Corporate Size Matters April 2017
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Despite the media and investors' increasing interest in small companies and start-ups, some large companies are more successful now than ever before. In 2016, the McKinsey Global Institute (McKinsey & Company; New York, New York) estimated that companies with annual revenue greater than $1 billion accounted for almost 60% of worldwide revenues and 65% of market capitalization. And according to research by Rice University (Houston, Texas) professor Gustavo Grullon and colleagues, the number of listed companies in the United States dropped by almost half between 1997 and 2013, indicating the trend among companies to consolidate and grow in size. Some multinational companies are far more successful than others. Indeed, McKinsey researchers estimate that a mere 10% of public companies generate 80% of total profits.
Although many multinational companies are concerned about the disruptive potential of technology start-ups, the balance of power often still tilts toward multinational companies. Robert Litan of the Council on Foreign Relations (New York, New York) and Ian Hathaway of the Brookings Institution (Washington, DC) highlight that the number of start-ups in the United States has not been as low as it is now since the late 1970s. And large companies often buy the technology start-ups that manage to get off the ground before those start-ups can grow to scale. This trend has been so prevalent that the UK government has started providing small UK companies with venture-capital funding to discourage foreign buyouts.
Some start-ups can grow into a significant size at a rapid pace. A recent BBC News article questions whether Uber Technologies (San Francisco, California) is becoming too vital to fail, because many US cities are beginning to rely on Uber's mobility services to fill the gaps in public transportation. However, Uber is operating at a significant loss, and established companies such as BMW (Munich, Germany), Daimler (Stuttgart, Germany), and Volkswagen Group (Wolfsburg, Germany) are fighting back by investing in and creating their own digital and mobility-services start-ups.