The scale-up guide to UNICORN status: 5 steps for growth
Elusive, intriguing, and magical - both the mythical creature and company status share the same term, originally coined by Aileen Lee, the Founder of Cowboy Ventures - to describe "a privately held company that has a value of over $1 billion." At the time of the unicorn definition being created in 2013, there were only 39 companies that could qualify for this "unicorn" status.
Fast forward to now, and there is a new unicorn born every three days. As of March 2022, there are more than 1,000 unicorns around the world and, according to CB Insights, their collective value is approx $1.5 trillion. Examples of real-life unicorns include Uber, Canva, Klarna, Airbnb, and SpaceX.
As a fast-paced and high-growth scale-up, unicorn status might seem like an impossible dream. It probably felt like one to Stripe, Miro and Skims, too, yet they have all succeeded in achieving this elusive status. Here at Bloom, we believe in helping our clients reach for the stars, which is why we have put together your guide to unicorn status.
STEP 1: Dream big
To scale a company that is capable of becoming a unicorn, you need to establish a growth goal and have a clear vision for the future.
A tool that can be used to drive growth is something called a massive transformative purpose, or. an 'MTP.'
An MTP is a highly ambitious goal which drives and encourages a team to think outside of the box. By staying ahead of your competitors, identifying new sales opportunities, and using key performance indicators (KPIs), you can ensure your scale-up is constantly driving forwards.
STEP 2: Cultivate a mission-driven culture
Having a clear mission and objective for your scale-up is absolutely key to unlock business growth.
Take WeWork, for example: one of the most highly-valued unicorns. At the peak of its valuation, it reached $47 billion. WeWork quickly gained the attention of investment bankers who thrust it into the limelight, revealing the cracks in the business. Regardless of its past scandals, WeWork is still standing and has always been mission-driven.
The mission? Well, it is to "always do what you love." You will find this message plastered on signs around the offices and it is on every cup the company has. It goes much deeper than this though; it is part of WeWork's unique company culture and it is reflected in the way it designs offices. If you have set foot inside a WeWork, you will know how happy everyone seems to be at work, the mission works! Despite its failings, WeWork is one of the largest privately-held companies in the world valued at $20 billion.
Establishing a mission-driven company culture from the very beginning is part of the solution to scale-up success.
STEP 3: Create, Innovate, Disrupt
Disruption can help scale-ups reach unicorn status. Whether you are disrupting an industry or using disruptive marketing and advertising, the effect can be huge. This approach can allow scale-ups to achieve a high market share early on, and soon take over as the market leader. Airbnb and Uber are examples of this. Airbnb came into the market with a cheaper, more accessible alternative to a hotel, and Uber replaced taxis.
(Disruptive marketing and advertising can help your scale-up gain attention that it might have otherwise missed. A word of caution *disruptive marketing* is not for every brand and needs to be properly strategised by an expert marketing team...like Bloom).
It's not easy to come up with forward-thinking ideas that could change the world (otherwise we would all be doing it!) That is why innovative scale-ups can be so successful. Another example of a company that is doing just that is, SpaceX.
Valued at $31 billion, SpaceX is one of the top ten most valuable privately-owned companies in the world, and is the reason that the reusable rocket venture is now worth more to Elon Musk than electric cars. That innovative, disruptive idea you have in the shower could be your golden ticket to unicorn status.
STEP 4: Secure the bag
We know firsthand how hyped up the entrepreneurship game can be - and that comes with the glorification of venture capital funding.
But the truth is, if you're building an exciting, truly revolutionary tech business, you need external capital to help you reach your goals. Whether it's to invest in product development, nab the best talent, or infuse some cash into your marketing, the truth is money helps you get there.
This may come from VC funds or PE (Private Equity) firms, but it could also come in the form of a government grant, crowdfunding, or investment from HNWIs as angels. Venture capital funding is the most typical for high-growth tech businesses who are already a few years' in and want to turbocharge their growth - typically for those Seed to Series A/B rounds (which is exactly where Bloom comes in!)
STEP 5: Build mass appeal
Over 60% of unicorn business models revolve around providing affordable products and services to the everyday audience. To improve the lives of the consumer, you need to understand - and anticipate - their wants and needs.
Alongside this, the product needs to be easily accessible to everyone. Unicorns enjoy an incredibly strong value proposition, which is why they are likely to experience high growth.
You can do it!
At the beginning of this blog, we mentioned that although daunting becoming a unicorn is not impossible. If your scale-up follows in the footsteps of some of the successful unicorns we have discussed in this blog, you will find yourself in a better position than many of your competitors.
By focusing on growth, building the right product or service, focusing on your target market, using new tech to help you cut costs, disrupting your industry and being mission-driven, you can increase your likelihood of success.
Nothing worth having comes easy but with hard work, commitment and hyper-focus your scale-up could be joining the 2% unicorn minority.
If you are a high-growth startup or tech scale-up looking to take your marketing to the next level, book a 30-minute no-obligation consultation with the tech industry's favourite brand marketing agency, Bloom.
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