Technology today is continuously driven by consumerism where, quantity tops quality, consumption precedes creation, and the rat race to get the maximum number of users for their product makes companies indulge in practices that put the need to earn maximum revenue before anything else.
Globally, venture capital reached nearly $130 billion in 2018 in the first half. Hence, VCs are understandable in their approach to fund ‘unicorns’, companies which would give them multiple times the return on their investment. But the quality and ethical aspect of these companies might be compromised in a bid to justify the investor’s valuation.
As a founder, it’s important to know what success means for your startup and how it impacts your overall goal, company culture and hiring practices. Success is a huge word and to define it for your own self is a big responsibility. Being a unicorn is a tricky proposition. In order to grow, these companies have to often incur losses.
And this where the question arises- ‘Do you want to be a unicorn or a zebra?’ Zebra companies are characterised by doing real business, not aiming to disrupt markets, achieving profitability and along with it, solving a societal problem.
They are both “black and white”, meaning that they are both for- profit and at the same time, working for a cause. These business are focused on alleviating social, environmental and medical challenges, while also maintaining profits and hence, have a “double bottom-line.”
It has become more of a moral responsibility to create products that don’t just make the company financially strong, but also alleviates the society from its current position.
The zebra movement owes its momentum to female entrepreneurs in sectors traditionally dominated by the male population. The nature of zebra companies is very much aligned with the characteristics women possess in their business acumen and who prefer to take lesser risks and grow their business profitably and in a sustainable manner, even if that means growing at a slower pace.
Moreover, India is a huge nation. The nature of diversity that exists in the country has problems which are exclusive to the particular area. To succeed here, companies must look at solving local problems.
The essence of this movement can be gauged by the following sentences- ‘To build humane technology — to build anything humane — we must support the people who personally experience a problem and bravely create solutions born of this lived experience.’
Promoting diversity among entrepreneurs, and especially encouraging women to contribute a lot more to the ecosystem, will benefit each participant of the game and would be vital to elevate new businesses while viewing the world from a more diverse perspective.
Authored by Manan Trivedi