This month’s Fortune magazine brought to our collective attention a new business term: “unicorn.” That’s right — the mythical creature that gallops along rainbows, renders poisonous water harmless, and stands as a magical symbol of purity and grace. The association couldn’t be more serious however. (Article here, link to brilliant unicorn-in-hoodie cover artist Jeremy Enecio here).
Coined in a 2013 TechCrunch blog post, a “unicorn” is a startup valued at $1 billion or more by venture capitalists…and, wait for it, there are more than 80 of them. In fact, as I write this it’s perfectly feasible that several more of these fantastical creatures have sprung from Silicon Valley’s bosom.
The largest of these entities, valued at over $40 billion, is one of a few endearingly referred to as a “decacorn” — you may need to brush up on your metric system prefixes — a valuation which exceeds the market cap of 70% of the Fortune 500.
Business as usual? Obviously not. We find ourselves in a business climate of unprecedented growth and complexity. One that can bear the existence of over 80 companies that are worth a billion or more, the majority of which have not experienced a liquidity event or IPO. Indeed, a number of these companies have yet to find a black bottom line…that’s if they have a revenue model at all.
Let me just say a few things: 1) I’m an optimist; 2) I’m excited and intrigued by the opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses in our modern age; 3) I think 80+ companies carrying a valuation that exceeds $1 billion is simply too good to be true. That’s like predicting every player in the All-Star Game is going to throw up 30 points, snatch 15 rebounds, and deliver 10 assists.
At some point, the horns — or alicorns if you want to get all technical — are going to disappear to reveal…well…horses. Not for all, but certainly for some. Of course, I could be wrong, and we’ll have to keep an eye on Fortune’s dynamic “Unicorn List” for live updates. Maybe the hectocorn of legend — again, prefixes — is already on it’s way down the rainbow. For the time being, I’ll remain a bit more scared of unicorns than I used to be, just in case the magic wears off. Unless any of them are hiring, that is…
Postscript: Both the West and the East scored over 150 points in last night’s All-Star Game. That’s an on-the-floor player average of more than 30 points each. You win Unicorns.