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Unicorns are a vanity metric in the UK’s buzzword bingo scaleup dream

Scaleup powerhouse speech

Tech unicorns are so-named to reflect the rarity of their mythical namesake. But a goal to make the UK a “scaleup powerhouse” by making the country home to half of all unicorns in Europe by 2030 shows that it is the government which is in fantasyland.

The focus on unicorns – a privately held startup valued at $1bn or more – feels sorely misplaced.

It is purely a vanity measure. Hitting a certain valuation doesn’t necessarily equate to a company spreading wealth or social mobility across different parts of the country.

It also doesn’t mean the company is on track for future success – plenty of unicorns fail. In the UK, we’ve seen events startup Hopin’s valuation plummet from $7.8bn to key assets being sold for up to £39m. Telehealth startup Babylon, once valued at nearly $2bn, went bankrupt last year....