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New Venture Success: Role of Marketing Signals in Funding And Unicorn Status

The role of marketing in startup growth, particularly among unicorns (i.e., private firms valued over $1 billion), has been underexplored in business research. This paper focuses on how unicorns, like Airbnb and Uber prior to their public offerings, leverage customer-focus signals (e.g., customer experience focus and marketing experience of founders) to attract funding and achieve unicorn status. Moreover, we examine the moderating impact of the firm’s business model characteristics (e.g., platform firms, subscription pricing models) and relationships (e.g., investor network, firm acquisitions). Using panel data from 978 startups, we demonstrate that a strong focus on customer experience (CXF) increases the odds of raising funds by 3.74 times. The interaction between CXF and investor networks positively influences funding and unicorn status. However, business model characteristics show no significant interaction effects with CXF. Our findings extend knowledge in marketing, new ventures, and the marketing-finance interface, offering practical insights for investors and founders.