Walmart goes after Amazon with website revamp

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(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Walmart is making changes to its website in an attempt to turn up the heat on Amazon.com.

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The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer will unveil the major renovation of its online presence at the start of May.

The company is betting that a cleaner, more modern walmart.com will help it win market share.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has been investing in its e-commerce business, trying to have its website and U.S. stores link closer together, making it easier for shoppers to pick up and return online orders in stores.

The changes will include a wider range of colors, fonts and more informal photographs.

The retailer hasn’t revealed how much the resign is costing.

The last time Walmart updated its website was in 2014, but the changes were not as dramatic, Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said.

The website would soon have different layouts depending on product categories, allowing customers to shop for groceries differently from how they buy clothes and accessories, or home improvement products.

Walmart said in February that online sales increased 23 percent in the most recent quarter, less than half the rate of growth in each of the previous three quarters.

The company posted about $11.5 billion in U.S. e-commerce revenue for the full year. Total U.S. sales were $318.5 billion.

Shares of Walmart are down 12 percent year–to-date.

Reuters contributed to this article.

China to protect ‘legitimate rights’ after US penalizes ZTE

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China’s government said Tuesday it was ready to protect its “legitimate rights” after U.S. authorities penalized one of the country’s most prominent tech companies in a case involving exports of telecoms equipment to Iran and North Korea.

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The Commerce Ministry expressed hope Washington would treat ZTE Corp. fairly after the U.S. Commerce Department concluded it paid bonuses to employees involved in the export scheme instead of disciplining them as promised in 2017.

The Commerce Department on Monday barred state-owned ZTE for seven years from importing American components.

ZTE, headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, pleaded guilty in March 2017 and agreed to pay a $1.19 billion penalty for shipping the telecoms equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of U.S. regulations.

“We hope the United States will properly handle the matter in accordance with regulations and create a fair, equitable and stable legal and policy environment for the company,” a Commerce Ministry statement said.

“The Ministry of Commerce will pay close attention to the progress of the situation and stands ready to take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

ZTE said in a statement it was “evaluating the possible impact” on the company.

Supreme Court hearing case about online sales tax collection

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The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether a rule it announced decades ago in a case involving a catalog retailer should still apply in the age of the internet.

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The case on Tuesday focuses on businesses’ collection of sales tax on online purchases. Right now, under the decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn’t have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but the vast majority don’t.

States say that as a result of the rule and the growth of internet shopping, they’re losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to abandon the rule.

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy’s, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. But other online sellers that only have a physical presence in a few states can sidestep charging customers sales tax when they’re shipping to addresses outside those states.

Sellers who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is complex and costly, especially for small sellers. That complexity was a concern for the Supreme Court when it announced the physical presence rule in a case involving a catalog retailer in 1967, a rule it reaffirmed in 1992. But states say software has now made collecting sales tax easy.

The case the court is hearing has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016, a law designed to challenge the Supreme Court’s physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect and turn over sales tax to the state.

The state wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg. The state has conceded in court, however, that it can only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its current physical presence rule.

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Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

Saudi fashionistas flock to kingdom’s first-ever fashion week

In the lobby of Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, two Russian models with slick high ponytails glide past a woman draped head-to-toe in black.

Heading for a cigarette break during Saudi Arabia’s first-ever fashion week, Naya Efimova and Ira Titova were both excited and bored. Excited to be “part of history” as the conservative Islamic kingdom opens up, said Titova, 25. Bored, because they’d been told they couldn’t leave the hotel without a male chaperone.

The Riyadh edition of Arab Fashion Week, which showcased local and foreign designers, was another example of the government’s effort to ease social restrictions — and the internal tensions it creates. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s trying to overhaul the oil-dependent economy, the government lifted a longstanding ban on women driving and started holding mixed-gender concerts. Contrary to what the Russian models had been told, many women go about the city on their own.

Still, the kingdom is a deeply traditional society, and sometimes it seems like officials aren’t sure how far they can push. There’s been pushback by some Saudis against the concerts, and the unchaperoned women had better be dressed in loose-fitting robes in public.

