Developing High-Potential Ventures With Skills – Not Venture Capital

Building a venture from startup to “unicorn” – a company worth $1 billion or more - may seem as fantastical as the mythical creature itself. But the entrepreneurs behind companies like Facebook, Amazon, Wayfair and Apple made it happen. So what’s the secret to their success? Research by Dileep Rao, an FIU Business clinical professor of entrepreneurship who studies unicorn entrepreneurs, reveals that just over 6% of unicorn entrepreneurs launched their ventures with venture capital; the remaining 94% developed their product and strategy and launched their company without venture capital.

The path to success opens to all entrepreneurs

This program will change the way we think about entrepreneurship and radically shift the startup culture in South Florida and beyond. When the focus shifts from the idea to the entrepreneur, the path to success opens to all entrepreneurs—even those without funding or networks.

Learn the secrets of the unicorn entrepreneurs

Developing High-Potential Ventures is a new program for entrepreneurs, technologists, students and anyone who wants to grow and scale a business. The first-of-its kind program includes an all-day workshop on Friday, November 9, 2019, followed by eight 3-hour Wednesday evening skill-training seminars held once per month through June 2020. The seminars cover the finance-smart skills, opportunity secrets and strategies of billion-dollar entrepreneurs to help program participants develop the right opportunity and strategy, find the right financing, launch a venture and take off without venture capital. Rao teaches the program along with leading South Florida experts who have launched, advised, financed or built unicorns or mini-unicorns. All sessions are offered both on FIU’s main campus and online.

From bootstrap operations to financial analysis to leadership, the program will teach the skills that unicorn entrepreneurs have used to launch and grow their billion-dollar companies. Participants will learn how America’s unicorn-entrepreneurs and mini-unicorn-entrepreneurs were able to:

  • Develop a growth opportunity
  • Sell without money or history
  • Make customers happier without venture capital
  • Launch your business without venture capital
  • Monitor in real time to grow with control
  • Build organizations for growth and domination
  • Grow from entrepreneur to unicorn entrepreneur
119 new companies joined the global unicorn club

The reality is, business unicorns aren’t that rare—according to CB Insights, there are 360 private companies around the world valued at $1 billion +. Last year, 119 new companies joined the global unicorn club — a 67% increase from the 71 new unicorns in 2017.


Dileep Rao

Dileep Rao

Dileep Rao teaches high-performance entrepreneurship and venture financing at Florida International University. Previously, he financed about 450 ventures using equity, debt, and leases, and managed five turnaround companies. He speaks and consults with corporations and governments in finance-smart business development to grow high-potential ventures with less capital and lower risk.

Rao writes a blog on high-performance entrepreneurship for in addition to blogging for the London School of Economics. He is the author of Nothing Ventured, Everything Gained, which shatters the dominant myth that entrepreneurs need early-stage venture-capital to build giant businesses. He holds two engineering degrees and a doctorate in business administration.

Unicorn Entrepreneurs

Ed Flaherty

Albert Santalo

Lloyd M. Sigel

Joe Martin

Chad Moss

Chad Moss

Chetan N. Patel

Chetan N. Patel

Expert Speakers

Mark Crofton

Jonathan Fichman

Joel Gandara

Greg Gould

Kiomara Hidalgo

Ray Juncosa

Chris McKenney

Raju Mohandas

Raju Mohandas

Gabriel E. Montoya

Gabriel E. Montoya

Ricardo Newark

George Ray III

Nancy Richmond

Jackie Sousa

Tigre Wenrich

Program Schedule


Wednesday, November 20, 2019
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Missionary-Sales Skills: How Unicorn Entrepreneurs Sell Without Money or History
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
6:00 p.m – 9:00 p.m.

Bootstrap Operations Skills: How Unicorn Entrepreneurs Make Customers Happier without VC
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Financial Analysis Skills: Knowing Financial Statements and using them to take off
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m

Financing Skills: How Unicorn Entrepreneurs Finance Businesses to Grow with Control
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Launching Skills: Unicorn Entrepreneurial Strategies to take off without VC
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Controlling Skills: How Unicorn Entrepreneurs Monitor in Real Time to Grow with Control
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Organizing Skills: How Unicorn Entrepreneurs Build Organizations for Growth and Domination
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Leadership Skills: Growing from Entrepreneur to Unicorn Entrepreneur

FIU College of Business
CBC Room 155
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
11200 SW 8th St.
Miami, Florida 33199


Friday, November 8, 2019
9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

FIU College of Business
CBC 155
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
11200 SW 8th St.
Miami, Florida 33199



General Public
in South Florida

FIU alumni, faculty, staff and college students
in South Florida

Workshop and All Seminars*



Workshop Only



*Includes exclusive access to online videos of workshop and all seminars through June 2021

General Public in South Florida Registration

FIU alumni, faculty, staff and college students in South Florida
Student Scholarships

Student Scholarships

There are 50 full-fee scholarships available to FIU and other current South Florida university students. To apply, please submit answers to the following questions (350 words or less in TOTAL). Please be specific in your answers; tell us who you are and what you plan to do.

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Business Skills Competition

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