Some startup "unicorns" are magical, and others are donkeys in party hats.
Illustration by Aleksandar Savic
By Erin Griffith
April 5, 2016

💥A Boom with a View💥 is a column about startups and the technology industry, written by Erin Griffith. Find them all here: fortune.com/boom.

Just over a year ago, Marc Cuban declared in a not-at-all hyperbolic blog post that we’re in a tech bubble worse than dotcom bubble of 2000 because poor angel investors (who are still required to be accredited investors with $1 million in the bank) don’t know what they’re in for when they buy illiquid startup stock.

Now he’s worried about the exact opposite: poor startups will have their creativity and growth stifled if the SEC starts messing with their valuations. SEC chair Mary Jo White recently expressed concern over inflated private company valuations and their lack of transparency, a concern Cuban dismisses. “They’re private companies,” he told CNBC. “What do they need to be more transparent about?” I dunno, maybe telling those poor angel investors what they’re in for?

Cuban, of course, is a thought leader, a distinction that the the Ellen Pao trial taught us is required for success in venture capital. I’ve noticed lately that many venture capitalists have realized that, if they can’t star in a reality TV show, they can thought-lead by making up a new animal metaphor. It worked for Aileen Lee, who came up with the original “unicorn” term, though I’d argue “unicorn” never would have caught on if she hadn’t published it alongside a seminal market analysis full of data.

Every week there’s a new animal: The latest is cockroach, a startup that can survive a nuclear war. But there are also black swans, centaurs, and ponies. Someone is trying to make dragons happen. They’re torturing this metaphor to death. We’re even at the point of having actual debates over whether Fitbit is a unicorn or a dragon.

Of course, Silicon Valley has always been a place of mysticism. Recall that when Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky first arrived, he thought everyone believed in angels.

And I should be clear: I fully embrace this silliness. In fact, I’d argue the best thing to come from the Age of Unicorns is that we’re now using animals to talk about business instead clichéd war and sports analogies. So block and tackle away in the trenches, and feel free to hit singles and doubles instead of homeruns. But to the angels among us in Silicon Valley, you’re either a unicorn or a cockroach.

READ this dive into Donald Trump’s self-dealing and love affair with debt.

SKIM this dive into the origin of Amazon Echo.

SKIP this trend story about how SHIRTS are back in style. SHIRTS!

WeWork had a big day. (It launched it’s highly anticipated experiment in ~branded co-living~ in two cities called WeLive.)

Microsoft had a little day. (Between excitement over Hololens and bots, I sense the inklings of a cool kid moment in Redmond.)

Trump had a day. (His hotels appear to have been hacked again.)

The thing you missed on Twitter is Pootie Deng. (Never mind that other gigantic Putin scandal.)

The hot new startup is Whistle, the dog fitness tracker that sold to … Mars?

Proof of our impending death is Uber for sponges. 💥

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