It was a women-only audience at fashion week, where 1,500 people paid 500 riyals ($133) per show to watch models saunter down the runway wearing shoulder-baring dresses and flowing gowns that could never be worn in public in Saudi Arabia. (They’d be OK for private parties). A Russian ballet troupe performed, and Jean Paul Gaultier was among the international designers to strut his stuff.

“We have a lot of potential and amazing Saudi designers,” said Princess Noura bint Faisal, president of the Arab Fashion Council. “It is a major industry in this market, and the event is just the beginning.”

Princess Noura wants to bring a top fashion school to Saudi Arabia and has dreams for a “fashion city” someday. But for now, the fashion council is treading carefully. The information packet distributed to foreign journalists included a 14-point list on local laws and customs, with reminders that alcohol is banned and homosexual activity and extra-marital sexual relations are “illegal and can be subject to severe penalties.”

Leaving the final show on Saturday, Saudi attendee Fatima Al Otaibi was excited that a Saudi designer had participated.“It’s the first time in my life I’ve attended a fashion show, so it’s really amazing,” she said.

Emirates introduces early bird fares for travel through December 2018

Emirates is offering special “early bird” fares for UAE travellers until April 30, the airline announced on Monday.

The offer applies for outbound travel between April 19 and December 13, 2018.

According to the airline, economy class fares to Middle East destinations start from AED 795, while tickets to European destinations start at AED 2,125.

Additionally, economy class fares to West Asia and destinations in the Indian Ocean region start at AED 945, while fares to the Far East and Australasia start at AED 2,035.

Business class passengers traveling to the Middle East will enjoy fares starting at AED 3,155, compared to AED 9,395 to Europe, AED 2,845 to West Asia and the Indian Ocean. Business class fares to the Far East and Australasia start at AED 8,895.

With a new CEO, Volkswagen begins sweeping overhaul to set future course

Volkswagen AG picked a new leader in a management shakeup to ready the world’s largest automaker for a wave of technological change upending the industry’s traditional business models.

Herbert Diess, the head of VW’s namesake brand, will become chief executive officer as well as overseeing technology across the organization, the company said Thursday in a statement. The manufacturer will be grouped into six business areas, with the truck and bus division to be prepared for a potential stand-alone stock listing.

“My most important task will now be to join with our management team and our group workforce in consistently pursuing and pushing forward our evolution into a profitable, world-leading provider of sustainable mobility,” Diess said in the statement. He’s scheduled to hold a press conference Friday at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters to lay out his plans.

The realignment focuses power in Diess’s hands, as he will continue to oversee the namesake division. Rupert Stadler, who runs the Audi luxury brand and who has repeatedly been under fire over the unit’s role in the diesel crisis, will take on responsibility for group sales. The company’s auto units will be grouped into volume, premium and super-premium segments.

Diess’s appointment to succeed Matthias Mueller, who steps down immediately, will be key to reassuring investors that the highly centralized German industrial behemoth is capable of reform. Excessive spending and poor budget discipline were eroding profit margins even before the carmaker’s diesel-emissions scandal erupted in September 2015. His term will be judged early on by whether he can scale up his revamp of the VW brand to the entire 12-brand group to prepare for an era of battery-powered self-driving cars.

One sign of the overhaul gaining traction is VW entering the home stretch for a potential share sale in its heavy-truck division, the biggest organizational shift since the aftermath of the diesel-emissions crisis. The unit, which shares little or no overlap with the manufacturer’s other divisions, will change its legal structure to prepare its access to capital markets, VW said in a separate statement.

Granting the truck unit more independence from the larger passenger-car business marks the culmination of efforts by division chief Andreas Renschler. He’s worked since 2015 on welding the commercial-vehicle operations more tightly together to reduce costs by sharing development.

Labor Fight

Diess, a former BMW AG executive, who joined VW two months before the emissions cheating came to light, pledged from the beginning to pursue new technology while reining in spending growth. That project became much more urgent as the diesel scandal generated massive costs, and meant taking on established interest groups. Bernd Osterloh, the company’s powerful labour leader, balked at negotiating with him during tough contract talks in 2016, but Diess prevailed with a landmark deal that paved the way to cutting as many as 30,000 jobs and saving 3.7 billion euros ($4.6 billion).

