A Layman's Guide to Silicon Valley's Unicorns

Unicorns are jumping around Silicon Valley at a pace that Philz coffee can barely keep up with. So, I decided to dig in and see what all the rainbow hype was about.

Traditionally, a "unicorn" is defined as a tech company that has a private valuation of over $1 billion dollars. Although, some Silicon Valley pundits may give you this more technical definition:


In Silicon Valley, the f-bomb is said so commonly in public that a certain group of hipsters are working to create a new swear word.

The term first appeared in 2013 by a venture capitalist in a TechCrunch post. Since then, many more unicorns have been born. Currently, the trendiest unicorns include Uber, Snapchat, and Slack but you'll find over 200 more scattered all over the world.


Due to a unicorn's size, they can often be found grazing upon smaller animals in the startup kingdom. For example, Snapchat recently gobbled up the app Bitstrips for $100 million. Because every unicorn needs to eat premium meat regularly, Slack bought Screenhero. Screenhero was raised with some of the finest Silicon Valley grain: Y Combinator feed. Those are just the start.

Recently, there's been an uptick in unicorns getting terminal diseases that require the equivalent of chemotherapy level measures for even a chance of survival. Layoffs, down rounds and executive shuffling has led to even the unicorn gatherer VCs to cool down! When there is a gatherer you know there's always a hunter. Unicorn hunters are almost as rare as Unicorns themselves. They do exist, and Juno is the newest to the club. Juno is a car sharing service poised to fight the almighty Uber. And because there is an image for almost everything on the internet, I had to reference this too:

Available at the O.G. unicorn, amazon.com.

However, it's important to remember that despite a unicorn's size, a unicorn is still a business. Unicorns can exit, die, and grow just like any other company.

To illustrate this point, valley founder Hiten Shah recently released a "Even Unicorns Die Too" shirt.

He writes:

It's easy to poke fun at the billion dollar club given all that's been happening lately, but that's not what this shirt is about. It's meant to celebrate the hustle, the struggles, the hard work, and remind us that the journey is never over.

He's right. The journey is never over -- and nor are the jokes about Silicon Valley culture.