I am hearing this Unicorn statement in Silicon Valley more and more these days. What is a Unicorn in Silicon Valley speak? It’s pejorative. It’s a slam. Worst of all, it’s an epic fail!
Silicon Valley calls people unicorns because they doubt your idea can be executed. The see individuals or small teams with highly multidisciplinary engineer and artist, or programmer and architects as defocusing and maybe impossible. Many times they are driving a persistent myth that such individuals don’t exist. Ironically, many Venture Capitalists see themselves as brilliant and multi talented individuals – hypocrites.
In fact, people like this have always been the most successful entrepreneurs. While not top of field in one of the two or more disciplines they practice, they are excellent at executing “both disciplines” in spite of the jack-of-all-trades myth. Make no mistake about it. It’s a myth. Unicorns are influential innovators in ways industries at large cannot accept due to pervasive right side thinking that grew up in the industrial age. One man, one job, over and over again.
Corporate labor division created software process under this model. QA Engineer is a separate role from Software Engineer, and Graphic Designer is a separate role from Information Architect, unicorn disbelief is perfectly understandable in this context. More than this, we are not doing ourselves any favors by clouding the water. Self-titled unicorns are actually just programmers with a hobby on the side. Some do photoshop or process control and just have a natural aptitude without a full grasp of the science.
If anyone calls you a unicorn, ask them why investors constantly insist on engineers that can be CEO’s and founders of startups. Isn’t that a unicorn like talent set? The new movement teaching executives to code is one example of this well intended concept gone wild. It’s very common to create foolish double standards when our desires overcome our logic. No unicorns until I want unicorns! Then it’s perfectly ok to have a Jack of All Trades to keep the costs down on my investment.
So, let’s not keep perpetuating these myths and get real. If you are a VC and think you are a unicorn and no one else is or can be, get real. Be open to Unicorns when they come and stop trying to make them mules.