A unicorn company, or unicorn startup, is a private company with a valuation over $1 billion. As of August 2021, there are more than 800 unicorns around the world.

CB Insights

I sometimes felt quite alone in my scorn for the idea of “unicorn” terminology as applied to startups and their valuation. The focus on valuation undermines the “value” and “values” of the startup. It puts focus on entirely the wrong things!

Anyway, aren’t unicorns are rare and mostly figments of imagination? Now they are not even rare. There are so many that they might outnumber a decent Zebra herd on the Serengeti. The total valuation of the 800 unicorns: $2.6 trillion! I guess we have gone from unicorn to unicorn-y.

Don’t worry: Dan Primack, the VC industry’s chronicler-in-chief, has proposed a new term: dragon.

Dragons are much bigger, stronger and more awe-inspiring than unicorns. They destroy whatever’s in their path, and their own destruction is viewed as catastrophic (at least if “GOT” is any guide).

To qualify, a company must be valued at $12 billion or more, net of venture funding. Yes, it’s a somewhat arbitrary figure. But it reflects the >10x “unicorn” growth since the Fortune piece, and the rapidly ascending private funding trajectory.

By the numbers: Currently, there would be 19 dragons. Of those, nine are based in the U.S.

Dan Primack, Pro Rata

Right on cue, a friend pinged me and said that if dragons don’t work out, they could easily be renamed: drag-ons!

August 31, 2021, San Francisco


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