“There have been historic episodes where cost cutters have been brought in to sort out the namesake VW brand, but who then leave or are squeezed out before their work is really done,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Max Warburton wrote in a note. “Instead of being squeezed out, he has been pushed upward, and has been made CEO. It’s a sign of real change at VW.”

Signalling a conciliatory stance, works council head Osterloh said he fully supported the new CEO and Volkswagen’s overhaul plan, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg. A decision on a truck IPO is still “open,” he said.

Gunnar Kilian, from the company’s works council, becomes group head of human resources, succeeding Karlheinz Blessing, who will be available as a consultant until his contract expires. He and Oliver Blume, the 49-year-old head of the Porsche brand, will join the group’s management board. Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz, Volkswagen’s long-time head of purchasing, will leave the company.

As head of purchasing at BMW, Diess was instrumental in the luxury-car maker’s ability to weather the financial crisis by squeezing more than 4 billion euros out of supply costs. He then took charge of development, but was ultimately passed over for the CEO job, when the Munich-based company picked Harald Krueger in December 2014. That spurred his move to Volkswagen.

Diess’s appointment comes two days after a company statement that was as surprising as it was cryptic, saying that Mueller had agreed “in principle” to contribute to a management change, without elaborating or mentioning his chosen successor by name.

Caesars Palace to open in Dubai’s Bluewaters this year

Legendary US hospitality firm Caesars Entertainment Corporation has collaborated with leading developer Meraas to bring two luxury hotels, a conference centre and a beach club to Dubai’s manmade island Bluewaters, located off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Residence.

They include a 178-key Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai, the world’s second, and a 301 room Caesars Bluewaters Dubai.

Both will feature indoor and outdoor swimming pools, views of Ain Dubai, a total of nine world-class restaurants, spacious spas and event space as well as a 450-metre private beach in the second hotel.

The plans are in line with Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai Tourism Vision 2020 to introduce exclusive concepts to the Emirate, as well as the Dubai Plan 2021 to diversify economic activities.

Bluewaters will be the first project in Caesars Entertainment’s plan to expand into new markets through licensing and management arrangements.

The new resorts will offer a mix of live entertainment and gourmet celebrity restaurants.

“[Meraas] is creating unique experiences and leveraging strategic partnerships to showcase the best of what Dubai can offer to its visitors. The landmark arrangement with Caesars Entertainment, which aims to establish Bluewaters as a world-class tourist attraction with exclusive international entertainment opportunities, is a significant achievement for the emirate’s thriving hospitality and entertainment sectors,” said Abdulla Al Habbai, Group Chairman of Meraas.

Over the past five years, the firm has invested in an AED18b portfolio of key leisure and entertainment projects, including Dubai Parks and Resorts, The Green Planet, Dubai Arena, Ain Dubai, Laguna Waterpark and Dubai Safari.

Caesars Entertainment’s entry into the region is expected to boost the area’s tourism industry.

The firm is known for hosting global superstars in regular performers, and is the world’s third largest live entertainment promoter, with its Planet Hollywood property in Las Vegas acting as home to the Zappos Theatre venue, one of the biggest in the world.

“Through our collaboration with Meraas, we anticipate Bluewaters Island will evolve into the region’s top hospitality, dining and entertainment destination. This project represents Caesars’ ability to focus on our strengths in hospitality as well as reinforce our commitment and capacity to establish brands in new global markets,” said Mark Frissora, President and Chief Executive Officer of Caesars Entertainment.

Caesars Entertainment’s portfolio attracts over 115 million guests worldwide every year, and the company operates 39,000 hotel rooms and suites, with more than 500 restaurants across 53 properties in five countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, South Africa and Egypt.

It also organises over 10,000 live entertainment shows annually, while its loyalty programmes has more than 55 million members.

