The Briefing

Unicorns - Why entrepreneurs love these mythical creatures!

Get up to speed on business buzzword bingo!

October 14, 2021
Reading time 2 min.

🌈 A quick taster for you:  

  • Unicorns are startups that have a valuation of more than €1 billion. 
  • Most unicorns exist in the USA and China.
  • Germany is producing more and more unicorns.

🧐 Why do I care?

Unicorns might once have been thought of as imaginary dreamlike creatures, but these days unicorns are literally everywhere! They’re taking the form of sweets, floating hoops and weird advertising films. Sounds wild? Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

🔍 What exactly is happening here?

  • From Start-Up to Unicorn
    The new crowning glory for any company is securing Unicorn status — which is a term used to describe a start-up that has a valuation of over €1,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros so, to be clear, let’s write that down in words: One. Billion. Euros. That figure alone is fantasy material! But, what exactly does having a valuation of one billion actually mean? Well, start-ups often receive financing at the beginning and during their growth phase — and they get this financing by selling shares in the company. So, investors who believe the company is set for success will buy shares, and the company valuation is based on how many shares are sold, and what price they sold for. If 50% of the shares are sold for €500,000, this would correspond to a company value of €1,000,000. To receive the status of a unicorn, the valuation of a billion dollars needs to happen before the company goes public, and before any so-called "exit" (where an investor withdraws from the company).
  • How did the term ‘unicorn’ come about?
    Aileen Lee, the founder of Cowboy Ventures (which invests in a wide variety of companies), brought the term unicorn into play in 2013. She used it to express how rare it is to have such a high valuation as a start-up.
  • Where can you find unicorns nowadays?
    Most unicorns can be found in the USA and China, but they can also be found in Germany. The most famous German unicorns at the moment are probably Flixbus, Gorillas, Trade Republic and Flink.

🤓 What does this mean for me?

The next time you hear something about unicorns in a conversation or on the news, you'll know exactly what’s being talked about, and why so many startups aspire to be named after this mythical creature. Plus you now know: unicorns really do exist!

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