A unicorn is a private startup technology firm valued at $1 billion or more. Once rare, such companies have proliferated in the last few years. Now there are about 236 unicorns worldwide. Collectively, these companies are valued at approximately $795 billion and have raised more than $140 billion in funding. The standard path for a successful private technology company used to be: raise some money at a low valuation, then raise some more money at a somewhat higher valuation, and then you go public (IPO) at a much higher valuation. Everyone at every stage is rewarded in proportion to the risk they took: The early-stage Investors get very rich, the IPO investors get a nice quick pop, and the post-IPO public investors do just fine. The model of success has changed. Now the goal is not to do an IPO but to be a unicorn. Now you can go around being valued at $10 billion (Dropbox) or $18 billion (Spotify) or $60+ billion (Uber), and raise billions of dollars at those valuations, without going public.
Toy Story 2 by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, 1999
cbinsights.com, The Global Unicorn Club, 01.04.2018
bloomberg.com, Matt Levine, 27.03.2018
voanews.com, Carol Guensburg, 24.03.2018