As the term "Unicorn" breaks from overuse, what …

Alex Wilhelm is the editor-in-chief of Crunchbase News and a co-author of Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital focused podcast.

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On Wednesday unicorns were born. You have already forgotten their names if you learned them (Tip: it was Marqeta and Ivalua).

Don’t worry, I don’t run into you. It’s simply that there are so many unicorns on the market today, one hundred drowned in 2019, that they are impossible to control.

In fact, so many companies now make the cut that we’ve gotten used to torturing the word “unicorn” to mean more than it was originally tasked with describing. As we wrote recently, there is now a little under under, and decacorn. Mix minotaurs and horses and the inevitable centacorns and see, we’re all bored.

To paraphrase Asimov, successive shocks lead to diminishing impact. Thus the phrase unicorn has lost all meaning. As I joked the other day, now it mostly means “beginning of middle age”. Even our redefinition of the word “startup” allowed companies to be worth several billion and still claim title, although that could have been a mistake.

In today’s world of super and hypergiant rounds, it’s not impossible to put together a unicorn. And people sure are.

And now that

“Unicorn” is now only useful as a rating descriptor. It no longer implies something strange.

So what we need is a redefinition of a unicorn to make it weirder… or, we need a whole new concept. Regardless of whether we change what “unicorn” means itself, or come up with a new word, it has become clear what we need to add to the mix to get exceptional companies out of what is actually very good.


Zoom, prior to its IPO, was profitable and grew like hell. TransferWise, we recently learned, is also profitable and growing. Can you name another company worth $ 1 billion or more that is growing and profitable? I can’t.That means they are rare.

Kate Clark from TechCrunch and I chatted about this on Equity, and this was our general point of agreement (her tweet here). Profit It’s what really makes you weird. Not just a high rating. There is enough money flying to print the latter by the dozen. Winning the first? Now that is legendary and hard to find.

Like a unicorn.