Chapter 7. We’ve Got This Whole Unicorn Thing All Wrong!

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“Unicorn” is the term du jour in Silicon Valley, used to describe a startup with a valuation of more than a billion dollars. Fortune magazine started keeping a list of companies with that exalted status. TechCrunch has a constantly updated “Unicorn Leaderboard.”

But there’s another kind of unicorn that may be even more important, and that’s the breakthrough, once remarkable, that becomes taken for granted. Tom Stoppard wrote eloquently about a unicorn of this sort in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead:

A man breaking his journey between one place and another at a third place of no name, character, population or significance, sees a unicorn cross his path and disappear. That in itself is startling, but there are precedents for mystical encounters of various kinds, or to be less extreme, a choice of persuasions to put it down to fancy; until—“My God,” says a second man, “I must be dreaming, I thought I saw a unicorn.” At which point, a dimension is added that makes the experience as alarming as it will ever be. A third witness, you understand, adds no further dimension but only spreads it thinner, and a fourth thinner still, and the more witnesses there are the thinner it gets and the more reasonable it becomes until it is as thin as reality, the name we give to the common experience…. ...

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