This time last year, nobody was talking about decacorns. Instead, the financial technology headlines were filled with discussions about digital transformation, the number of legacy systems that needed to be technologised and how many companies were embracing the new cashless solutions.
Unicorns also made big news, with every fintech company reaching a valuation of US$1bn unleashing a flurry of press attention in its wake.
However, today, the situation is slightly different. For example, the open banking fintech, aptly named Open, was just declared the 100th unicorn in India. Equally, by the end of Q4, 2021, the number of unicorns worldwide stood at almost 900 companies.
The most recent data shows that the APAC region is leading the way in terms of fintech unicorns, with 35 and counting and just as many Soonicorns (almost Unicorns) about to hit the $1bn mark. Meanwhile, Latin America has 27 fintech unicorns, India has 12 and Africa, which didn't have a single fintech company six years ago, now has seven swiftly scaling entities.
Are unicorns still important?
Even though they are no longer as rare rare, the moment a startup reaches the $1bn milestone is still an important step in the company’s development. Becoming a unicorn demonstrates success in the marketplace, a solid backing by investors and products and services that have growing appeal to customers. It also shows that the management team is forward thinking and can take the company to the next level in terms of expansion.
Experts say that although there are far more unicorns today than a decade ago, they are still rare compared to the total number of startups.
Mathias Ockenfels, general partner at Speedinvest said recently, “If you compare the total number of unicorns to the total number of tech startups that have been founded during the same time period, the percentage of startups that actually made it to unicorn status is still very low.”
Ewan White, Account Director at Grayling and fintech communications specialist, says, that seeking investment for a startup is tougher than ever - so a company aiming to be a unicorn must demonstrate that its products are both unique and in demand. "The funding landscape is so competitive, and founders must work hard early on to clearly define what their company is and what it stands for. This will not only help engage investors and communicate an investible proposition, but it is also key to driving customer acquisition and business growth. As the fintech space matures, the audience for fintech players becomes increasingly complex whether it’s a broader set of investors, increasingly clued up regulatory bodies or a smarter set of customers."
He continues, "This complex landscape means that it is more important than ever to be able to stand out from the crowd and be able to tell a story about your company and how it benefits not only the fintech ecosystem but the world at large. Success in fintech is built around a number of things whether that’s an innovative product or a talented team but the ability to tell the story is often something that gets less focus and yet is key to achieving scale.”
Why are decacorns expanding so fast?
- Investors love them - Without exception, all decacorns have received well over a billion dollars in funding from deep-pocketed investors. These companies have led the race in what have been termed as mega rounds.
- They disrupted the marketplace - Again, without exception, they launched with products and services that filled a gap in the marketplace. Their founders listened to customers, saw a demand and created a solution.
- They use the latest technologies - This means they can all scale really fast, and their business models are lean and agile, so they are able to spot a trend and act on that quickly by creating more products and solutions, or by partnering in the ecosystem with companies that swell their customer base.
Five fintech decacorns taking the world by storm
Of the 35 decacorns worldwide, many of the biggest are fintech companies that launched less than a decade ago. Their increasing numbers indicate a maturation point for the fintech industry, as more companies and customers than ever before turn to digital transactions, currencies and banking to manage their finances over cash.
The term 'search growth' relates to the increase in searches for this term over the trend time period across Google. Companies with a high search growth are attracting a lot of new interest. Companies with less search growth, such as Stripe - have a lower rate because they are already so well known in the marketplace.
Ecommerce payments, contactless payment technology and green finance
Launched in 2009
Based in: California
Shows 5-year search growth: 9%
Founded in 2005
Based in Sweden
Shows a 5-year search growth: 382%
Founded in 2013
Based in Brazil
Shows a 5-year search growth: 546%
Online payments platform
Founded in 2012
Based in London
Shows a 5-year search growth: 625%
Digital only bank (Neo)
Founded in 2013
Based in California
Shows a 5-year search growth: 1800%