Unicorn status is a goal for many companies around the world and in this article, we will share which Japanese companies have achieved this status. While there are more than 200 unicorn companies in the United States and China, the number of “unicorns” in Japan is still quite small.
What is a unicorn company anyway?
Unicorn companies are defined by three criteria:
- The company must be less than 10 years old.
- The company must have a valuation of at least one billion dollars.
- The company must be a private company (not listed on any public markets). These are the three criteria. Companies that meet these three criteria are regarded as unicorns.
According to our research, there are currently eight companies in Japan that are considered “unicorns”. Please note that this list is based on estimated market capitalization, so it may change depending on when you read this article. What is certain is that these companies are definitely some of the leading startups in Japan.
1: Prefered Networks (https://www.preferred.jp/en/)
Estimated market capitalization : About $ 3.2 billion USD
Preferred Networks is a startup engaged in AI development. The company aims to bring innovation to all fields through the use of deep learning and robotics. They are working on a number of projects that utilize their software frameworks, algorithms, and hardware to support research and development, and the field of application is expanding.
2: Smart News (https://www.smartnews.com/en/)
Estimated market capitalization: About $ 1.8 billion USD
SmartNews is a company that develops and operates smartphone applications / Internet services. Its core business is the news application “SmartNews”. SmartNews is a media service that categorizes high-quality content from a variety of media into multiple channels, such as entertainment, economics, and international, and displays them in real time. In addition to the standard genres, you can freely add many features and media to create your own news feed. With offices in Tokyo, San Francisco and New York, the company provides services in North America and is offered in more than 150 countries around the world.
3: TRIPLE-1 (https://triple-1.com)
Estimated market capitalization: About $ 1.5 billion USD
TRIPLE-1 is the only blockchain technology development company in Japan. They are developing KAMIKAZE and KAMIKAZE2, dedicated chips for mining one of the blockchain technologies, and GOKU, an AI processor for deep learning. They are innovating in the mining of blockchain technologies. TRIPLE-1 is focusing on reducing the huge power consumption that has traditionally been a key issue in mining. By improving power efficiency, the service will reduce power consumption by more than 50% while maintaining the same size as conventional chips, thus contributing to the conservation of energy resources.
4: Clean Planet (https://www.cleanplanet.co.jp/en)
Estimated market capitalization: About $ 1.2 billion USD
Clean Planet is a company that conducts research on clean energy, quantum hydrogen energy. Quantum hydrogen energy is a next generation clean energy technology that uses hydrogen as a fuel and delivers enormous energy density, more than 1,000 times that of gasoline. Clean Planet is researching and developing this new hydrogen energy, which is attracting attention for its efficiency in energy output compared to conventional hydrogen energy, and for being a truly clean energy that emits no CO2 at all.
5: TBM (https://tb-m.com/limex)
Estimated market capitalization: About $ 1.1 billion USD
TBM is developing a new material called LIMEX, which is made of limestone. This is a new material that can be used as an alternative to paper and plastic is attracting a great deal of attention from an environmental perspective. TBM has already started global development and has registered patents in more than 30 countries, including Japan, US and China. Besides that, TBM is also developing a material called “CircleX,” which contains more than 50% recycled materials, and an e-commerce site called “ZAIMA,” which handles LIMEX products.
6: Liquid Group (https://www.liquid.com)
Estimated market capitalization: About $ 1.0 billion USD
Liquid Group is a company that operates a virtual currency exchange. The group has QUOINE Corporation, which operates the virtual currency exchange Liquid by Quoine. Liquid by Quoine is a crypto asset/virtual currency exchange where you can buy, sell and trade crypto assets/virtual currencies. The company is expanding its business in Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other Asian countries.
7: Mobility Technologies (https://mo-t.com)
Estimated market capitalization : About $ 1.1 billion USD
Provider of taxi booking services called “GO”. Mobility Technologies develops both software and hardware in the field of transportation and mobility based on its JapanTaxi system. The company creates not only taxi systems, but also the infrastructure for new public transportation systems. The company specializes in mobility-related business such as provision of vehicle allocation systems for taxi operators.
8: Spiber (https://www.spiber.inc/en)
Estimated market capitalization: About $ 1.0 billion USD
Spiber is a startup working on the development of a new material called “QMONOS”. QMONOS is a fiber made from artificial proteins by analyzing the genes of spider silk. QMONOS is an environmentally friendly material that is attracting global attention because it can be made without using petroleum and has the same performance as today’s mainstream synthetic fibers and plastics.
While the number of unicorns in Japan is still small, there has been a focus on improving the startup ecosystem in Japan. For example, the Japanese government has started supporting startups with a program called J-startup.
Also, the investment amount in startups from VCs, large leading corporations, and angel investors is increasing. The more Japanese startups that are supported by these stakeholders, the more talented people will join startups, which will accelerate the growth of Japanese startups.
We look forward to keeping an eye on future developments and updating this list as the number of unicorns in Japan continues to grow.