitions and fundraising rounds.

[Unicorn image credit: Rob Boudon]