Where do 'unicorns' come from? Ponies and centaurs, of course


500 Startups unicorn

Biz Carson/Business Insider

Dave McClure in a unicorn rainbow hoodie, explaining centaurs and ponies.

Ponies grow up to be centaurs who then transform into unicorns - or at least that's one Silicon Valley investor's view of evolution.


At 500 Startups Demo Day, Dave McClure took the stage in a rainbow unicorn hoodie and introduced the audience to some new classifications of startups.

"Unicorn" is already a widely-used term to describe companies with valuations over $1 billion. While this used to be a rare club, the pen is getting pretty crowded with more than 120 companies now qualifying as a unicorn.

But what about those who haven't cracked the three-commas club?

Meet the centaurs and ponies of startup land.


The "centaurs" are companies who have a valuation of more than $100 million, according to McClure's introduction. 500 Startups has spawned 25 of them.

A league below are the "ponies," or startups who have a valuation of more than $10 million. The 500 Startups accelerator program has bred between 200 and 300 of them, McClure claims.

So far, McClure is the only one we've heard use this terminology. We're awaiting the first startup pitch that uses one of these terms in earnest.