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In financial terms, a Unicorn refers to a privately held startup company that is valued at over $1 billion. The term was first coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical creature to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures. It’s used to emphasize the rarity, high potential, and high risks associated with these companies.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Unicorn” would be /ˈjuː.nɪ.kɔːrn/.

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li>Unicorns are symbolic mythical creatures, often portrayed as pure, strong and mystical beings</li> <li>Typically, unicorns are depicted with a single horn on their forehead, which is believed to possess magical or medicinal properties.</li> <li>In the startup world, a “unicorn” refers to a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion.</li></ol>


The term “Unicorn” is significant in business/finance because it denotes a privately held startup company valued at more than $1 billion. Marking a startup as a Unicorn represents its rare and exceptional success, given that only a small fraction of startups reach such valuation. Not only does this term provide a benchmark for venture capitalists and investors in measuring startup success, but it also signifies the potential high return on investment, influencing investment decisions. Moreover, being a Unicorn often improves a company’s credibility, making it easier to attract talent and additional funding. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that while a Unicorn status implies the promising potential of a startup, it doesn’t guarantee its long-term success or profitability.


In the realm of finance and business, the term ‘unicorn’ refers to a privately held startup company that has reached a valuation of at least $1 billion. The term was coined in 2013 by Aileen Lee, a venture capitalist who chose the mythical creature to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures. These companies are called unicorns because they are perceived to be successful, financially attractive, and hard-to-find.Unicorns often play a significant role in the business world for several reasons. For one, they demonstrate the potential reward of risk investment in the technology sector, proving that it’s possible for daring startups to not just survive, but thrive. This success can inspire innovation and encourage entrepreneurial spirit among both individual entrepreneurs and existing companies. For investors, unicorns provide lucrative opportunities for significant return on investment. Whether it’s through Initial Public Offering (IPO) where the share of companies get listed on Stock Exchange, or potential acquisition by larger firms, investors may reap significant revenue from their initial investment in these high-performing startups.


A “Unicorn” in the business/finance context is a term used to describe a privately held startup company valued over $1 billion. Here are three real world examples:1. Uber: Established in 2009, Uber pioneered the ride-hailing industry and quickly escalated in valuation due to rapid adoption around the globe. By the time it went public in May 2019, it was valued at nearly $84 billion.2. Airbnb: Originally started in 2008 as a way for people to rent out their spare rooms or homes, Airbnb turned into a major disruptor in the hospitality industry. Before going public in 2020, it had a valuation of nearly $31 billion as a private company.3. SpaceX: Elon Musk’s private space exploration company, SpaceX, is another standout example of a unicorn company. With a valuation over $100 billion, it’s known for forging new paths in the privatization of space travel and satellite launching services.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Unicorn in finance and business terminology?

A Unicorn is a term used in the venture capital industry to denote a startup company that has reached a valuation of $1 billion or more.

How does a company become a Unicorn?

A private company can become a Unicorn through large-scale investments from venture capital firms, angel investors, or through large revenues and rapid business growth.

What are some examples of Unicorn companies?

Some well-known Unicorn companies include Uber, Airbnb, SpaceX, and Palantir Technologies. These companies have not only reached a valuation of over one billion dollars, but have significantly surpassed it.

How common are Unicorn companies?

While the term Unicorn implies rarity, in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of Unicorn companies. However, they still represent a small fraction of start-ups worldwide.

Are all Unicorns successful?

Reaching Unicorn status doesn’t guarantee continued success or profitability. Some Unicorns may struggle with maintaining their high valuation, or may fail to become profitable.

What’s the significance of a company becoming a Unicorn?

Becoming a Unicorn is seen as a significant milestone, suggesting the company’s potential for rapid growth and substantial profitability. It also typically represents validation of the company’s business model or technology.

How does a Unicorn company impact investors?

If a Unicorn company continues its trajectory, it may provide substantial returns on investment. However, such a high valuation also entails higher risk, and if the company underperforms, investors might lose a significant portion of their invested capital.

How is a Unicorn different from a Decacorn and Hectocorn?

A Decacorn refers to a company valued over $10 billion, while a Hectocorn refers to a company valued over $100 billion. These terms follow the same concept as a Unicorn but are on a larger scale.

Related Finance Terms

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