As for Bluewaters, it comprises 10 apartment buildings with a total of 700 units offering views of the Arabian Gulf. They include residential amenities such as state-of-the-art gyms, swimming pools, landscaped gardens, basketball courts and children’s play areas.

Access to Bluewaters is through a bridge that connects the island directly to Sheikh Zayed Road. The island will also connect to The Beach via a 265-metre pedestrian bridge.

Business went through accelerated reality check but remains solid, says Etihad CEO

Etihad’s airline operations remain commercially viable and reports of cutting back on routes to otherwise well-known destinations shouldn’t be seen as signs of trouble, its chief, Peter Baumgartner, has said.

Baumgartner, CEO of Etihad Airways, part of Etihad Aviation Group, was speaking with CNBC yesterday when he said that such route cuts were “business as usual” and could be temporary.

“We do this in a way that it is very, very strategic. This is a constant evaluation that is not a one-time cut, and then you are done for the next ten years. This is a very agile business, in a very agile environment, and so that’s kind of business as usual,” he said.

Etihad Aviation Group posted its first loss in its history last year. The financial loss of $1.9 billion announced by the airline was attributed to one-time impairments on aircraft and investments in troubled European airlines including Alitalia and Airberlin.

However, the company’s core airline product “has always been operating very-, in a very, very solid way,” according to Baumgartner.

The most challenging times came in 2016 “when the oil price collapsed, and local regional markets contracted,” said Baumgartner, accelerating overcapacity issues particularly on competitive routes, bringing margins on those flights lower.

“That was kind of a perfect storm,” he said, “But even then, we operated with very solid load factors.”

Baumgartner acknowledged Etihad had gone through an “accelerated reality check” whose effects “are not just one-time, they are a cycle and do not go away that quickly,” but added that the airline’s response was “what you would expect a business after 10 years to do.”

How The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Serves Up Authentic Hospitality: A Brand Evolution, Property by Property

If you have an impression of luxury hotels as identical, interchangeable, and pressed in place by the same massive cookie cutter in the sky, I have good news for you. Times have changed.

To wit: I’m on the lower level of the achingly beautiful Ritz-Carlton hotel in Kyoto, thousands of miles from home, watching my 13-year-old son swing a 3-foot sword alarmingly close to his vulnerable toes as master-well-trained, I hope and trust-puts him through his paces in a lesson arranged by the hotel.

After my son hangs up his samurai robe and surrenders his sword to the instructor (without, to my surprise, having drawn blood) it’s time for dinner, a Kyoto-themed traditional meal bookended by cherry blossom tea made here in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and then to bed in our room overlooking the Kamo river, the most iconic natural feature of the city. (On the way to bed, we end up walking on water, or close to it, for our pre-bedtime stroll: We’re able to step right out of the hotel and onto the chiseled stepping stones that span the Kamo, passing the famous stone boat sculptures that decorate the way.)

All of this follows yesterday’s much more urban, much more Tokyo-ish day 318 miles away at Ritz-Carlton’s gleaming midtown tower, where the staff energetically connected us with everything Tokyo, from Studio Ghibli-related discoveries to some hands-on moments in the care of a sushi master at the Tsukiji Fish Market (more on this later). And will be followed tomorrow by a street-food-themed visit to the Ritz-Carlton in Osaka, home of the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street, which has to be the longest, funkiest food-and-shopping court in Japan, and, for all I know, the world.

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Once upon a time, it’s true, one size pretty much fit all in hotel facilities. Although the great hotel companies have always personalized their service to accommodate each distinct guest, their hotel properties, as you moved city to city, property to property, even continent to continent, could often feel interchangeable.

This didn’t happen by accident. In the formative days of a brand like Ritz-Carlton, as its leadership mulled over the best way to spread its brand essence globally, the decision was made to standardize what guests traveling to any point in the world could expect. “Naples [Florida] was supposed to feel like Laguna Niguel [California], was supposed to feel like Cancun,” says Lisa Holladay, the company’s Global Brand Leader. The calculation at the time (the 1980s; although Ritz-Carlton has branding roots that stretch back nearly a hundred years, 1983 marked the start of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as a modern organization) was this: A luxury brand could only expect to serve the deepest-pocketed 3% or less of the traveling public on a regular basis; although travelers on tighter budgets could be expected to splurge from time to time, it would be this tiny, top percentage of travelers who’d keep the company’s lights on. If this well-heeled 3% could learn to count on one brand for reliable standards worldwide in both service and facilities, it would go a long way toward building a sustainable position in the market.

