Pinterest is turning into an 'undercorn,' the latest Silicon Valley buzzword that could define this year's crop of IPOs

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderPinterest CEO Ben Silbermann.
  • Pinterest is gearing up for an IPO which would place its value at $US11.3 billion.
  • This is $US1 billion less than the company was previously valued.
  • “Unicorn” companies – i.e. companies worth more than $US1 billion – who go public at valuations lower than their private valuations are sometimes called “undercorns.”
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In a filing on Monday, image sharing and pinning service Pinterest revealed its IPO plans to sell 75 million shares at a price between $US15 and $US17.

The pricing caps Pinterest’s public valuation at a maximum of $US11.3 billion – even though it was most recently valued by at $US12.3 billion.

Being valued at well over a billion dollars means Pinterest has easily surpassed the so-called unicorn status, but being valued at less than it was previously means Pinterest qualifies for another, more obscure piece of venture capitalist lingo.

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A New York Times piece about Pinterest’s newest valuation refers to the social media company as an “undercorn.” The word “undercorn” appears to have been coined circa 2014 by business journalist Dan Primack. Primack’s original definition, as chronicled by venture capital blogger Ian Sigalow, pertained to a company which achieved unicorn status (i.e. a valuation over $US1 billion) and then fell back below this valuation.

However, the term seems to have evolved since then to mean a unicorn that goes public at a price below its most recent private market valuation. It has found at least some fertile ground with VCs. In 2017, the cofounder of VC firm Costanoa Ventures Greg Sands dressed up as an undercorn for Halloween.

A startup that becomes an undercorn will by definition leave some of its VC backers with a loss on their investment. And it’s a blemish on the growth narrative that’s at the core of a tech startup’s identity.

But the stain may not be permanent. As the New York Times points out, Box and Square both went public as “undercorns” and now each enjoy market caps well above their private market valuations.

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