Dinosaur governance in the age of unicorns

The list of global unicorns – private companies exceeding a billion-dollar valuation – is dominated by two flags: Chinese and American.

This bipolar nature of the world of corporate giants is not a reflection of the importance of the two largest global economies but a symptom of the effectiveness of the ecosystems that have produced them. Japan, the third largest economy globally, is home to exactly one unicorn and Germany, the fourth largest economy, is home to less unicorns than India, the fifteenth economy in the world.

While historically, the largest companies were in the hydrocarbon, petrochemical, industrial and financial sectors, the evolution of the global economy has challenged this status quo, which reigned unchallenged until only five years ago.

In 2013, when the term unicorn was coined, only 89 companies trailblazed the billion-dollar mark. Since then, the growth of unicorns – numbering close to 300 and valued collectively at almost $900 trillion dollars – has been utopian and Kafkaesque at once, considering the slowdown of the global economy.

All signs point to the fact that technology unicorns, alongside large state-owned companies, will dominate rankings of the largest global corporations. Ex-unicorns will feature with similar prominence among the largest listed companies, despite a slowdown in their listings and their preference to stay private for longer, as the Airbnb case highlights. Today, it is hard to dispute that the future of large global corporations is underpinned not by their physical assets but by their ability to create technologies to fulfil real and imagined needs.

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