Hubert Palan signed on to Zoom from his home in Oakland, Calif., on Feb. 2 and prepared to address the 400 or so employees at his startup, Productboard Inc. As chief executive officer, he had big news: Productboard had just raised a new round of funding at a valuation of $1.7 billion. That meant the company could now officially call itself a unicorn—the term for a startup that investors deem worth $1 billion or more.
Palan, a wide-smiling 43-year-old father of two from the Czech Republic, tried to make the video call a celebratory moment. “I was jumping around over Zoom,” he says. “I was like, ‘Yay!’ ” He took out a unicorn-shaped Christmas ornament, which he’d decorated with a small sticker of the Productboard logo and attached to a long chain. He hung the ornament around his neck. He whooped and cheered, along with his staff—though he couldn’t hear them because they were all on mute.