[SIGCIS-Members] So, about these "unicorns"...

Willard McCarty willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Apr 7 22:08:17 PDT 2015

Dear Tom,

Wonderful! Fantastic!



On 08/04/2015 05:23, Thomas Haigh wrote:
> Dear SIGCIS,
> To raise a question that may or may not turn out to have an explanation
> within our domain of expertise, I’ve been struck recently by frequent
> references to “unicorns” in the business press. This crystalized over
> breakfast last week when I noticed an article “Stockholm: The Unicorn
> Factory” in my usually reserved Financial Times.
> Apparently the consensus definition of a “unicorn” in this context is a
> newish company worth more than $1 billion. Stockholm has more per capita
> than anywhere but Silicon Valley. A total output of five sounds more
> like an atelier than a factory, and unicorns probably come from unicorn
> farms rather than assembly lines, but that’s not really the point.
> The point is: unicorns are not just vanishingly rare. They’re mythical.
> Until recently, if someone told me I was pursuing a unicorn I’d have
> assumed they meant I was wasting my time. So where does the metaphor
> come from? Something that’s very rare but very valuable might be worth
> pursuing. Something that is flat-out imaginary seems a bad goal for
> investment dollars or public policy.
> Is this something to do with the popularity of fantasy literature in the
> tech field? Did it start as some kind of joke and get out of hand? A
> quick Google search suggests that it was popularized with
> http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/02/welcome-to-the-unicorn-club/, which
> offers no particular justification for the term beyond “to us, it means
> something extremely rare, and magical.”
> Tom
> _______________________________________________
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Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney

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