Just imagine if you were the tenth employee at Facebook. Your professional and financial growth would of course be remarkable. Some early employees at unicorn companies, startups worth more than $1 billion, spend years rising through the ranks at a successful company. Others parlay their good fortune into leverage to find more senior roles at less well-known organizations.

Either way, finding a job at the next unicorn tech company can be a career-defining move that sets you up for long-term success. So, how can you identify a unicorn in the making? Here are a few signs to look at for while interviewing with tech startups.

Is the founder uniquely gifted?
It doesn’t take a business expert to realize that the world’s most successful tech companies were blessed with gifted founders or co-founders capable of seeing the future and understanding how to get there.

Jobs, Zuckerberg, Gates, Musk, Thiel — the list goes on and on. All are or were incredibly smart, adventurous, and tenacious business people capable of building an empire from scratch. If history is to serve as any indication, you’re more likely to find yourself at a unicorn company if you join an organization with uniquely talented leadership.

I’m not just talking about finding a company with a charismatic CEO who talks a good game. I’m talking about finding a company with a leader who is so plainly intelligent that you are intimidated having a simple conversation with them.

Is the company operating in an uncontested market?
In Zero to One, a book about entrepreneurship by Peter Thiel, he notes that most unicorn companies are category creating enterprises. Thiel writes, “the best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else even tries to solve.”

Look for companies that are operating in markets without other direct competitors. Before Airbnb, there was no other company working on the problem of matching travelers to homeowners with spare rooms. Before Uber, there was no other company working on the problem of matching drivers with black cars.


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