Three Stages of a Unicorn Reality Check

SMITH BRAIN TRUST — A new creature has joined the entrepreneurial menagerie of gazelles (fast-growing firms), elephants (like Wal-Mart) and mice (corner barbershops). These are the unicorns — privately held startups such as Uber, Airbnb and Snapchat worth more than $1 billion each. With only 141 in existence, unicorns are the rarest creature of all. And Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is worried about their health. She recently told CNN Money that many young companies have been able to garner “extraordinary valuations” without actually proving themselves.

“People inside the industry and in the know have been talking about this for at least a year or longer,” says Jonathan Aberman, a 25-year veteran of the venture capital industry and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

He says a market correction is inevitable, but don’t expect a repeat of the dot-com collapse of the 1990s or the subprime mortgage crisis of the past decade. Instead, he describes a process that will unfold in three stages without causing widespread panic. “This will be a slow-motion adjustment,” Aberman says. “This will not be a crash.”

The first two stages already have occurred. What happens next…Read entire article on the Robert H. Smith School of Business site.

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