Will ‘Unicorns’ Deliver a Horn of Plenty in the Future?

Traditionally a Unicorn is a mythical creature, much wished for but seldom seen outside the bounds of the Harry Potter universe and the pictures doodled on children’s notebooks and stencilled on their bedroom walls. However, a new type of Unicorn has been coming to the fore in recent years and is multiplying fast.


For those who aren’t aware of this phenomenon, a ‘Unicorn’ was a term coined by Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures, back in November 2013 and used to describe a start-up company whose value has exceeded $1 billion.

When you think of unicorns in this regard, think Facebook (actually classed as a ‘super-unicorn’ thanks to a valuation over $100 billion), Slack, LinkedIn and Uber. It is estimated that there are around 80 ‘unicorns’ prancing around currently, predominantly in San Francisco, but the odds of building or investing in a billion dollar organisation are around about the same as being struck by lightning…

So what’s the secret?

It depends who you listen to, but the common consensus is that there is no secret or magic bullet to creating a ‘unicorn’. As with any start-up, innovation plays a huge role in success, but for a unicorn it’s also about catching the right wave, at the right time, and taking advantage of prevailing trends and public opinion.

These trends, and their unicorns, go all the way back to the 1960s and look something like this:

  • The development of the semiconductor (Intel)
  • The advent of the personal computer (Apple; Oracle; Microsoft)
  • Development of new networks (Cisco)
  • The Internet (Amazon; Google)
  • The rise of Social Networks (Facebook; LinkedIn)

The list looks like a who’s who of powerhouse technology companies, all instantly recognisable, all companies we have come across or used ourselves during our lives. But where will the next trend come from?

The New Unicorns

Investors and experts have begun to look to the short-term future to see where the next unicorn might come from. According to a couple of sources, the Collaborative and On-Demand Economies may give birth to the next unicorns. You probably haven’t heard of them yet, but here are just some to keep an eye on:

  • Envato – an online marketplace for creative, enabling access to freelance talent, videos and tutorials
  • Canva – an online graphic design tool, aimed at making design accessible and easy for everyone
  • Campaign Monitor – providing easy creation, sending and reporting on e-mail marketing (clients already include Coca-Cola and Airbnb)
  • ROKT – online marketing platform aimed at delivering higher engagement for service advertising

Could the ‘Bubble’ Burst?

However, all this needs to be delivered with a word of caution. Most people in business are old enough to remember the dot.com bubble of the late 1990s. What started out as a rush of new, innovative online organisations, ended with a set of spectacular failures and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is the concern for some analysts with this new wave of technology start-ups and unicorns. Greycroft Partners founder, Alan Patricof, warns against the belief of being able to raise endless capital, with businesses vulnerable to changes in the market and the outlook.

Some organisations have lost their unicorn status, and even Facebook’s value dipped dramatically before reaching its current peak of around $225 billion.

Your Unicorn

So if you have an innovative idea, now might be the right time to get started and you could end up with a unicorn of your own. But be wary, you might want to get started soon, before someone takes your idea or the bubble bursts entirely…

We’d love to turn Procurious into a unicorn, but there’s plenty work to be done first. If you’ve got any ideas or comments about the site, we’d love to hear from you!

And just because we’re so good to you, here are some top headlines from procurement and supply chain this week…

No Evidence of Wrongdoing in London Garden Bridge Procurement

  • An audit has concluded that there was no evidence of wrongdoing in Transport for London’s (TfL) procurement for the London Garden Bridge project
  • The audit aimed to provide assurance of an open, fair and transparent process in the procurement of design and development services
  • While the audit found that in some instances where TfL policy and procedure were not fully complied with, it concluded that it had not identified any evidence that the final recommendations did not provide value for money from winning bidders
  • However, concerns have still been raised by the London Assembly Liberal Democrat Group as key documentation supporting the evaluation of the bidders had been disposed of during a TfL office move and could not be evaluated

Read more at Supply Management

Schultz stresses need for Supply Chain at top table

  • Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, stressed the importance of the supply chain during a keynote address at this week’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Conference in San Diego.
  • Schultz explained that a classic mistake made by most companies is that two areas often left behind by companies are HR and supply chain
  • Schultz argued that the supply chain needs to be at the forefront of every enterprise in the world, especially the ones that are consumer-facing

Read more of the keynote points at Logistics Management

‘Freelancing in America: 2015’ Report Released

  • Upwork and Freelancers Union released their jointly-commissioned study “Freelancing in America: 2015” last week
  • The report included a sizing and segmentation of the freelancer population, and assessed a range topics, including freelancer motivation, earnings, attitudes and outlook for the future
  • The study estimates, as of mid-2015, that overall there were 53 million freelancers in the US, representing about 34% of the total US workforce
  • Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel stated that “strong growth in the economy and the rapid increase in full-time job opportunities, has led some number of freelancers to return to full-time employment”, showing a potential changing environment

Read the results at Spend Matters

US Car Sales on the Rise in September

  • The Big Three car manufacturers in the US projected the overall sales pace for September will top 18 million vehicles
  • General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ford Motor Co. each posted double-digit percentage increases compared to a year ago
  • If volumes continue at the same rate as predicted, it would be the highest yearly volume since 2000, bringing much needed good fortune to the industry

Read more at the Wall Street Journal