This study holistically examined the startup companies in China that have quickly achieved unicorn status (that is, a $1 billion dollar plus valuation). To explore this phenomenon, the study used a two-phased case study methodology. In the first phase, the study explored the paths, positions, and processes that enabled the growth of all 68 Chinese unicorn firms. In the second phase, an in-depth ... [Show full abstract] cross-case analysis of two firms was performed. The two-phased study surfaced nine themes and three propositions relating to how the development of Chinese unicorns is enabled by strategic alliances, strong government relationships, and founders with unique backgrounds and capabilities. This is one of the first studies to explore the unicorn phenomenon in the context of Chinese firms, and the findings from this study have laid the foundation for the study of the Chinese unicorn phenomenon.