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How to Build a Unicorn

April 7th, 2017

This article is about how to build a billion dollar startup. If you’re not serious about building the next Facebook, Google, or Uber, you can stop reading now. Seriously, small-fry entrepreneurs with dreams of lifestyle businesses are not welcome here. This is a future billionaire zone.

Step 1

There are 8 steps to build a Unicorn. The first step in building a Unicorn is to decide to build a Unicorn. The fact that you’re still reading this article means you’ve already completed this step.

Probably your bank account, after reading this paragraph.

Congratulations, you’ve built 12.5% of a Unicorn, meaning your startup’s valuation is already at least $125,000,000.

Step 2

The next step is one of the hardest, and really will weed out the “wannabe entrepreneurs” (I’m talking about you, DHH). So here’s Step 2: you have to emulate other great founders of Billion Dollar Companies. The best way to do this is to sell your house, sell your all your stuff, and abandon your family, friends, and children (if applicable). Then you need to move to San Francisco, rent a 100 square foot closet (for approximately $3000 a month), and stock up on Soylent and Adderall.

Pictured: you, filling your consumption-hole with “nutritious fluids”.

Every day for the next 12 months, you will be consuming 5 bottles of Soylent and enough Adderall to maintain a healthy amount of bodily vibration. Soylent is a liquid meal replacement that removes the need to purchase, prepare, or enjoy food. Adderall is a stimulant that will make you smart and sweaty, with absolutely zero side effects. Together, they will transform you into a Zuckerbergian monstrosity who is practically guaranteed to bring a company to IPO within a few months.

Step 3

I’m going to assume you’ve completed Step 2, and that you are reading Step 3 from beautiful San Francisco. Step 3 involves becoming one with Y Combinator. For those of you not familiar with YCombinator, YCombinator is a mythical entity that turns shmucks like you into successful startup founders in exchange for a measly 7% of your startup, which in your case will be worth at least $70,000,000.

Beautiful downtown San Francisco, just 1 block from your $3000, 100 square foot closet.

For this $70,000,000 worth of equity in your soon-to-be Unicorn, they will provide you with access to a number of inspirational speeches, free snacks (mostly coffee and Soylent, and sometimes caffeinated Soylent), and most importantly, $150,000 in cash, which is just enough to cover your rent, food, taxes, and expenses for the next few weeks of living in San Francisco.

But to cash out on this sweet deal, you will need to study up. Specifically, you will need to memorize every Paul Graham essay. All Unicorn founders have memorized these essays, and you will be quizzed on them frequently and when you least expect it. You will also need to nitpick and criticize every single article submitted to HackerNews, YCombinator’s forum.

Pictured: you at the birth of your child, being quizzed by Paul Graham (posing as a doctor) about Paul Graham’s essays.

This is a crucial step that many founder mess up — remember Digg? MySpace? Pets.com? No? It’s no coincidence that none of them criticized every single article on HackerNews.

Step 4

Great, you’ve read and memorized every Paul Graham essay, and are tearing apart the hopes and dreams of literally everyone who posts literally anything on HackerNews. This should be enough to grant you access to YCombinator, meaning that you can move onto Step 4.

Step 4 is an easy one — all you have to do is burn Venture Capital cash every day as a sacrificial offering to Google AdWords. Yes, burn — as in, actually incinerate buckets of cash.

Quick tip: Your Burn Rate is the amount of days you have left before you either become a Billion Dollar Company or a complete and total failure. To calculate your Burn Rate, divide the amount of Venture Capital cash that you have by the amount that you are sacrificially burning each day. Normally, a burn rate calculation would involve revenue, so it’s a good thing you don’t have any because factoring that in would be a real pain.

Step 5

Step 5 is keeping yourself on a Ballmer Peak, 24/7. For those of you who don’t know about a Ballmer Peak, it is a magical Blood Alcohol Content level that takes the edge off of being so goddamn successful. Here is a video of Steve Ballmer, who was always on a Ballmer Peak.

You want to be about as drunk as Steve Ballmer is sweaty.

This step presents a number of challenges. First, you’re going to need to bring alcohol everywhere. Luckily, all Billion Dollar Companies have beer on tap, so you can emulate them by getting a couple of kegs for the crawlspace that is your apartment. Second, you’ll need to separate any Ballmer Peak alcohol away from the burning bundles of Venture Capital cash — your burn rate will significantly go up if you cause an explosion by mixing the two.

Step 6

Step 6 requires the least effort, but is quite important. You need to start listening to entrepreneurial e-books, podcasts, and courses while you sleep. Much like how many parents teach their babies to play the piano by having them listen to Mozart while they nap, you too will benefit from the wise words of Silicon Valley gurus whispering in your ear while you slumber.

Pictured: you, being lulled to sleep by Elon Musk’s musings at full volume.

You will wake up smarter every day, having gained invaluable startup knowledge the night before through intellectual osmosis. Don’t worry if you begin to have nightmares about personal improvement or mindfulness. This is normal. This is all very normal.

Step 7

Alright, this is the second to last step, and it’s actually pretty easy. You just need to literally sign your soul away to TechCrunch in exchange for having your almost Unicorn mentioned in a listicle. Although selling your soul sounds like a real bummer, getting on TechCrunch is really quite important. I mean can you name any Billion Dollar Company that hasn’t been mentioned in a listicle on TechCrunch?

Step 8

Wow, you’ve almost made it. Your startup is already worth $875,000,000, not that this valuation means much — after all, rounding down, your startup is worth exactly zero billion dollars.

Pictured: your startup’s valuation, in billions.

Anyways, the final step is to commit some white collar felonies for which you won’t be prosecuted. I dunno, maybe don’t pay your taxes, or make threats to journalists, or simply require employees to break the law for you.

This will surely increase your startup’s valuation to $1,000,000,000, meaning you can finally say that you’ve built a Unicorn! If you fucked something up along the way, Basecamp has a great blog post about how to skip these 8 bullshit steps and go straight to a $100,000,000,000 MegaCorn valuation.

All that’s left to do is dismantle your entire company immediately, so that its valuation never has a chance to slip beneath $1,000,000,000.

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