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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021
Written by publisher team

The companies that defined the year 2021

Attention is an increasingly important form of currency in the information age.

In 2021, a few companies stood out from the group, dominating the conversation and impacting society in both positive and negative ways. After a vigorous internal debate, here is Visual Capitalist’s list of companies that marked 2021:

  • Robinhood
  • Pfizer
  • Queen Piece
  • Tesla
  • tik tok
  • Facebook / Meta

We looked at a number of metrics to identify these companies, including Google search, news volume, performance against competitors, industry-specific indicators, and more.

Many of these companies are digital, and each has a massive reach, scope, and impact. Interestingly, many of these companies have also faced controversy along with their success, and have fallen into bigger moves than they are.

With this context in mind, let’s dive into it.


Robinhood’s eventful year came to a head when the stock trading app plunged into a frenzy involving retail traders, short sellers, and “meme stonks.” It didn’t take Robinhood long to go from hero to villain in this story. As Gamestop’s stock crossed $400, trading was halted and position limits began to apply.

Additionally, Robinhood’s stated goal of democratizing funding has come under scrutiny due to its pay-per-demand business model, in which sensitive user business data is sold to the highest bidder who then gets ahead of the trade, known as the “front-management”.

Despite the controversy, Robinhood’s platform now has more than 22 million users, many of whom are younger first-time investors. While they have major attractions like commission-free deals, they have also been accused of manipulating the investment by using features like picturing scraps of paper across the screen after a trade is made (a feature that was removed after media criticism).

The company frequently made front-page financial news in early 2021, and while negative press often didn’t get in the way of its initial public offering — which began in late July — it weighed on investor sentiment. Since a 52-week high of $70 per share in August, the stock has fallen nearly 70% toward the $18 range.

Furthermore, it is rumored that the Securities and Exchange Commission will launch an investigation into it. With these headwinds, investment employment Robinhood may have fared better than the investment in a Robinhood.


There may not be a bigger story in 2021 than the COVID-19 vaccines.

Early in the year, the race to secure vaccines began. Rich countries scrambled to buy stocks and start large-scale vaccination programs before spring.

Companies that have been able to produce effective vaccines have seen the greatest benefits, such as pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The company’s COVID-19 vaccine, in partnership with a German company BiotechnologyIt has become the most preferred vaccine in the world to combat the epidemic.

The company expects revenue of $36 billion from its vaccine this year.

Competing vaccines from modern And AstraZeneca Parent companies also saw a rise in market capitalization and news value. All of the pharmaceutical companies involved have also faced constant scrutiny, with many countries in the world struggling to secure COVID-19 vaccines, while others grapple with hesitation in vaccines.

As the pandemic continues with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly around the world, Pfizer and its competitors will continue to have an impact in the new year. The company has announced a COVID-19 antiviral pill slated for release in the near future, and the most effective vaccines and boosters against other variants remain a hot commodity.

Queen Piece

2021 was a pivotal year for cryptocurrencies. Prices reached new highs, and institutional and individual investors alike flocked to the market.

With an easy-to-use app and a focus on security, Coinbase has been well positioned to capitalize on this growing interest. The exchange started this year by doubling its trading user base as Bitcoin prices soared to new heights.

coinbase deals with users 2021

It’s easy to underestimate the impact of a company’s IPO — especially since its share price has fallen as the cryptocurrency market slows — but the exchange’s entry into the public markets has been a major boost to crypto’s legitimacy, paving the way for similar companies to go public. In the future.


Nobody attracts attention and stirs controversy quite like the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk.

Most of Tesla’s actions are closely related to the famous entrepreneur, who is known for his rude presence on the Internet. Musk’s social media personality is so powerful, a single tweet can make Tesla’s stock crash, as happened last year after Musk told Twitter that “Tesla’s stock is way too high.”

While naysayers are quick to criticize Tesla and Musk, the company has some impressive numbers to back up the hype. 2020 was already a ridiculous year for Tesla – its stock is up almost 700% and, at a valuation of $630 billion, has become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

This momentum continued into 2021. This year, revenue rose every quarter, and in October, the company’s market cap crossed $1 trillion.

Tesla was also entangled in other community narratives throughout the year. The automaker’s move from California to Texas was part of a larger conversation about a “Bay Zone Exit,” as Texas and Florida jurisdictions looked to steal Silicon Valley’s thunder.

Elon Musk's Twitter Poll

Musk’s Tesla stock sales generated a lot of buzz in the fourth quarter, too.

