Where Do Unicorns Come From?

Billion-dollar unicorns aren’t as mythical as they were 10 years ago, but they’re still shrouded in fantasy. Last year, we put a spotlight on global unicorns—the significant, growing number of privately-held companies with $1B+ valuations in Latin America, Africa, and other areas of the world. Now, Endeavor Insight is taking a fresh look into the fables that surround unicorns and their founders in the United States and emerging markets.

We’ve all heard the legendary origin stories where founders drop out of college and bootstrap tech revolutions from their garages, but what are the real stories? What career pathways do successful founders of unicorns actually take? To find out, our Endeavor Insight research team compared the pathways between 100 of the top unicorn founders in the United States and 100 more in key emerging markets.

Though they studied top unicorns by their valuation in this study, valuation is not the sole measurement of success. Unicorns don’t only scale up, they also pay it forward to future generations of entrepreneurs — initiating a virtuous cycle we call the Multiplier Effect. Nearly all of the unicorns in this study have inspired their employees to start their own companies, and many of the unicorn founders are mentors and angel investors. Below are other findings from their study.