The world’s unicorns, VC-backed startups worth more than $1 billion, have been getting a lot of press lately. At the moment, Google News lists about 16 million results for Uber and 7 million results for Snapchat. By contrast, there are fewer than 3.5 million stories about Walmart, 2.6 million about General Motors, and fewer than 700,000 focused on Exxon. Unicorns are to business journalists what Kim Kardashian is to Instagram users.

All this excitement about the unicorns is understandable — up to a point. Many of them have been growing at a ferocious pace. For instance, Snapchat’s recent IPO filing revealed that the company grew revenues by 600% (to $404 million) in 2016. Airbnb has nearly doubled its user base every year since 2012 and is now worth $30 billion — nearly as much as Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain. That sort of nosebleed growth has panicked a lot of big-company CEOs who live in fear of being “Uberized.” Those fears are not entirely unfounded. The explosive growth of ride sharing is a big reason why Hertz reported dismal quarterly results in November 2016, leading to a 23% drop in its market value.

Adding to this angst are the feverish predictions of industry pundits who believe today’s corporate dinosaurs are about to be wiped out by giant unicorn-shaped asteroids. For example, in…

 

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Unicorns