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The magic world of startups

Unicorns, centaurs and decacorns exist. They’ve living in our world for a long time, we just didn’t realize it. And of course, we are not pulling anyone’s leg, we are absolutely serious. You don’t believe me?

Fair enough, let me give you an example of a former unicorn: Google.

You see? They have been with us all this time and we haven’t even realized it. But after reading this article, you will be able to distinguish different magical creatures- and to better understand the theory of evolution in the world of startups.

Evolution in a nutshell

Darwin’s theory of evolution can be applied to species, but not to business. When it comes to startups, the new view of evolution advocates that ponies become centaurs as they grow up, then transform into unicorns and finally become decacorns.

However, we are not talking about animals, but about companies with “fantastic” valuations. Depending on their valuation, they are named ponies, centaurs, unicorns or decacorns, and, as their value increases, they change their denomination.


This evolution has come eventually since at the beginning only unicorns existed. This term first appeared in Silicon Valley, where Aileen Lee used the word “unicorn” to refer to less-than-10-years-old startups valued at $1 billion. From that moment onwards, many other terms have been created to designate different startups depending on their value. And nowadays there are so many terms that it has become kind of a joke, so we will be reviewing some of the most popular and used ones to avoid (further) confusion.


Also called “little ponies” is the term used to describe those companies valued at $10 million. Ponies manage to successfully develop their businesses and intend to maintain and increase their valuation.

Some current examples of ponies include Backtype, Blink Booking.


It would consist of the evolution of “ponies” since centaur companies are valued at more than $100 million. Within the 91 examples funded by the European Innovation Council (EIC), we find Hailo, from the  digital industry, Azelio, from the green industry, and BONESUPPORT, which belongs to the health industry. These were the leading EIC centaurs in their respective sectors in 2021.belongs to the health industry. These were the leading EIC centaurs in their respective sectors in 2021.


This is the term used to refer to startups valued at $1 billion, so it is the evolution of centaurs. Some examples of EIC unicorns, whose focus is on health and well-being, include: CELLINK, BioArctic, both focusing on the health and biotech field, and SWORD Health, which mainly focuses on health.


Finally, we have decacorns, which are those startups valued at $10 billion. This would mean the last stage of evolution of companies and, although most of them are found in the US or China, European decacorns are also starting to become more and more present around the globe. Some examples of European decacorns include: Revolut, Wise, Deliveroo, Adyen.


As the world changes and evolves, more and more startups are created, and so are the terms used to name them, so from now on, if you start seeing terms such as hectocorns, pegasus or dragons, don’t worry, you are not reading a fantasy book, it’s part of the startups evolution in the business world!

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