Number of potential unicorns on the rise

China’s potential unicorn companies are drawing increasing attention in the market. “The soaring number of potential unicorn companies is a crucial sign of China’s high-quality development of the new economy,” said a report on 2021 Chinese potential unicorn companies by the Greatwall Strategy Consultants, a Beijing-headquartered private think tank focusing on the new economy. As the national scientific and technology innovation center, Beijing is home to 117 potential unicorn companies as of the end of 2020, ranking top in China. Shanghai, Suzhou in Jiangsu province, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and Shenzhen in Guangdong province took the second to fifth spots, nurturing 84, 39, 37 and 32 such companies, respectively.

The think tank said a “potential unicorn” means a China-registered company set up within the last five years with a valuation reaching USD100 million, or a company set up for five to nine years valued at over USD500 million. Those 117 potential unicorn companies in Beijing came from 28 industries, including digital medicine, artificial intelligence, robots, aviation and new energy vehicles (NEVs). The report also said the number of China’s potential unicorns hit a record high in 2020, totaling 425. Orion Star Co, a robot developer in Beijing, is one of those potential unicorns. Chairman Fu Sheng said the company's vision is to make robots that can replace low-end and repetitive work, increasing economic efficiency. Orion Star will provide robot services for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

Benewake Co, a high-tech company focusing on developing the “eyes of the robots” - LiDAR – in Beijing’s Zhongguancun area, is on its way to become a potential unicorn. Li Yuan, Founder and Chief Executive of Benewake, said becoming a unicorn is the middle-stage for a startup that is on its way to become a leading enterprise in an industry. “The high-end talents, supportive policies, as well as the great entrepreneurial climate are key reasons for Beijing becoming the best land for both unicorns and potential unicorns,” Li said.

Wang Bin, Vice Chairman of the China Association of Technology Entrepreneurs said Beijing has put in huge investments to support high-tech startups in recent years, which has attracted a large number of talent to settle down in the capital. Compared with other cities, Beijing has much more talent resources and bigger investments in high-tech research and development. The city is also the home to most state-owned enterprises and venture capital institutions, which is beneficial to incubating potential and current unicorn companies, the China Daily reports.