The Unicorn

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

The Unicorn - Notre Dame 1 Year Masters Degree ESTEEM

There is a name, in the design world, for someone who has a great design aesthetic and has UX (user experience) or UI (user interface) skills. They call this person a "Unicorn". A mythical creature who has both skills, to the creative director, is almost unbelievable. Can the same be said in the business world? Does the tech person, with business chops exist, and, if so, can they be produced?

Obviously the tech/business person exists, we've seen it in founders like Twitter's Jack Dorsey who was a tech person, with skills in both web development and dispatch logistics, and an incredibly savvy business person - though not educated in business. Dorsey, instead, was able to gain his business skills through experience. It's something we see often in the startup world - tech folks who have gained their business experience simply through being forced; they've had to grow up on the job. For some this growing up quickly has helped, look at the success of Twitter and, for Dorsey, the newer success of Square, which drew on skills he only acquired while on the job - having very little to do with the technical side of the company. 

However, this model of only having tech skills and hoping to acquire business experience on the job can be hit or miss. While it worked for Dorsey, we cannot look at this as a model for continued success. We in the startup community and in education need to find ways to build a model to create the most "unicorns" as possible. 

We, at ESTEEM, were able to understand that it's much harder and takes longer to teach the more technical skills like coding, engineering, health sciences, etc - so take students who already have those skills and teach them how to apply those skills to business. The business skills are not necessarily easier to learn quickly but they are able to be applied more easily in projects to teach students how to create sustainable businesses out of ideas they were able to build with their technical skills. For example - if you are a student who has an idea for creating a new type of solar panel, it's easier to teach that student how to sell that idea rather than teach that student how to create that technology. 

This model is only one of many where the startup community has realized that the startup leaders might be better as unicorns. Do you have ideas on how to mold future business leaders? Or do you think we even need unicorns?