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Insights from the Unicorn World: 2021's Fintech Startups to Know


9 min read

What’s your first association when you hear the word ‘startup’? A bunch of genius students who came up with an astonishing idea worthy of funding? Geeks with some ultimate solution to a ubiquitous issue? Or maybe a larger company subsidiary detached to proactively elaborate on a specific idea or concept? Today startup tech companies are overwhelming the business world, and not all of them are born in Silicon Valley.

How to find startup companies, you may ask? Merely google them, and you’ll be surprised by how many of them emerge almost daily! According to statistics, there were 10,605 fintech startups in the Americas and 9,311 in the EMEA region as of February 2021. However, not all of them survive the harsh race of innovations. The most promising tech startups rapidly emerge, gain traction, get funding, and achieve their goals. That’s what capitalism is all about. Once you pitch your idea to shareholders and it’s warmly accepted, you’re almost good to go. There are 2 more things to be mindful of — securing investment and evaluating risks. Startups undoubtedly presuppose the highest possible risks for your idea.

Since technology evolves without delay, someone needs to push it, right? That’s precisely what startups are engaged in. Simultaneously, venture capital activity, on which startups actively feed, isn’t growing proportionally to the number of unicorns appearing on the surface. Unicorns? Well, to get it clear and not confuse fairytales with business, let’s move on to the gist.

A New-Fledged Company, Unicorn, or Startup? — Key Differences

New companies are founded almost every day. Yet, not all of them are considered startups. Why so? Conceptually, a startup is a venture or company in its initial growth stages usually focused on a single product or service as well as limited to high costs and restricted revenue. Sometimes startups are funded by their founders but more often they rely on venture capital. Still, one thing is for certain — launching a startup always entails high risks. Though it doesn’t scare entrepreneurs away from uniting people around a single innovative idea.

Those willing to limit the scope of risks merely start an ordinary company with a steadily growing number of employees, assets, and investments. Rarely being referred to as startups, new-fledged organisations follow a sufficiently stable, foreseeable, and relatively secure growth strategy. Some examine a startup as a temporary and quickly scalable venture designed to pursue a certain clearly defined goal.

Concerning unicorns. This term reflects a phenomenon when successful startups reach a value of $1bn or more. Just keep in mind that as of April 2021 there were already more than 590 unicorns on a global platform, most of which were located in either the US or China. Without a doubt, digitalisation has allowed opportunists to quickly take hold of ideas and start actualising their goals via online platforms. Today there’s plenty of digital spaces where your startup can gather funds for further development. VC Platform, AngelList, MicroVentures, StartEngine, and Wefunder account for only a few of the global equity crowdfunding platforms that help startups grow into unicorns.

Finding win-win relationships with business partners is a complex subject deserving a separate article, but digital crowdfunding platforms may simplify this process. Be also mindful that in 2021, 38% of startups failed because they ran out of cash or couldn’t raise sufficient funds, 35% — due to no market demand, 20% — thanks to competition, and 19% remained unsuccessful since they had a flawed business model. Now let’s discuss a few startup cases that didn’t become a part of this statistics.

Top Fintech Startups in History To Learn From

Given a certain amount of luck and sustainable business strategy, once startups grow into unicorns, they receive an opportunity to become full-fledged companies or corporations. Nevertheless, not all of them might ever reach $1bn. Here’s a list of full-fledged companies that have once been startups:


Launched in 1998, PayPal was born after the merger of with Confinity. Now it’s one of the biggest fintech companies. Since its inception, the company has positioned itself as a service meant for making money transactions a cakewalk available to more people without being involved in traditional banking operations every time a person wants to pay or get paid. Today the platform works in 202 countries worldwide, serves 325m accounts, and supports 25 currencies. Since the first business model relying on security software for mobile devices proved unsuccessful, PayPal switched to e-payment systems. Although not everyone would agree on the terminological perspective, PayPay can undoubtedly be called one of the best fintech startups ever.


An Ottawa-based multi-channel commerce platform was founded in 2004. First, it was a startup associated with an online store selling snowboarding equipment. Later, the responsible entrepreneur and programmer Lütke developed his own e-commerce products because the team was dissatisfied with the ones available then. Soon afterwards, they released an API for other developers to build new apps for Shopify. Nowadays, one of the top fintech startups has morphed into a public company that offers a digital platform helping retailers and merchants organise their businesses.


Founded in 2009, this Irish-American startup was initially related to payment processing software and APIs for e-commerce businesses. Today these guys are already fintech experts. Basically, what Stripe offers is APIs for web developers whose goal is to integrate payment processing systems into their websites or smartphone apps. By 2020, the company succeeded to gain a revenue amounting to almost $7.5bn.


One of the most successful fintech startups, Square, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey to create a software-based solution for unifying mobile payments and merchant services into a single structure. Since 2017, the company has released 2 products, including a Point-of-Sale system and Cash App.


The Swedish buy-now-pay-later startup is one of the top fintech companies in Europe. More specifically, the company raised $639m at a $55bn valuation in 2021. It was founded in 2005, and 3 entrepreneurs quickly found an angel investor Jane Walerud who helped them find programmers to create the famous payments platform.

