There’s a formula to become a UK unicorn founder

New research reveals what the key to a unicorn business in Britain involves, including the most dominant sector and best possible location

There’s a formula to become a UK unicorn founder

The UK has seen a considerable spike in private companies valued at $1bn in the last decade with 14 currently up and running, including craft beer brewer BrewDog and food delivery service Deliveroo. From fintech to healthtech, founders of these so-called unicorns in Britain have proven they’ve more than got what it takes. And now new research reveals what these founders have in common and how head honchos can whip up the perfect unicorn concoction.

In order to gain a better understanding of the unicorns as a whole, sales recruitment and training agency Pareto Law compared the founders and studied how their companies had evolved over the years to hit the hallowed $1bn valuation. Fintech was found to be the sector with the most unicorns, accounting for 28% of them. Furthermore, 90% of unicorn owners were university educated with 27.2% having attended Oxbridge. For instance, Herman Narula and Rob Whitehead, two of the three founders of gaming technology developer Improbable, both attended Cambridge University. 

Further findings revealed the average age for a founder starting a business was 34, while they would be 41 when their company achieved unicorn status, which ties in well with the fact a firm is usually eight-years-old when hitting the $1bn milestone. However, Parento Law also detailed that 42% of Britain’s unicorn founders were actually under the age of 30 when their business started, including BrewDog’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who were both under 24. Moreover, 46% of the first offices opened by unicorns were in London, while the average number of employees for unicorns was 989.

Having cracked the unicorn recipe, Jonathan Fitchew, CEO of Pareto Law, said: “With the UK proving to be a powerhouse for unicorns we wanted to know exactly what it takes to become a billion-dollar business. There are many similar characteristics of unicorn founders. As technology continues to become more sophisticated it will be interesting to see what the future holds and if fintech will continue to lead the way in the industry.”

While these unicorn founders may share educational backgrounds or similar ages, the key thing that binds them together is their innovative ideas. 

Louisa Cook
Louisa Cook

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