Tech startups exist in any industry in which technology is an enabler of growth, including engineering, biotech, pharmaceuticals, energy, health, education, agriculture, construction, electronic hardware, and software. Increasingly they are also emerging as significant players in creative fields and services industries including law, accounting, consulting, architecture and the arts.

According to data analytics firm Boundlss, 25% of the Australian economy is likely to be directly impacted by software by 2025, which equates to $524 billion of GDP.38 More importantly, 5.5% of the Australian economy, or $115 billion in direct revenues, could be captured by software companies by 2025. AlphaBeta, a leading Australian economics consultancy, estimates that this number could grow to $207 billion per year by 2030 if Australia were to catch up with global technology leaders.

As famously pointed out by Netscape founder and leading Venture Capitalist Marc Andreessen, ‘software is eating the world’. Industries are increasingly dominated by software companies, with a growing number of products and services now being delivered online.

The global effect of modern, high-growth startups disrupting these industries is striking. Of the 409 privately-owned businesses worth over US$1 billion (commonly referred to as unicorns) listed by data firm CB Insights, scalable software- based organisations dominate. The total combined value is over US$1.3 trillion - about the same as Australia’s GDP (Figure 17).

Fintech companies topped the list with a total of 51 unicorns amounting to US$171 billion in market capitalisation, up by some US$51 billion from the previous year. Internet Software and Services was the only other category to reach 50 unicorns, although E-commerce was close, with 45.

Newly-formed industries are also creating value at a rapid rate. Artificial Intelligence, not large or well defined enough to rate a mention in last year’s CB Insights list, is now 6th overall with 43 unicorns at a combined valuation of US$89 billion. Many of those businesses may have been amalgamated into the category from Big Data and elsewhere, but the point remains that the relatively new technology is already creating tremendous value.

This data shows the impact of technology right across the spectrum. The list includes unicorns that are disrupting cornerstones of the traditional economy: finance, education, tourism, transport, logistics, retail, communications and health.

The indirect effect of technology on other industries has been noted by the Export Council of Australia (ECA) in research conducted with consultancy AlphaBeta and the Hinrich Foundation. ECA’s research determined that the economic value of digital trade-enabled productivity benefits to the Australian economy is currently worth $43 billion and by 2030 could reach as high as $192 billion.

crossroads 2019 WEB Charts Figure 17