So you want to become a unicorn

Ethan Steininger
5 min readApr 13, 2023


Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.

I’ve bet my career on this quote, and it’s more true than ever in the age of A.I. where software is democratized.

A prevailing concern is that A.I. will upend the labor market, rendering large segments of the population jobless. While this scenario may hold truth, the silver lining is in the surge of productivity. As the ability to build and sell becomes commonplace, the opportunities for anyone to establish businesses multiplies.

Luckily the ability to build and sell is as formulaic as it gets….


Become a Generalist

You need a broad understanding of the entire technology stack. This includes front-end, back-end, databases, cloud services, third party services and more. By being a generalist, you will not only be able to build awesome products, but you’ll be able to position how your product fits into the customers’ wider ecosystem.

Learn Every Layer of the Tech Stack Through Projects

Hands-on experience is the best way to learn and understand the complexities of the tech stack. Work on various projects that challenge you to explore different layers of technology. These projects can range from building simple web applications to creating complex data processing systems. The more diverse the experience, the better.

I always recommend people start with a simple To-Do app, then enhance it with authentication, deploy it, scale it, etc.

See my Github for inspiration:

Create a GitHub Account

Showcase your projects and demonstrate your expertise. Additionally, this will give you access to a wealth of resources and a community of like-minded individuals to learn from and collaborate with.

Create an Intuitive README Walkthrough

An intuitive README walkthrough is crucial in helping others understand your work and can serve as a useful resource when presenting your project to potential clients or employers.

An example of what good looks like:

Sales is 90% education. I just made that percentage up, however the value in educating prospects is critical. They need to look at you and your product as a leader in the space.

Package It Up

Once you have completed a project, package it up into a clean, well-organized structure. This includes organizing your code into modular components, making it easier for others to understand and maintain. Additionally, ensure that your code is well-documented, with clear comments and explanations for the logic behind your decisions.

I’ve been into the concept of MVSC lately.

Deploy It

Doing so, you will learn about various deployment environments, servers, and cloud platforms. This knowledge is essential for a sales engineer, as it will allow you to recommend appropriate deployment strategies and platforms to your clients.

Accept Feedback and Iterate

Be open to feedback and continuously improve your projects. Listen to what others have to say about your work, and use their input to refine your projects. This will not only make you a better developer but also a more leader.


Figure Out Which 2–3 Distribution Channels You’re Best At

Find the most effective distribution channels for your product. Focus on the 2–3 channels where you have the most success, whether it’s social media, email marketing, or trade shows. By concentrating your efforts on these channels, you can optimize your reach and increase the likelihood of closing deals.

A not so comprehensive summary of the most popular growth channels:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): improving the visibility and ranking of your website on search engines.
  2. Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC): placing ads on search engines or social media platforms to drive traffic to your website.
  3. Social Media Marketing: promoting your brand and products on social media platforms to increase visibility and engagement.
  4. Email Marketing: sending newsletters, promotions, and updates to a targeted email list to drive sales and engagement.
  5. Influencer Marketing: collaborating with social media influencers to promote your products or services to their audience.
  6. Content Marketing: creating and distributing valuable content to attract and engage your target audience.
  7. Referral Marketing: encouraging your existing customers to refer new customers to your business.
  8. Affiliate Marketing: partnering with affiliates who promote your products or services and earn a commission on sales.
  9. Community Building: creating a community around your brand or product to increase engagement and loyalty.
  10. Events and Conferences: attending or hosting events and conferences to connect with potential customers and partners.

Collect a KPI and Optimize Them

Identify the most relevant KPIs for your distribution channels, such as conversion rates, click-through rates, or the number of leads generated. Continuously monitor these KPIs and make data-driven decisions to optimize your sales strategies.

Figure Out Your Products’ Sales Methodology

Once you have identified your KPIs, you need to define your sales process, including the stages of your sales funnel and the key metrics that you will track at each stage. For example, if your sales funnel has four stages (lead generation, lead qualification, proposal, and closing), you may track KPIs like number of leads generated, lead-to-opportunity conversion rate, proposal-to-win ratio, and average deal size.

Scale Your Workforce Around It

As your sales efforts start to yield results, you will scale your workforce. Hire and train new unicorns who understand your products’ technical capabilities and can effectively sell to potential clients. By building a team of skilled unicorns, you can ensure the long-term success.

Further Reading

MEDDPICC — a widely-used sales qualification methodology that helps sales professionals to qualify and prioritize leads effectively. The acronym stands for the following components, which sales reps use to assess the quality and potential of a deal.

Design Thinking Toolkit — a problem-solving methodology that prioritizes empathy, experimentation, and collaboration to address complex challenges and create innovative solutions.

Follow our progress for applying this at