Unicorn company characteristics, definition, and examples

What is a unicorn company?

A unicorn company is a company that has reached a valuation of $1 billion and is not publicly traded. These companies are usually privately owned by the time they reach this valuation. Most of these companies consider themselves startups. However, that’s a discussion for another day.

What are the general characteristics of a unicorn company?

Apart from a one billion valuation, unicorn companies have several characteristics that set them apart from the rest. They usually exhibit characteristics that foster growth and stability. While this might not always be the case, here are some of the common characteristics that most unicorn companies possess: 

  1. Unicorn companies are disruptive
  2. A unicorn company is Tech-savvy
  3. Unicorn companies are Consumer-focused
  4. A unicorn company will always be Growth-oriented
  5. Unicorn companies have a dedicated and focused core team
  6. Unicorn companies take risks
  7. Virality
  8. Efficient
  9. Unicorn companies take Intellectual Property seriously

Unicorn companies are disruptive: 

Unicorn companies tend to be disruptive. They change cultures and break norms of the society. These companies tend to redefine how people undertake their day-to-day activities but more simply and efficiently. For instance, Space X is redefining how people view space by making space exploration cheaper and making reusable rocket launchers. Probably, this would not be considered possible a few decades ago.

A unicorn company is Tech-savvy:

Most unicorn companies leverage tech. Technology makes the distribution of these solutions easy and fast. Mobile-based solutions are only built once and then distributed to thousands if not millions of users. After building and onboarding users, unicorn companies do not stop there. They continuously seek new technology that is relevant to their industry. This alone gives them an edge to stand out from the crowd and they do not hesitate to test and deploy new technology so long as it makes sense to their core business.

Unicorn companies are Consumer-focused: 

As explained in the “Lean Startup” book, a solution that is built for the customers will never go wrong. Unicorn companies will always consider the customer and what they want. These companies will pivot as much as possible just to get the customer’s needs right. If the product is not customer-centric in the first place, disaster looms. And when it hits, it hits badly.

A unicorn company will always be Growth-oriented:

A unicorn company will always exhibit a growth mindset. Growth mindsets do not settle. They always seek adventure and try out new things. Additionally, they will have goals that drive them to innovate and come up with new ways of tackling issues and solving problems. A growth mindset does not leave room for contentment. For this reason, unicorn companies will tend to have Research and development departments that ensure growth is continuous.

Unicorn companies have a dedicated and focused core team:

Unicorn companies tend to have great leadership. Their leaders strongly believe in what they do and this is manifested through the core team. The core team is usually a set of dedicated employees who have bought into the vision of their leader. It is common to hear stories of the core team working odd hours to meet targets that are usually tight and on a budget. This is the kind of energy that is required to see the company through to unicorn status.

Unicorn companies take risks:

Unicorn companies are not afraid of taking risks. Their ideas are usually radical and most people do not quite understand them on day one. However, the unicorn companies will proceed with the execution of the idea anyway. This is usually a huge gamble. Trying to introduce people to a concept that has not been in existence before.


Unicorn companies build their products with virality in mind. This is also commonly referred to as the network effect where users feel the need to join or invite their friends to the platform. People will do this obviously to utilize the whole benefits of the product. This in itself is a cheap way of acquiring users. Not all unicorn companies apply this but most of them have it inbuilt. Especially for products that are built for the general public.


Unicorn companies are efficient in their operations. They adopt tools early enough to develop a discipline of operational efficiency. This is achieved by using CRM tools, ERPs, accounting tools e.t.c from their early days. These tools bring clarity. And clarity is required for any business prosperity

Unicorn companies take Intellectual Property seriously:

Filing Intellectual property is important. Unicorn companies know this better and they will invest in making sure nobody copies their idea. By so doing, they will have an upper hand against any competing entity. This will give the unicorn company a first movers’ advantage and if they do everything right, the rest will play catch up for years if not decades.

Examples of unicorn companies 2022

Different corners of the world play host to unicorn companies. Examples of these companies are: 

Space X – Elon Musk founded Space X. It has a valuation of $125B as of September 2022. Space X was incorporated in the USA. The lead investor is NASA.

