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Unicorns, undercorns and horses: A guide to the nonsense

It’s been more than a half-decade since Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures kicked off the unicorn craze. Noting in a well-read post for TechCrunch that an interesting cohort of private companies worth a billion dollars or more was worth examining, the post brought the “unicorn” into its current usage inside of tech.
And then tech itself did the term a favor, building and financing hundreds more. Now unicorns swarm like fleas, and simply snagging a $1 billion valuation these days is something that has been done in mere months and is a well-known vanity tactic used to juice hiring.
Anyway.
This has now gone on so long that many of us in the tech-focused journalism space are sick of saying the word. Kate Clark, Equity co-host and cool person, literally has “I am so sick of the buzz word [sic] ‘unicorn’ ” on her Twitter page. I agree with the sentiment.
But the phrase unicorn is back in the mix, so let’s examine the hubbub.

Booms and busts


The term unicorn quickly became overused as startups stayed private longer by pushing IPOs off as long as they could, and the capital world decided it was fine. Bored capital was pooling in venture coffers where it was itching to be disbursed by the wealthy into the holsters of the privileged. And thus the companies that in other cycles might have gone public simply didn’t, and the ranks of unicorns multiplied.


The joke’s on us, however, as we have used the term on the order of six billion times.
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