It’s been a ludicrous year for tech startup money.
Uber raised the bar earlier this month when it announced a second $1.2 billion financing round, valuing the five-year-old ride-summoning platform at $41.2 billion. But it isn’t even the biggest startup valuation of the year. That distinction belongs to Xiaomi.
On Monday, the Chinese phone maker raised another $1.1 billion in capital, giving it an estimated valuation of $46 billion and the title of the world’s most valuable tech startup. In fact, the only startup that had a higher valuation before going public in 2012 was Facebook, which hit $50 billion in 2011. “In short,” notes the Wall Street Journal, “2014 was the year the tech sector went into hyper-drive.” (You can check out all the billion-dollar club startups here.)
Part of that is because tech startups are en vogue, sure. But what Uber and Xiaomi have in common are eyes on international expansion. Uber needs its war chest to go toe-to-toe in the courtroom with regulators around the globe. And while Xiaomi currently has no plans to come to the U.S,. where the phone market is saturated, it does plan on expanding soon in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia.
Xiaomi openly extols itself as the “Apple of China”—a message that bleeds into everything from how its phones are designed to the Steve Jobs imitations its executives summon when they debut new products. But its main competitive advantage is that its phones boast high-end specs at bargain-bin prices, positioning them well for developing markets. Earlier this year, the phone maker even surpassed Apple in terms of mobile app usage. Xiaomi is now the third largest phone maker in the world after Samsung and Apple.