Andela – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ian Carnevale, Jeremy Johnson, and Christiana Sass founded Andela. It has a valuation of $2B as of September 2022. Andela is incorporated in the USA. The lead investors are Generation Investment Management and Spark Capital.

MasterClass – David Rogier founded MasterClass. It has a valuation of $3B as of September 2022. MasterClass is incorporated in the USA. The lead investor is Fidelity Management and Research Company.

Flutterwave – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Olugbenga Agboola, and Adeleke Adekoya founded Flutterwave in 2016. It has a valuation of $3B as of September 2022. Flutterwave is incorporated in the USA. The lead investor is B Capital Group.

Bolt – Markus Villing founded Bolt. It has a valuation of $8B as of September 2022. Bolt is incorporated in Estonia. The lead investors are Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Sequoia Capital.

BYJU – Byju Raveendran founded BYJU. It has a valuation of $22B as of September 2022. BYJU is incorporated in India. The lead investor is Byju Raveendran.


FTX – Sam Bankman-Fried and Gary Wang founded FTX. It is incorporated in Antigua and Barbuda and headquartered in The Bahamas. It has a valuation of $8B as of September 2022. The lead investor is Multicoin Capital, Paradigm.

Stripe – Patrick Collison and John Collison founded Stripe. It has a valuation of $95B as of September 2022. Stripe is incorporated in the USA. The lead investor is Allianz X, AXA Group.

Klarna – Klarna was founded by Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Niklas Adalberth, and Victor Jacobsson. It has a valuation of $7B as of September 2022. Klarna is incorporated in Sweden. The lead investor is Crowdcube.

Tinder – Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, Whitney Wolfe, and Jonathan Badeen founded Tinder. It has a valuation of $3B as of September 2022. Tinder is incorporated in the USA. The lead investor is Benchmark.


How are unicorn companies valued?

Investors and venture capitalists may face some challenges when valuing startup companies. Startups are often valued based on their potential for rapid growth and development, which can be difficult to predict. Additionally, many startups do not generate profits when they first get started, so their valuation is not based on current financial performance.

What makes a startup a unicorn?

There is no set definition for what makes a startup a unicorn, but typically it refers to a company that has achieved a billion-dollar valuation. This could be due to a number of factors, such as having a unique and innovative product or having a world-class team.

How many unicorn companies are there?

As of 2023, there are almost 1100 unicorn startups in the world, with a valuation of more than $3.5 trillion combined.

What is the most valued company?

Apple is the most valued company with a market cap of more than $2.2 trillion. Apple is not a unicorn company since it is publicly traded.

Can anyone build a unicorn?

Yes. Anyone can build a unicorn as long as they have resilience.

Who made the first unicorn company?

According to Lee, most unicorns were founded in the 1990s. She noted that Alphabet (GOOG)—then Google—, was leading the pack with a valuation of more than $100 billion.

Which company is known as a unicorn??

A unicorn company is a company that has reached a valuation of $1 billion and is not publicly traded.


There you have it. The characteristics of a unicorn company. However, the list does not end there. Let’s further the conversation in the comment section below. I believe you might have more unicorn features that I have not mentioned. Additionally, in case you found this content useful, remember to share! Share! Share! Also by subscribing to my email list, you will never miss a post. So long!

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    • Basically Markus Villing (Bolt Founder) is born in Estonia. This is the country of origin for the company. However, there are many factors to consider when choosing a country of incorporation for your business.
      Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things you should keep in mind:
      – The country’s tax laws: You’ll want to make sure the country you choose has favorable tax laws for businesses.
      – The country’s business environment: The business environment in the country you choose should be conducive to your business’s success.
      – The country’s political stability: You’ll want to make sure the country you choose is politically stable, as this can have a big impact on your business’s operations.
      – The country’s infrastructure: The country you choose should have a good infrastructure, as this can impact your business’s ability to function smoothly.
      – The country’s workforce: There should be affordable labor for your business in the country that you pick to incorporate.
      Hope this info helps.

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