Unicorns are having their Day in the Sun

A unicorn, yesterday

Spring is in the air right now and deer and their young fawns can regularly be seen wandering the streets around my house. You probably won’t see any deer in the local stores, not live ones at any rate, but there’s a fair chance that you might spot an altogether more mythical beast.

I have never seen so many unicorn-themed items as there are in stores right now. Actually, I have watched the number of them grow for the past couple of years now, but unicorn mania really seems to be one of the current retail phenomena. You can buy books and read about them, buy toys and play with them, even buy costumes and dress as them. Want a unicorn pen? We have those. And a unicorn notepad to write on, plus a unicorn stapler to keep your notes (about unicorns?) neat. The list goes on and on, including some of the most unlikely products. I even saw Lucky Charms cereal with unicorn shaped marshmallow pieces (though on reflection, this was probably inevitable!)

So why the sudden craze for unicorns? Maybe part of the answer lies just a few miles north on the highway in Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley parlance, a Unicorn is a startup company, still privately funded, that has a valuation of a billion dollars or more. It is estimated that there are over 150 unicorns in the US, with a good proportion of them based in the greater San Francisco Bay area, so this breed of unicorn is very much in the news of late. The magic that the keepers of these unicorns hope they will bring is instant wealth once their company goes public. In just the past few weeks, Pinterest and Zoom had their IPOs and both companies made impressive showings in their early days.

Is it possible that all the talk in the media of these financial unicorns in recent years has sparked people’s interest in the legendary kind? Maybe. On a more serious note, though, I think it is equally possible that the Silicon Valley unicorns may ultimately prove as elusive as the mythical ones, again based on media coverage. With all the recent concerns over digital privacy, hacking and even online election meddling it is possible that the average person may be getting a little more interested in what is being done with their personal data. In the future, companies may not be as unrestricted in their gathering, use and sale of personal information, and so those billion-dollar profits may not come as easily. It may well be that the unicorns of Silicon Valley will soon not be able to roam quite as freely.

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