Startup Companies: Insights and Curious Facts

In light of the grand international competition present within each market, contemporary business ideas must imply an innovative constituent, resolve an actual consumer issue, and remain sustainably competitive, thereby inducing entrepreneurs to seek exclusively innovative solutions. Now let’s look at the 5 notable facts about startups:

  1. Startup companies emerge to respond to a certain problem and offer a quick solution to it;
  2. According to CB Insights, 9 out of 10 startups fail due to the lack of preliminary market research and a stronger emphasis on enthusiasm;
  3. Historically, the term ‘startup’ first appeared in a 1976 Forbes publication;
  4. Research indicates that insurance, finance, and real estate constitute the most potentially successful industries for a startup, inasmuch as 58% of them still operate after four years;
  5. As one survey shows, 70% of entrepreneurs nurture their startup-worthy ideas while working in someone else’s organisation.

The Most Promising Startups 2021-2015: Six Years of Tech Evolution

Candy Digital

With a total funding amount of $100m, the New York-based startup is an NFT company enabling Major League Baseball (MLB) fans to purchase as well as trade official non-fungible tokens. This particular company was launched in 2021, so it’s fresh enough to occupy new niches, providing non-trivial services on the verge of fintech and sports industries.


Based in Dubai, this startup has sprung up to operate peer-to-peer payments across the MENA region. Moreover, Ziina has recently raised $7.5m. Having now launched the mobile wallet, the startup group began conquering Saudi Arabia’s industry to occupy more markets within its scope of influence. As a new-fledged startup founded in 2020 by Sarah Toukan, Faisal Toukan, and Andrew Gold, Ziina intends to build a new fintech ecosystem that allows local users to both send and receive payments. The only information they require is IBAN or swift code.


Founded in 2019, the firm has everything on their fingertips to become one of the best startup companies in Africa. With up to 10 employees and headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, Fundall offers all services of a full-stack digital bank, from wealth management to payment processing. With $150k raised during 1 pre-seed round, the startup is expected to grow.


According to Crunchbase, this developer platform was founded in 2017 and already raised almost $114m during more than 3 rounds. Interestingly, the startup provides blockchain development services in 197 countries around the globe. In particular, Alchemy also specialises in developing decentralised apps as well as investing in debt and equity cases in Europe.


A noteworthy fact — Moneybox’s total funding amount equals over $76m, with the non-equity assistance funding type. By operation, this startup is involved in mobile savings and investment software. Its primary products are Lifetime ISAs and Pensions. Founded in 2015 and based in London, UK, Moneybox now employs approximately 250 people, being eager to develop even further.


As an early-stage consumer investment firm, Bullish employs about 50 people. Feeding upon Micro VC (venture capital), they demonstrate quick growth rates in comparison to other promising startups. Bullish was founded in 2015. Since then, the firm has aimed at bridging the gap between creation and consulting. According to Crunchbase, the company has already raised a total of $12m from 2 fund sources. Being an early-stage venture, Bullish operates to help other businesses grow, build brands, attract investment, and partner with one another.

What Are Fintech Companies, And What Is Their Contribution To the Banking Industry?

To break things into smaller pieces, let’s indeed differentiate between tech and fintech startups. What are fintech companies and why the increase of startups in this area is essential for humanity? Once startups develop into the biggest fintech companies, they get an opportunity to influence decision-making in the socio-economic sphere. Let alone they come to decide in what way their customers ask for loans, take credits, pay off the debts, and dispose of the money. Isn’t it the influence? Similar startups make use of financial technology to provide respective services to their clients, contributing to the traditional banking system’s evolution. Hence, the more startup tech companies appear on the horizon, the more intense the shift experienced by conventional banks whose services need to be adapted to new customer experience realities.

How to Launch Your Own Startup: Short Guide on Mounting a Unicorn

Having acquainted yourself with the fundamental information regarding promising startup companies, isn’t it about time to give birth to your own business idea? Most often, you’ll need to:

  1. Come up with a good feasible idea that offers a solution to a clearly defined problem;
  2. Research the market on the subject of demand and supply;
  3. Learn to pitch your business ideas;
  4. Elaborate on a business plan and include risks evaluation;
  5. Attract co-founders and like-minded persons;
  6. Shape your business as LLC or corporation to protect assets;
  7. Ensure funding from sources like bank loans, angel investors, venture capitalists, crowdfunding, etc.;
  8. Develop a corporate website;
  9. Apply for a Tax ID from the IRS;
  10. Choose where to store and process corporate data to maintain accounting along with bookkeeping;
  11. Refer to copyrights, patents, trademarks, or other means of protecting your intellectual property;
  12. Launch the marketing campaign;
  13. Attract traffic to your site by using SEO tools and tricks;
  14. Secure capital via angel investors, crowdsourcing platforms, VCs, or bank loans;
  15. Insure your startup;
  16. Share equity among co-founders;
  17. Pay attention to competitors’ business models;
  18. Hire a good startup attorney, regularly consult lawyers;
  19. Build a customer base;
  20. Communicate with the audience.

What Lesson Can Be Learned From Startups?

Almost every development company has once been a startup launched to respond to a particular issue. The path of all top fintech companies began with a conversation between a couple of concerned people discussing whether this or that idea would ever be in demand. Remarkably, the primary lesson here implies that it’s always worth trying if you’re confident in your concept.

Business doesn’t favour hesitation. So don’t wait! Contact DashDevs if you feel in need of further consultation and knowledge-based advice in this complex area.

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