In 2013, Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” to refer to the growing field of startups with $1 billion valuations. At the time, she was a year into her role as a founder and managing partner of Cowboy Ventures, and her team was preparing a now-influential internal report examining how (and how often) companies with these massive valuations tend to emerge. Her summary of the report, published by TechCrunch, revealed some insightful datapoints, such as: Only a minority of unicorns ever made a fundamental “pivot,” most unicorn founders started their companies in their 30s (not their 20s), and more founders and co-founders came from Stanford than any other single institution.
Her team’s research also revealed that only 2 of the 39 unicorns they studied had female co-founders, a finding that catalyzed her advocacy for increased diversity in technology startups. She is a founding member of All Raise, a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing the representation of women in the venture-backed tech ecosystem.
Prior to founding Cowboy Ventures, Lee spent more than a decade at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She earned her BS from MIT and holds a MBA from Harvard University.
This appearance by Aileen Lee is part of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series. Join us live as we bring founders, investors and industry influencers to center stage and invite them to share what it takes to become a disruptor.