Covid-19 threatened to become an extinction-level event for many small and growing companies. Governments scrambled to provide support and businesses in many sectors had to find new ways of operating.
But for those resilient enough to withstand the immediate hit to the economy — and grab new market opportunities thrown up by the pandemic — it turned out to be an unexpectedly fruitful time.
Still, the latest list, which covers the three years to the end of 2020, does capture the huge jump in digital activity in the first months of the pandemic, as people around the world were forced to work, shop and entertain themselves online.
Companies that came to symbolise the Covid-19 tech boom figure prominently. Among companies with more than $1bn revenue in 2020, Zoom Communications registered the highest growth rate, thanks to a huge take-up of its video conferencing service in the first months of the crisis. Shopify, whose ecommerce platform has become the foundation for a broad swath of retailers looking to move online, offered a lifeline when customers were trapped at home.
The fat profit margins of many incumbents in the financial world have made their markets an attractive target for start-ups, says Narasin.
Echoing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s famous warning to established companies that “your margin is my opportunity”, Narasin adds: “Fintech companies are attacking that like crazy.”
A notable feature of this year’s list is that it is not only the smallest companies that have been registering blistering expansion. Large-scale growth has been a hallmark of the tech boom of recent years, a phenomenon that was supercharged during the pandemic.
Tesla’s annual revenue went up by $20bn over the three years covered by the list, cementing its place as the first new automobile company in decades to reach mass-market scale. But even that pales compared with Amazon, whose revenues jumped by more than $200bn over the same period — that amounts to more than the entire revenues of the other 499 companies combined in 2020.