Herve Humler, longtime President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (emeritus as of January), has been involved from those formative days through the present, and spoke to me about this for my new book, The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets,to which he also contributed the foreword. He updated his thoughts for this article.

In the early days, standardization was seen as a positive goal in our property-development activities. The Ritz-Carlton of today, however, is committed to local authenticity, property by property. While the service standards for which we are legendary remain consistent wherever you go in the world, the flavor, the essence, of each hotel is intended to reflect its environment.  

We accomplish this via design, employee selection and training, and, above all, creative empowerment: Our Ladies and Gentlemen understand that it is their job to share their knowledge and passion for what makes their locality unique in creative ways that they, locally on the ground can do better than anyone sitting back in a corporate headquarters, could ever do.

 The Localization of Luxury Hotels

According to Humler, this change in strategy came in response to feedback from guests, who, in increasing numbers over time, have come to express a desire for travel experiences that are more locally authentic, more in tune with what I call, in my writing, terroir. (I find terroir, in the sense that I use the term, to be one of the most important signifiers of authenticity that the traveling public looks for today. This is the French term for the convergence of factors–location, geography, climate, and so forth–that go into creating what is unique about a particular wine or piece of produce, but I find value in applying it more broadly.) In response, the Ritz-Carlton organization made the decision to differentiate each property they built, moving forward, from every other.

Within a single country like Japan, where Ritz-Carlton’s presence includes four distinct properties, you can see this play out in. Take, for starters, the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, where my son was learning to be a miniature samurai and I was chewing my nails to the quick on his behalf. This is Ritz-Carlton’s most recently opened property in Japan, and it couldn’t feel more at home in this city of legendary beauty and history if it had sprung up organically centuries ago. (Although the hotel is newly constructed, the architect and builder have incorporated the actual first-floor dining room of an industrialist’s historic two-story villa that previously stood on this location. The room, constructed in part of wood that is some 700 years old, provides a serene refuge in a quiet part of the otherwise-bustling La Locando restaurant located just off the hotel’s lobby.)

Other local touches include lighting fixtures used throughout the Kyoto hotel that were custom-made for the hotel by the local, ninth-generation family business that hand-makes the parasols for the famed Kyoto geishas. “As you can imagine,” says Holladay, the Global Brand Leader, “that’s not exactly a growth market,” and the parasol maker was racing against time to reinvent itself. Now, they “take what used to be handmade parasols and turn them into beautiful lanterns. All of that history and heritage now inform a simple furnishings detail that for us localizes our Kyoto property.”

Back in Tokyo, you can see this localization at play within Ritz-Carlton’s towering luxury property in the heart of midtown. The hotel includes a 100+ year-old tea house that was moved there and reassembled-board by board-high up in the skyscraper (on floor 45!) as well as multiple other touches throughout the hotel. Some of my favorites are the unusually beautiful interior woodwork to be found in various public spaces, the work of master craftsmen making such perfect joints that, for long stretches, there’s not a single nail to be found.

The fourth Ritz-Carlton in Japan, a golf-oriented resort in Okinawa, is defined by the landscape itself, in particular its views of the China Sea, and its design and furnishings enhance the sense of place through touches that include red Ryukyuan tiles and traditional white castle walls, details that were inspired by Shuri Castle, a historic local Okinawan landmark

The drive toward local authenticity is also embodied in the food service at the properties, from the Michelin-starred Tempura Mizuki in Kyoto to the newly-opened Towers restaurant within the midtown Tokyo property. Even the informal food presentations for guests staying on the club levels, an option offered at the larger hotels, aim for local authenticity. (Though not rigidly. We enjoyed a winkingly non-authentic culinary moment in Tokyo when Ms. Kanae Hiraoji, a club level chef, showed us the secret of her uniquely fluffy waffles: build a croissant and then, instead of baking it, squeeze it into a waffle iron and let it cook.) 

