Mobile Unicorns Multiply To Hit A Quarter Of A Trillion Dollars

Editor’s note: Tim Merel is Managing Director of Digi-Capital, which advises mobile internet, games and digital companies in the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Europe.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (in late 2013), there were 38 tech unicorns worth over $130 billion. Mobile Internet has changed things in the last 12 months. A lot. Sixty-eight mobile unicorns added $28 billion shareholder value in Q4 2014 to become worth $261 billion. Or a quarter of a trillion dollars. That’s excluding Facebook (64 percent mobile revenue, 59 percent mobile only users, 84 percent total mobile users), which at over $200 billion skews the analysis. 

What Is the Collective Noun for Unicorns?

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.

Mobile internet billions valuation pyramid

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, such as iQiyi or Mogujie, you might not know so well.

30 Tim Cooks a Day

To put the $28 billion value added last quarter in perspective, that’s $300 million — or more than 30 Tim Cooks (who got paid over $9 million 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 smooth sailing, as 14 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 $1 billion in Q4 for a total of five dropouts last year.

Pareto Rules

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

Mobile internet billions value distribution

The Next Unicorn Could Come from Any Mobile Internet Sector

The $261 billion value of the mobile Internet billions list is spread across sectors, with six sectors accounting for 89 percent at $229 billion.

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 16 mobile Internet sectors on the list, so the next unicorn could come from any sector.

Mobile internet billions sector value

America Dominates by Value, Asia by Volume

America is the king of mobile Internet value creation, with 24 companies delivering $144 billion of shareholder value or over half of all the value in the list. This is partly due to monster valuations of some U.S. players (including Uber, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat over $10 billion), with an average U.S. company worth $6 billion.

Asia dominates by volume with 38 companies worth $102 billion, but its $2.7 billion average valuation is less than half that of America. Yet Asia is accelerating compared to the West, with 12 out of 15 new entrants coming from China, India, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.

China holds the speed record with Wanda E-Commerce worth $3.2 billion only four months after it was founded by illustrious parents Wanda, Tencent and Baidu.

Mobile internet billions value map

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the list is its link to fundamental growth. With over $700 billion mobile Internet revenue forecast for 2017, the mobile Internet billions list could pass $300 billion by the end of the year.

The full list is here. 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.