The deconstruction of a European Unicorn CEO


As the term unicorn turns five years old, The Up Group sought to better understand the leadership teams of these businesses. Much is written about figurehead CEOs like Musk, Bezos and Zuckerberg but the story in Europe is a one of a stable team at the helm of these businesses.


We analysed 40 Unicorns and post-Unicorns* and their current and previous leadership and found a story of stability. What emerges is that European Unicorns are started by teams of usually two or three people, and that leadership is stable for over a decade. When CEO succession does occur, the overwhelming majority find successors internally. Mirroring the challenges in listed corporate companies, gender diversity is an issue with these business, with only five female founders of the 92 studied.


All of our findings can be found in the infographic here, and is part of our recent article in The Future CEO.

*The Up Group defines post-Unicorns as billion dollar valued companies that have subsequently listed or IPO’d.

Unicorn image made by Freepik from is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

InsightCatherine Adams