The power of programming: It’s all in the (local) experience

One way that these hotels embrace local authenticity is by arranging uniquely local experiences in which guests can actively participate. These can be within the hotels themselves, such as the Samurai lesson my son enjoyed at the Kyoto hotel, or the impromptu lesson in Japanese (including the latest slang) we received from the attentive employee serving our hotel breakfast in Tokyo. Just as often, though, the hotels encourage their guests to venture beyond their sliding doors and experience more of the locale.

At the Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, the Ladies and Gentlemen (as they refer to themselves), including Chief Concierge Masako Ito and the tireless Maaya Arakawa, had us visiting-in the wee small hours before the throngs arrived-the legendary Tsukiji Fish Market, sending us there in the care of a notable sushi chef, Hisashi Udatsu. We then headed over to Chef Udatsu’s tiny-but-lovely Sushi-To restaurant, where Mr. Udatsu, late of the Michelin-starred Ginza, schooled us in sushi-making, in a lesson that incorporated the morning’s fish purchases.

(The upshot, I confess, was discovering my son to be a natural at the skills involved: slicing the fish, manipulating the rice, and rolling the seaweed-and finding myself to be monumentally, comically hapless at the same. The sushi I made was not recognizable as such, though it tasted fine-if I closed my eyes-and I am perversely proud of the chef’s jacket they gave me as a souvenir.)

Often, when providing for locally authentic programming outside the hotel, a hotel will partner with a locally knowledgeable guide. In Kyoto we were connected with the plucky and learned Duncan Flett, whose knowledge and doggedness connected us with discoveries we would never have made on our own. These included a visit to a 1,000-year-old mochi maker (curling up by the mochi maker’s coal fire in the chill of the day was as magical as the mochi itself) and the chance to share an authentic tea ceremony with a Japanese family in a traditional pre-war wooden house.

In Osaka, the local experiences that hotel employees connected us with centered on the local street-food scene, where we were helped to discover delicacies and curiosities that included an assortment of plum delicacies created to honor the local Shinto shrine (most of which were to our taste, though one or two were best described, as my son put it, as “interesting”) and indisputably delicious treats such as Taiyaki, the famous fish-shaped dessert pancakes.

Which brings me to the Osaka property itself. This is the hotel with which, in May of 1997, Ritz-Carlton first came on the scene in Japan. It’s the property that made a name for the brand with a style of luxury that was new to the country (although pretty much in line with what the hotel company was setting out as standard elsewhere in the world). The look and feel were distinct from anything in the Japanese market at that time, with rich-hued woodwork, a roaring fireplace, and a genteel china and art collection, and the Japanese market rapidly embraced the hotel. At Osaka today, a recent renovation has been undertaken that is true to those roots while incorporating updates that show how guest tastes have evolved in the years since opening day; throughout the hotel-in the art on display, decor, landscaping, and cuisine-today’s guest in Osaka will find notably more local details than would have been in evidence two decades ago.

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer experience consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, and bestselling author. Click for two free chapters from Micah’s latest book, The Heart of Hospitality, or click here to email him directly, for an immediate response.

16 Startups That Have Reached ‘Unicorn’ Status in 2018

Amid the tech landscape, “unicorns” are few and far between. Last year, CB Insights tallied the odds of becoming a unicorn — a company valued at $1 billion or more — at under 1%.

But already, within the first few months of 2018, a total of 16 companies have overcome those odds and crossed the billion-dollar-valuation mark. These companies, originally rounded up in a recent report by Pitchbook, are working to transform industries like transportation, medicine, entertainment, data analysis, and farming.

While most of the companies that reached unicorn status are in the US, China was a notable contender with four companies making the list, and Romania celebrated its first unicorn to date — a robotic-automation company called UI Path.

Here’s the full roundup of 2018’s freshly minted unicorns: