Unicorns and agency theory: Agreeable moral hazard?
The number of unicorns, startups valued over $1 billion, has steadily risen over the past decade. The abnormally high valuation of a unicorn from investors is based on their potential to disrupt a market and create a new paradigm. With this as the backdrop, this piece asks the question, what theoretical tools do we have to understand unicorns? Specifically, we explore agency theory. We argue that if principals and agents agree on the goal of disruption, then perhaps the agency problem that does occur in unicorns is beneficial, not a cost. Further, we argue that the principals of unicorns do want agents to take higher than normal risks with their investment to disrupt a given market. From this phenomenon, we introduce the concept of agreeable moral hazard and its use in the unicorn setting. Not only does the concept of agreeable moral hazard provide theoretical implications for future research, but it also highlights the need for more research to test existing theory on the unicorn population.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Birton J. Cowden, Joshua S. Bendickson, Jerrica Bungcayao, Simona Womack
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