It's a fascinating time when young companies like Uber can be worth more and be more influential than exponentially older companies. In fact, they arguably are wielding more political and financial influence than many countries.
TED Speaker Parag Khanna argues that today's power is divided less by physical boundaries and more by corporate ones. I connected with Khanna while I was writing my TED Book Our Virtual Shadow. His new book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, explores how technology and globalization are making the division of countries obsolete. The companies that are in control are "metanationals", or businesses that wield power beyond geographic boundaries.
Here's an excerpt from his recent piece in Foreign Policy:
Already, the cash that Apple has on hand exceeds the GDPs of two-thirds of the world's countries... Clever metanationals often have legal domicile in one country, corporate management in another, financial assets in a third, and administrative staff spread over several more...The rise of metanationals, however, isn't just about new ways of making money. It also unsettles the definition of "global superpower."
Khanna compiled 25 of the most influential metanational companies, and while classics like Wal-Mart and Royal Dutch Shell framed the list, Foreign Policy highlighted a surprising number of startups:
- Apple: Annual revenue $234 billion
- Amazon: Annual revenue $107 billion
- Alphabet: Annual revenue $75 billion
- Uber: Valuation $62.5 billion
- Facebook: Annual revenue $18 billion
- Twitter: Annual revenue $2.2 billion
To put it in perspective, the GDP of Zimbabwe is $14.2 billion. It is amazing that Twitter, which just turned 10, and even younger Uber could even bring comparable numbers. Numbers alone don't even cover the political influence these companies have on the political system or the world economy. It will be even more interesting to see how higher valuations and revenue will stack up to actual countries - and how their influence could overshadow physical world states.