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How to: do right Unicorn Startup underline

How do startups achieve a valuation of $1 billion? In this article, we will analyze the common characteristics and strategies of successful unicorns so that you can follow in their footsteps and perhaps become one yourself.

How to...
Natalia Migdal
Marketing Specialist

Why does every startup dream of becoming a so-called unicorn? The answer is simple: to achieve a valuation by investors of $1 billion or more. After all, who doesn't dream of quickly making a fortune, and sometimes even faster selling the work of their life to feel fulfilled?

After a huge surge in 2021, the trend of becoming an "unicorn" began to drastically decline. In 2023, as reported by Crunchbase.com, only 95 private companies managed to achieve a valuation of $1 billion. However, a comforting fact is that losing this title is becoming increasingly rare. This means that ten years after the term "Unicorn Startup" was introduced to describe private startups valued at $1 billion or more, there are over 1500 current unicorn companies worldwide, with a combined value exceeding $5 trillion based on their latest funding valuations.

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With this in mind, there are startups that overcome adversity. How do they manage to do it? In this article, we will analyze the common characteristics and successful strategies of unicorns so that you can follow in their footsteps and maybe eventually become one of them.

Unicorn Startup Checklist

Although our list does not guarantee that you will become a unicorn, it will certainly help you better understand the philosophy behind the success of other great startups such as Airbnb, Canva, or Uber.

Focus on MVP

Literally. The role of a startup is to bring the product to market as quickly as possible. Investor money and patience are not unlimited. You must create a proof of concept (PoC) and MVP. This requires a certain degree of flexibility, especially in the development department, where business and functional requirements can change on the spot, and the team will need to quickly adapt to these changes.

Remember the key steps in building an MVP:

Identify user problems and propose solutions

Problem: Users need an easy way to track their daily physical activities and monitor progress in a healthy lifestyle, but they struggle with access to appropriate tools.

Solution: Create a mobile application that allows users to easily track physical activity, healthy diet, and progress in achieving health goals. The application should be intuitive to use and available on various mobile platforms.

Discover the potential target market

Goal: Young adults working in corporations who lead an active lifestyle but have limited time for regular exercise and healthy eating. This market segment is a large, homogeneous target market with high engagement potential.

Create a product that is accessible, user-friendly, and profitable

Product: FitnessTrack mobile application, available for both iOS and Android systems. It provides users with intuitive tools to track physical activity, manage their diet, and set health goals. With a simple interface and many features, the application is intended to be attractive to a wide range of users.

Develop an MVP with only essential features included

MVP: FitnessTrack application with basic features such as activity registration, progress tracking, access to dietary and motivational advice. The MVP version will include only those features that are crucial for the initial user.

Test the MVP with users to gather feedback

Testing: Select a target group - young corporate workers - to test the MVP. Ask them to use the application regularly for a specified period and gather their feedback on usability, functionality, and overall satisfaction with the product.

Make changes to the MVP based on feedback

Iteration: Analyze user feedback and identify areas for improvement. Make necessary changes to the application to tailor it to the needs and preferences of users.

Calculate the costs of building the product

Costs: Estimate the costs associated with developing and implementing the application, considering the costs of hiring programmers, marketing, IT infrastructure, and technical support.

Build and launch your product

Deployment: Assign the development team to build the final version of the FitnessTrack application, which will include all required features and enhancements. After completion, launch the product on the market and start marketing activities to attract potential users.

Establish your business model

Solving real problems: Conduct market research and survey potential users to identify their main problems and needs.

Use user feedback and their initial reactions to the product to adjust and improve the solution.

Primary customer and recipient

Precisely define your target group based on demographics, behaviors, and needs.
Identify key customers who are crucial to the success of your product.


Define what sets you apart from the competition and brings value to users.
Focus on the benefits you offer and what makes your product indispensable to customers.

Product pricing

Set the price based on the value you offer to users, competition prices, and the demographics of the target market.

Be flexible and ready to adjust prices depending on the needs and market reactions.

Sales channels

Choose sales channels appropriate for your product and target group, such as e-commerce, direct sales, business partnerships, etc.

Local or small-scale deployment

Conduct local tests or small-scale deployment to verify your business model and adjust it to the real market needs.

Delivering positive customer experiences

Focus on customer service and provide excellent experiences to users at every stage of interaction with your product or service.

Collecting customer feedback

Regularly gather opinions and feedback from customers to understand their needs, expectations, and experiences with your product.

Review and improve the business model

Regularly review your business model, analyze market data and customer feedback to make improvements and adjustments that will help you succeed in the market.

Remember that this process can be lengthy, and the key to success is continuously adapting to changing market and customer needs.

Great ideas only gain value when they become a reality. What sets unicorns apart from the crowd is having the right people, skills, tools, and data that create a recipe for success.

It is crucial to show investors that - whether you receive funding or not - you take your ambitions seriously. This means taking full control, bringing the product to market, and closely monitoring results to prove its profitability.

Check what investors pay attention to

When looking for an investor, it is essential to do proper research. Find out what matters to the people you want to start working with to increase your chances of funding.

Matt Carbonara, Managing Director of Venture Investments at Citi Ventures, emphasizes that although there is no clear recipe for success, he has noticed key elements necessary for creating successful startups in his many years of practice.

He points out five main characteristics that are essential to him when making investment decisions in the early stages of business development:

  • Focusing on specific areas helps avoid distraction and maintain clarity of goals.
  • Having authentic experience and specialized knowledge in a given industry allows for more accurate decision-making and effective operation.
  • Having a clear vision that defines the company's role and how it translates into real value for customers and the market.
  • Establishing and effectively communicating a shared organizational culture is the foundation for the success of a startup, supporting alignment of goals and values.
  • Early problem-solving, rather than trivializing their importance, is crucial to avoiding serious difficulties in later stages of development.

These characteristics are not only investment criteria but also guidelines for entrepreneurs striving to build durable and successful startups. Matt Carbonara emphasizes their fundamental importance for achieving success in a competitive market.

Unicorn Startup Characteristics

While thousands of new companies emerge every year, most startups fail, and only a small percentage of those that succeed can become full-fledged unicorns. To improve your startup's chances, let's look at the characteristics that these unicorns have in common and how you can emulate them.

Revolutionary nature

Unicorns bring to the market accessible and innovative solutions that change the dynamics of the industry.

Be technologically savvy

Going beyond routine use of technology, it is worth considering basing the product or business on innovative technologies, which is common for most unicorns. Indeed, almost 90% of unicorns offer products that are software-based.

Focus on the Customer

Over 60% of unicorns adopt a B2C (business to consumer) business model, meaning their operations focus on providing affordable products and services to everyday consumers.


The concept of building MVP (Minimum Viable Product) stems from a business approach known as the Lean Startup, where startups can maximize efficiency by iteratively testing and adjusting their MVPs based on user feedback.

Because MVPs are equipped with only "essential" features, their construction is more cost-effective and allows for changing direction without sacrificing a complete product.


There is no one recipe for building a startup, but following the guidance and strategies of existing "unicorns" can help strengthen your venture. When you develop a simple, affordable product that solves user problems and scale it up, you'll be one step closer to achieving "Unicorn" status.