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What is an unicorn startup?


Anyone in the entrepreneurship’s world will have heard about the unicorns startups, but what is it?

Unicorn startups are technology startups that reach a value of $1 billion or more in the funding stage, without going public.

The concept emerged for the first time in November of 2013 in an article written by Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures. The entrepreneur used this term to refer to these type of companies due to it is something that seems impossible to find, just like this famous mythological animal.

But they do exist and there are more and more of them. In the last few years, the number of this type of companies has increased enormously, going from 39, in 2013, to more than 1,200 so far in 2023. Some examples we all know of unicorn startups are Uber, Airbnb, Xiaomi and Twitter. But even before being defined by Aileen Lee, there was already a unicorn startup benchmark: Facebook, the company that has come to be described as a “super unicorn”, since it has already surpassed more than 100 billion dollars.

Unicorn startups’ characteristics

Unicorn startups were born in the social networks era, which has meant that they are companies with great prominence in the digital media and that have a great influence on the culture. The presence in social media is a strong ally for your startup to become an unicorn more easily, since it is an easy and free way to achieve visibility and connect with the public.

On the other hand, these types of companies are usually B2C business, which means that they sell directly to the end consumer; they are formed by young entrepreneurs and have a team of few members.

To be able to become a unicorn startup are a series of characteristics that your company must meet, in addition to reaching the value of more than $1 billion. These are:

  • Being newly created and operating in a market niche that is little or not at all exploited.
  • Not having been listed on the stock exchange
  • It can not have been purchased by another company
  • It must have been launched less than 10 years ago
  • It must be a high-risk venture and offer a paradigm shift

Becoming a unicorn startup is not an easy task to achieve, but the constant grown of these type of companies shows that it is not impossible.

Acceleration programs such as the one of La Lonja de la Innovación of the Port of Huelva, help these projects to grow in a much faster and productive way, and they are a great opportunity for startups. Do you want to be the next startup unicorn? Write to us!

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