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China's 'unicorn' startups exceed US number for first time
Published on: 2019-10-25
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041China has surpassed the United States to become the world's biggest hub for unicorns, according to a new report from a Shanghai-based research institute.

Wealth research firm Hurun says China is home to 206 unicorns, or privately owned companies worth at least $1 billion. Hurun's tally puts China slightly ahead of the United States, which the firm says has 203 such companies. Together, the two countries host more than 80% of the world's unicorns, according to Hurun.

042China also has the most unicorns in the e-commerce, electric car and healthcare industries, while the United States leads in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and life science.

Beijing, meanwhile, also powered ahead of San Francisco to become the world's "unicorn capital," the firm said. Beijing is home to 82 unicorns compared to San Francisco's 55.

046China's technology ambitions are helping fuel a startup boom. The government has been encouraging its companies to become less dependent on foreign technology and achieve dominance in key sectors over the next decade — a campaign that has intensified during China's ongoing trade war with the United States. Major Chinese tech firms, like drone manufacturer DJI and the video sharing app Kuaishou, are on Hurun's inaugural list.

"Three years ago, on our global rich list, China overtook the United States for the first time in the number of billionaires. Today, China surpassed the United States for the first time in the number of unicorns," said Rupert Hoogewerf, the chairman and founder of Hurun, in a statement. He called the list a "surprise."

040It counts notably more Chinese unicorns than other research firms. CB Insights, for example, recorded 99 unicorns in China in October.

China is home to the world's three most valuable unicorns, according to Hurun: Ant Financial, an affiliate of Chinese tech giant Alibaba (BABA), which it values at $150 billion; Bytedance, valued at $75 billion; and Didi Chuxing, valued at $55 billion. Bytedance and Didi Chuxing also appear on CB Insights' October list, but Ant Financial does not. CB Insights did not respond to request for comment about its methodology.

044The vast majority of the unicorns that are listed by Hurun but not by CB Insights are relatively small, with valuations between $1 billion and $2 billion. Baby goods retailer Kidswant and medical device maker Ankon Medical Technologies make the Hurun list, for example.

Hurun also included larger companies like Lufax, an online wealth management platform worth $38 billion and backed by China's Ping An Insurance (PIAIF).

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