What makes a fintech unicorn?

It’s not every day you hear about a unicorn prancing about in your neck of the woods. This week in Australia, a new one horned beast was spotted, with B2B cross border payments startup Airwallex crowned (or should I say horned) with the enviable title of  fastest ever unicorn status downunder.

There are now 326 Unicorns in the world, according to CB insights, or I guess 327 now, given Airwallex’s announcement.

Fintech Unicorns are rarer than some others, occupying 4th place by category:

Category Count
Internet Software Services 82
Other 45
e-commerce 44
Fintech 32
Healthcare 30
On Demand 23
hardware 14
Social 11
Data Analytics 11
Auto Tech 11
Media 8
Travel Tech 7
Cybersecurity 7
dataanalytics 1

The US dominates as the home country for Unicorns, followed by China, the UK and India, and then a very long tail.

Country Count
United States 156
China 91
United Kingdom 17
India 13
Germany 8
South Korea 6
Indonesia 4
France 3
Hong Kong 3
Israel 3
Switzerland 3
Brazil 2
Colombia 2
South Africa 2
Australia 1
Canada 1
Estonia 1
Japan 1
Luxembourg 1
Malta 1
Nigeria 1
Philippines 1
Portugal 1
Singapore 1
Spain 1
Sweden 1
United Arab Emirates 1

You’re most likely to be a Unicorn if your cap table contains SoftBank Group, Tencent Holdings, Sequoia Capital China and Tiger Global Management. I cut funds with 1 or 2 Unicorns from the list.

Funder Count
SoftBank Group 29
Tencent Holdings 29
Sequoia Capital China 21
 Tiger Global Management 20
 Fidelity Investments 19
 Andreessen Horowitz 18
 DST Global 18
 Goldman Sachs 16
 Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers 16
 Sequoia Capital 16
 Institutional Venture Partners 15
Tiger Global Management 15
 GGV Capital 14
 Google Ventures 14
 Temasek Holdings 14
Sequoia Capital 14
 Hillhouse Capital Management 13
 Index Ventures 13
 Baillie Gifford & Co. 12
 Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. 12
 Sequoia Capital China 12
 Tencent Holdings 12
 Wellington Management 12
GIC 12
Goldman Sachs 12
 Accel 11
 Coatue Management 11
 Founders Fund 11
 ICONIQ Capital 11
 Khosla Ventures 11
 T. Rowe Price 11
Accel 11
 capitalG 10
 General Atlantic 10
Alibaba Group 10
 New Enterprise Associates 9
 Qiming Venture Partners 9
 Alibaba Group 8
 Bessemer Venture Partners 8
 J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. 8
 Shunwei Capital Partners 8
 Spark Capital 8
 Y Combinator 8
Andreessen Horowitz 8
General Atlantic 8
New Enterprise Associates 8
 Battery Ventures 7
 General Catalyst 7
 IDG Capital 7
 Insight Venture Partners 7
 Morningside Venture Capital 7
IDG Capital 7
 Ant Financial Services Group 6
 CMC Capital Partners 6
 Data Collective 6
 Matrix Partners China 6
 Sequoia Capital India 6
 Yunfeng Capital 6
Qiming Venture Partners 6
Warburg Pincus 6
 CDH Investments 5
 Greylock Partners 5
 Lightspeed Venture Partners 5
 Redpoint Ventures 5
 Ribbit Capital 5
 Silver Lake Partners 5
 Thrive Capital 5
 Warburg Pincus 5
Baillie Gifford & Co. 5
T. Rowe Price 5
Temasek Holdings 5
 Daimler 4
 DCM Ventures 4
 Greenoaks Capital Management 4
 JD.com 4
 JOY Capital 4
 Legend Capital 4
 Polaris Partners 4
 Primavera Capital Group 4
 Qualcomm Ventures 4
 SIG Asia Investments 4
 SoftBank Group 4
 Source Code Capital 4
 TPG Growth 4
 Venrock 4
 ZhenFund 4
Founders Fund 4
Lightspeed Venture Partners 4
 Altos Ventures 3
 Benchmark 3
 BlackRock 3
 Capital Today 3
 CCB International 3
 China International Capital Corporation 3
 China Renaissance 3
 DFJ 3
 FirstMark Capital 3
 Foundry Group 3
 Foxconn Technology Company 3
 Gaorong Capital 3
 Genesis Capital 3
 GIC 3
 H Capital 3
 Intel Capital 3
 K2VC 3
 Matrix Partners 3
 Ping An Insurance 3
 Revolution 3
 RRE Ventures 3
 Shenzhen Capital Group 3
 Silicon Valley Bank 3
 True Ventures 3
 Valor Equity Partners 3
Access Industries 3
GGV Capital 3
Insight Venture Partners 3
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. 3
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers 3
Silver Lake Partners 3

But if you’re chasing Fintech Unicorn Status, while Tencent and Sequoia Capital China are still a good name for the cap table, landing money from Accel, General Atlantic, ICONIQ Capital and Kleiner Perkins are the names to look for, compared to the general VC population.

Name Count
Sequoia Capital China 5
Tencent Holdings 4
 Accel 3
 General Atlantic 3
 ICONIQ Capital 3
 Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers 3

There is over $1 Trillion worth of value that’s been created in the birth of these Unicorns, for founders and shareholders. It would be fascinating to calculate what value has been delivered per dollar invested/created in productivity gains or cost savings for the community of users they serve.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia.

Is ‘ikigai’​ the key to unlocking financial freedom for millennials?

I’ve been reading a book on a Japanese concept called ‘ikigai’ from the island of Okinawa, and it inspired me to think about how it relates to the way we think about life, money/wealth, purpose, and really never ‘retiring’ in the traditional sense.

I mean, if there was no such thing as retirement, how would you think about life differently?

In Okiniwa, this is something they face daily, as there is no word for retirement in their language. Instead, there is one word that permeates their entire life, and that word is ‘ikigai’.

Ikigai (pronounced ‘ick-ee-guy’) is best translated as “that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning”.

It’s a combination of your passion, your mission and your profession. Your ikigai can be very clear, or something you are still hunting.

Having a purpose like ikigai is said to be one of the key reasons why Okinawa has more than its fair share of centenarians. Even at 90, many are still filled with plans for the future.

By default many of us subscribe without thinking to the idea of retirement. We put up with a crappy job and meaningless work so we can enjoy ‘the golden years’. But maybe the ‘golden years’ are right now, and they are always in the present, not the future? Maybe we all need a little more ikigai, and a little less ‘retirement planning’?

Equally fascinating is to put a concept like ikigai at the centre of how you redesign and rethink financial products. Why should our lifestyles be defined by financial products – mortgages and pensions being two good examples. Financial products should be designed to adapt and suit our lifestyles, like debt free home ownership, subscription living and nomadic careers.

Baby boomers are already killing retirement. The average retirement age in the US, according to Gallup, is now 62 – the highest since Gallup’s survey began in 1991. A key driver in this increasing retirement age has been a lack of financial securityBut money is only half the story.

It turns out many baby boomers who are arriving at retirement, are quickly seeing beyond the veneer of glossy cruise brochures and timeshares. According to a study by RAND, a growing number of US retirees are delaying retirement for ‘fulfillment rather than finances’. Are they seeking ikigai?

Ikigai could be a simple but fundamental switch in how we think about financial product design. We need to stop digitising the old and start observing life a little more closely. Then we might create something truly life enabling. Financial freedom doesn’t have to be an abstract point in the future. It could, with the right ingredients and attitude, be right now.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia.