Welcome to the startup and scaleup zoo

David Dickson
Director, Advisory
15 May 2023
4 minute read

David is the director of Superscript’s advisory and broking services. His team supports high-growth, digital businesses across the world, ensuring they get access to best-in-class insurance products and services.

My toddler is currently obsessed with animals, including a little toy unicorn (that they wrongly identified as a 'horse'). This got me thinking...

In the startup and scaleup world, unicorns are viewed as mythical, rare and widely pined-for creatures. But in the current economic climate in the tech space, perhaps our focus on achieving ‘unicorn status’ has become something of a distraction. The focus is now on long term sustainable growth and profitability, instead of growth at any cost.

With this in mind, is it time to open the gates to the zoo and meet some other aspirational animals that deserve their time in the limelight?

1. Cheetah – the successful disruptor

Cheetahs are known for their speed and agility, which allows them to catch their prey with lightning-fast reactions. These qualities are similarly crucial when seeking to shake up an established market with innovative new approaches or technology.

Tech disruptors need to be quick and agile to catch their competitors or incumbents off-guard and revolutionise the industry with new and innovative technologies or business models.

Like the cheetah, successful disruptors need to be nimble and quick on their feet, constantly adapting to changes in the market and staying ahead of the curve to maintain their competitive edge.

2. Crow – the innovator

Crows are known for their intelligence and creativity, often using innovative problem-solving techniques to find food and build nests. Similarly, innovators in tech need to be creative and resourceful, coming up with new, forward-thinking ideas to solve complex problems or create unique products or services.

Like the crow, successful innovators need to be curious and constantly seek new solutions to challenges, thinking outside the box and leveraging their intelligence and creativity to push boundaries and achieve success.

3. Coyote – the quick win hunter

Coyotes are known for their ability to adapt quickly to changing environments and for their opportunistic feeding behavior, often taking advantage of any available food source.

Some tech startups and scaleups are choosing to focus on building and scaling up rapidly, often with the aim of increasing market share, revenue or valuation, and sometimes with short-term exit ambitions. Like the coyote, these businesses also need to be nimble and adaptable to navigate changing market conditions and remain successful over the long term.

4. Beaver – the impact-driver

Beavers are known for their role as ecosystem engineers, creating dams and altering the landscape by creating wetlands that support a diverse range of plant and animal life. By creating these habitats, beavers help to improve water quality, increase biodiversity, and support the overall health of the ecosystem.

Some tech startups and scaleups focus on creating positive environmental impact through the use of technology or by employing sustainable business practices. These businesses seek to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve natural resources, or develop new technologies that promote environmental sustainability.

Like the beaver, these businesses can have a significant positive impact on the environment in which they operate.

5. Wolf – the lifestyle business

Wolves are known for their strong social bonds and their dedication to providing for their pack. They work together to hunt and gather food, protect their territory, and raise their young.

Many startups and scaleups are operating with similar principles, with their main motivation being generating a sustainable income for its founders, rather than pursuing rapid growth or massive scale. Like the wolf, these businesses prioritise the well-being of their community and work together to achieve their shared objectives.

6. Elephant – the supporter

Elephants are known for their intelligence, social behavior, and their role in supporting the ecosystem around them. They are often seen as protectors of other animals, particularly during droughts or other times of hardship, when they dig wells to provide water for themselves and other species.

In the tech world, some startups and scaleups are adopting a similar approach, providing products or services that help other businesses to succeed. These businesses may offer mentorship, coaching, products, services or platforms that enable their customers to achieve their goals and reach their full potential.

Like the elephant, these businesses could be seen as protectors and providers, playing an important role in supporting the success and well-being of those around them.

7. Bee – the profit deliverer

Bees are known for their role as pollinators, making them vital to the success of many crops and plant species. They are also known for their ability to create honey, which can be sold as a profitable product. However, in order to maintain their profitability, beekeepers must ensure that they maintain the health of their hives, keep their bees safe from harm, and manage their hives in a sustainable manner.

An increasing number of startups and scaleups are adopting a similar approach, focusing on achieving profitability in the short-term, and making this sustainable in the longer term. Like the bee, these businesses may be focused on creating value for their shareholders and investors while also contributing to the overall health and well-being of the ecosystem in which they operate.

This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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