Both Sides of the Unicorn: A Financial Tale

Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash.

Unicorns are mythical creatures usually found in fables. They are represented by a horse with a horn that may or may not have wings on its back.

According to these tales, unicorns are exceedingly rare and possess magical properties. They are strong, fierce and noble creatures, and their horns can be used as cures or poisons.

Cups allegedly made of unicorn horns were popular across the world in the Middle Ages, from Europe to China. Unicorn blood was also considered to be healing, and there were curses in existence for killing a unicorn. (Though why anyone would want to kill one, we can’t really say.)

Within the last decade, though, the term “Unicorn” has come to mean something very different. When the phrase was first used in the financial community, it indicated something just as rare and precious. Though, in that time, those financial unicorns have come to be surprisingly common.

The usage was coined by the venture capitalist Aileen Lee in 2013 to describe a privately held company with a billion-dollar valuation. She called such companies unicorns because they were few and far between; no more than 40 existed when the term was coined. 
A recent report by Reportlinker indicates that these financial unicorns are not quite as magical (or now as rare) as they might at first appear. The report (available for purchase) provides an overview of unicorns and the  impact, both negative and positive, they have in the sectors and geographies in which they operate. Some of the challenges facing unicorns and their investors are also reported.

So just what is a unicorn? They are privately held organizations with a valuation of over a billion dollars. From that 40 in 2013, when the term was coined, there are now have nearly 500 unicorns. And the number is growing. In fact, the number of unicorns has multiplied so quickly, new terminologies such as “decacorns” (unicorns with $10 billion valuations) are beginning to appear.

You can download the Reportlinker report here, but it will be helpful if you are part of unicorn organization to order it: its far from free. ◊

Be the first to comment on "Both Sides of the Unicorn: A Financial Tale"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.