Get to Know the World’s Privately Held Tech Giants
“Meaningful innovation does not need to be based on outright invention. Rather, there is an exhilarating shortcut. It is based on bold, new combinations of already existing components that simultaneously unlock heightened levels of consumer value and reduce costs.”
Gabor George Burt
Author of ‘Slingshot: Re-Imagine Your Business, Re-Imagine Your Life’
Diversifying into private markets makes sound sense from a rational perspective. But, beyond this, there is something aspirational, exciting, and even fascinating about investing in the largest unicorns, with the proven potential to grow far more rapidly than publicly listed companies.
In the first of a series of blog articles devoted to the constituents of the Morningstar® PitchBook® Unicorn Select 20 Index™, we would like to introduce you to five of the largest unicorns of the index in terms of the size of their most recent post-money valuations (as per 31 May 2023). Each of these companies has a heritage of at least a decade, and their latest post-money valuations range from USD 40 - 137 billion.
Founded in 2002, SpaceX is the world’s most advanced manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft – none of its peers come even close to SpaceX’s breadth of offering, track record, and reputation (SpaceX was awarded a shared NASA contract in early February, which could be worth up to USD 100 million over 10 years). SpaceX operates in a huge market, with Morgan Stanley estimating that the revenue generated by the global space industry may increase to more than USD 1 trillion by 2040. The company is led by founder and visionary Elon Musk, arguably the most successful entrepreneur of our generation.
In late May, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket delivered the 4.5 metric ton Arabsat Badr 8 communications satellite into a geostationary orbit. Arabsat’s Badr 8 program has cost around USD 300 million (including the launch mission with SpaceX) and will provide video relay, television broadcast, and data services across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Central Asia. Besides its purpose as a commercial communications satellite, Badr 8 also hosts an experimental laser communications payload for Airbus.
Incredibly, Badr 8 capped a sequence of SpaceX missions that saw four Falcon 9 launches in just ten days, taking the year-to-date total to 31 and putting the company on track to beat its own world record of 60 successful launches in a calendar year (set in 2022).
Singapore-domiciled Shein is a global fashion and lifestyle e-retailer providing consumers with ‘fast-fashion’ goods from China. Founded in 2008, the company's online store offers deals on products, such as clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other accessories, enabling customers to order garments and products for global delivery.
According to Bloomberg Second Measure Research, Shein accounted for 40% of fast-fashion sales in the US in 2022. Coresight Research also finds that the company has grown its revenues by 57% per annum, while its slightly older competitor, Asos, languishes behind at around 20%. One of Shein’s key competitive advantages is that it uses AI to predict shifts in popular consumer trends. This is typical unicorn behavior in embracing and adopting the latest technology to scale a business more rapidly.
Founded in 2009, Stripe has developed an online financial infrastructure platform designed to accept payments, grow revenue, and accelerate new business opportunities. The company brings together everything required to build websites and apps that accept payments and send payouts globally. The company also helps its clients, including Booking.com and Shopify, to beat fraud, send invoices, issue virtual and physical cards, reduce friction at checkout, obtain financing, manage business spend, and much more.
In mid-May, Stripe announced a new partnership with Airbnb, which will enable customers of the online marketplace for short- and long-term home rentals to use Stripe’s Financial Connections and Link products to add the details of their US bank account, save them and then pay by bank debit for future bookings with just one click.
Instacart is the creator and operator of an on-demand goods delivery platform intended to facilitate the smooth delivery of essential goods. The company's platform, established over the course of 11 years, offers full-service and in-store shopper services through a network of independent suppliers with delivery and pickup service of fresh groceries and everyday essentials, enabling users to select items from their favorite grocery stores and enjoy same-day delivery.
Online, and publicly listed giant, Amazon, has sought to infiltrate grocery deliveries to broaden its existing offerings. But, in true unicorn spirit, Instacart has sunk its claws into the Amazon behemoth, by developing its own small business offering, named ‘Instacart Business’. Having displayed true entrepreneurial spirit in the establishment of its grocery offering, Instacart is destined to broaden its appeal with a selection of competitively priced, curated items, such as office supplies, cleaning products, and a targeted range of snacks aimed at people with ‘indoor’ jobs.
Based in Australia, Canva is a global, multi-national graphic platform used to create beautiful social media graphics and presentations. Founded in 2012, the company offers drag-and-drop features and professional layouts to consistently design graphics through a vast collection of optimal features. This enables users to personalize their design with a stock library of photographs, illustrations, and imagery, promoting the creation of optimized presentations and social media graphics with true visual impact.
In late May, the company introduced a new facilitation route through the creation of 11 Canva codes, or ‘arrows’, designed to save the end user hours of frustration searching for graphics to match their style and archetype. The 11 elemental codes will enable Canva’s clients to refresh cohesive design contents with updated access to new graphic elements as and when they become available.
All of these tech giants have common attributes that set them apart…
Commitment to growth and innovation - Startups wishing to become extremely successful in a relatively short space of time recognize that growth must be the top priority. To help achieve this, they develop a positive company culture and offer incentives to align the interests of the employees and the business, so everybody shares in the success. It is also intuitive that unicorns must be trendsetters rather than trend followers, so a continuous focus on innovation is a prerequisite.
Embracers of technology - Unicorns are more successful than their peers because they are early adopters and users of the latest technology. However, many non-tech companies achieve unicorn status because the use of the latest technology gives them a competitive edge and the ability to scale their businesses faster.
An obsession with customer satisfaction - To turbocharge their growth potential, startups need to invest substantial resources in market research, to clearly identify a niche to prosper, and subsequently establish feedback mechanisms to develop strong relationships with their customers. It is also important to establish a strong profile on social media to encourage customers to become brand advocates and share the content with others.
Introducing the Stableton Unicorn Index AMC
Learn how an allocation to the most exciting and rapidly growing privately held companies can help to boost your portfolio.