Good morning, All,
Tim O’Reilly wrote an excellent column recently entitled, We’ve Got This Whole Unicorn Thing All Wrong! With all due respect to Cowboy Ventures’ Aileen Lee, who first referred to emerging companies with billion dollar valuations, such as Uber and Airbnb, as unicorns, with the ever-expanding roster of them of late, we personally have to agree with O’Reilly in his revised definition – as technologies that changes human behavior – rather than as companies that have achieved a wildly inflated valuation that may or may not have any actual justification in the real world. The mark of a true unicorn, in O’Reilly’s definition, is that elicits an a-ha moment: the first iPhones, Siri and self-driving cars are good examples. Unicorns are things that changed human behavior, and for the record, O’Reilly includes Uber/Lyft in this category, as they did accomplish this: people were suddenly summoning cars via an app.
The outliers aren’t always readily apparent – Yahoo! was thought to be wildly overvalued when it IPO’d: no revenue model, and the same was said of Facebook – and the currently-accepted unicorns aren’t always necessarily that: Dropbox is certainly having its problems these days (The case against Dropbox looks stronger with each passing day) and “Steve Jobs famously told Houston (while trying to acquire it) that his company was a feature and not a product. As Dropbox rocketed to 400 million users, Jobs’ viewpoint was easy to dismiss. But as its rivals caught up, and Dropbox began casting about for its next act, Jobs has come to look more prescient.”