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How they got richer as billions got poorer

By Winnie Makena | January 6th 2021

As the pandemic forced people to stay home and do more things online, some successful companies were perfectly positioned to take advantage of the change. It is these already set businesses, turbocharged by the pandemic, that are becoming even more dominant. 

Hustle looks at the five biggest global companies that despite a dismal year have survived and thrived. The companies are gauged by their market capitalisation, which is the total dollar market value of a company’s outstanding shares of stock. Market capitalisation is important because it allows investors to understand the size of one company relative to another. Not only that but it shows the market’s perception of its prospects because it reflects what investors are willing to pay for its stock.


Their superpower: Excellent customer service and a seamless shopping experience for customers.

At the start of the year, Amazon had a valuation of around $920 billion. After the stock bounced back from the coronavirus market sell-off in March and hit new record highs, the company is now worth $1.49 trillion. That is $570 billion gain in just 2020. That makes Amazon one of the largest companies in the world surging CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth by more than 50 per cent. He is now as a result, the richest man in the whole world, yet he only owns 11.1 per cent of amazon. The e-commerce company’s meteoric rise has been explained by analysts to be caused by the accelerated shift to online shopping and the increased importance of its cloud computing business in the remote work era.

Bezos owns only 11 % of Amazon but in 2020 he became the richest man in the world.


Their superpower: Persistence and capitalising on a new opportunity.

Before the pandemic, Zoom was a small almost negligible company that no one knew about. Remote work was such a new concept we thought we needed years to transition. But with the work-from-home boom of 2020, the video chat company said revenue in the first quarter increased 355 per cent from a year earlier. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan is now worth almost $20 billion, up from $3 billion after the IPO. Opening its business-focused app to a wide group of non-paying consumers and educational institutions brought challenges, but also helped turn Zoom into a household name.

To understand how unlikely of success it was, Zoom went public in 2019 but still before the pandemic, Zoom peaked at just 10 million daily participants. By April, that number spiked to more than 300 million. With such a boom, the video conferencing app is now more valued than Uber.

 In 2020, Zoom membership spiked from 10 million to 300 million.


Their superpower? Their expertise in automotive engineering. They hire the best and aren’t afraid to look foolish while executing their ‘out of the box’ ideas.

In June, electric-carmaker Tesla became the most valuable automaker in the world, surpassing Toyota, after a stock surge fuelled in part by a leaked internal email in which Musk told employees to “go all out and bring” the firm’s electric semi-truck to volume production (that’s set to start next year). Fast-forward to present, and Tesla’s now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, GM and Ford—combined.

As a result, Tesla banked $566 million in profit, in 2020 alone and that’s on a whopping $17.2 billion in sales. It has been 16 years since Musk, a Paypal co-founder joined Tesla in 2004 when it was just one-year-old. By the time Tesla went public in Nasdaq exchange in June, its offering price was $17 per share. At the close of the year, shares were priced at exactly $695. Tesla is very clearly outpacing legacy competitors, making Musk a centibillionaire with a net worth of $149 billion. Centibillionaires are billionaires with a personal fortune exceeding a hundred billion dollars.

Elon Musk is a centibillionare. And Tesla is now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, GM and Ford combined.


Their superpower? Having a product that appeals to masses transcending races and geography.

Netflix has dominated entertainment in the pandemic age. As people looked for entertainment options while theatres, cinemas, nightclubs, and concert venues went dark, it received the biggest 3-month jump in its 13-year history.

Netflix is up nearly $100 billion in market capitalisation in 2020 alone. The global streaming giant now has 195 million paying subscribers, twice as many as it had forecast in the first three months of the year. As the largest paid streaming service, it entertained global lockdown audiences with shows such as Tiger King, La Casa de Papel and Love is Blind. The biggest boost came from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where it signed up nearly 7million subscribers in the first quarter.

When you look at it this way, it explains why finally Kenya has been able to premiere 4 movies on the streaming platform, with 2020 being its first year.

Africa, Europe and the Middle East; where new 7 million Netflix subscribers live. 


Their superpower? Their product (specialised chips) is unique. A cut above the rest in the same market. This nets them high-value clients.

You probably never heard of this company that is disrupting the gaming business. They are chipmakers whose stock has more than doubled year to date, despite the broad economic headwinds of the coronavirus pandemic.

To put into perspective, hours spent playing games on Nvidia’s platforms jumped 50 per cent during lockdowns. Not only that, but the strong demand for artificial intelligence capabilities in cloud data centres is the reason they escaped severe effects from Covid-19. Its data centre unit outperformed its gaming arm for the first time. It has been riding a boom in demand for data centre chips from big internet companies, as AI becomes a more important component of their services and overall digital activity jumps. Sale of Nvidia’s graphics chips has become such a mainstay of gaming machines and machine learning systems that its market capitalisation grew by $83.3 billion. In June, NVIDIA and Mercedes-Benz announced their partnership going into the next decade to create fully autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Increased gaming and demand for cloud data centres is the reason the company made a killing in 2020. 

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