Apparently in response to criticism about inequality and tax evasion, Musk took a Twitter poll to decide whether or not to sell a significant portion of his Tesla holdings. After a majority vote “yes,” it now appears that the Tesla CEO has sold enough shares to halt his end of the deal.

tik tok

TikTok was already popular in 2020, but this year it solidified its position as a truly cultural phenomenon.

The app crossed one billion users in 2021, just five years after its launch in 2016. For context, it took Facebook and Instagram nearly eight years to reach the same feat.

tiktok user growth

What is so attractive about TikTok? Experts have many theories, but in an interview with Forbes, John Holdridge, General Manager of Fullscreen, explained: “TikTok’s success can be attributed to how it turned what we think of as social media on its head, while at the same time bringing us all back to the roots of its appeal. The original – the ability to spread virally.”

TikTok’s short style video format has become so popular that it has inspired a large number of copycat apps, especially in regions like India where TikTok has been banned.

Even established companies like Meta have tried to imitate TikTok’s success. In 2020, Instagram launched “reels”, its own short video feature where users can create and share 30-second videos. But Instagram Reels failed to outpace TikTok’s growth – instead, Reels became a place for users to share and promote their TikTok videos.

Facebook / Meta

Facebook often finds itself in the news, given its position as the largest social network in the world. In 2021, that was for two different reasons.

The first was the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. In the wake of this event, many blamed Facebook for not doing enough to mitigate the negative effects of its platform – polarization, conspiracy theories and hate speech.

The controversy came to a head in September 2021, when internal files leaked by whistleblowers Francis Hogan were published. These documents exposed Facebook’s internal struggles in combating disinformation, as well as employee dissent.

In the end, Facebook weathered the storm and opted to get rid of its baggage with a new name. Not only does this help the company move away from its past scandals, but it also aligns with Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions to lead the way. metaverse.

Facebook Metaverse

After the announcement, the word “metaverse” exploded overnight and became one of the hottest topics of 2021. The word “Meta” also became incredibly valuable – Meta (the company) recently completed a $60 million deal to acquire the brand assets of the Meta Financial Group Group, a US regional bank.

Honorable Mention

While the companies highlighted above were undeniably influential in 2021, any list like this is bound to be subjective and open to debate. Here is a short list of other companies we have considered in our list of companies that have identified 2021:


The boom in investing that pushed Robinhood and Coinbase to new heights was partly driven by the communities on Reddit. One of the funniest moments of the year came when Reddit user u/deepfuckingvalue appeared before the House Financial Services Committee saying, “I’m not a cat” and “I love stocks.”

On the business front, Front Page has seen double-digit user growth during the pandemic, and now has a $10 billion valuation after a massive funding round.

open sea

NFTs have seen a Cambrian explosion along with the cryptocurrency’s rise, with OpenSea emerging as a dominant market last year. In the second half of 2021, OpenSea accounted for 95% of NFT’s trading volume in major markets, and $1.42 billion in volume traded in December so far.

While it appeared that OpenSea was planning to go public after the company’s chief financial officer Brian Roberts commented how “it’s foolish not to think about it” [OpenSea] Make it public,” the user’s reaction led to Roberts later Twitter The company is not actively planning to go public. Whether or not OpenSea sails into the public markets, it will soon face some serious competition from Coinbase’s NFT marketplace currently in the works.


Despite stiff competition from competing streaming platforms, Netflix will finish the year on top once again. The company has a number of impressive numbers in the winning column this year.

first, squid game It was a cultural phenomenon, and quickly became the number one show on the streaming service, and also the most searched TV show on Google for 2021.

Next, Netflix’s red notice It will probably be the most-watched new movie of 2021, with over 300 million hours of watch time. Not bad, considering its lukewarm score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. It remains to be seen if wealthy rivals like Disney+ will be able to ditch Netflix, but for now, the company is as culturally relevant as ever.


The fact that Elon Musk has two companies in this conversation indicates why he has been named Time’s Most Influential Person of 2021.

SpaceX has made rocket launches significantly cheaper in recent years, which helps explain its massive $200 billion valuation. The company, which is the largest provider of commercial launches in the United States, will close the year with 31 launches.

What companies would you like to add to this list?

The following members of the editorial board contributed to this article: Nick Routley, Carmen Ang, Nicolo Conte, Marcus Law, Aran Ali, and Omari Wallach.

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