Lately I've been on a tear, submitting ideas to the innovation arm of our firm. The exhilaration of pitching to and corralling the troops (herding the cats), carries a certain je ne sais quoi (translated in English - hard to put in words).

Getting back to the topic at hand, an interesting reflection has emerged during these sessions. The words disruption, inflection point, prevalent a few years ago, still have some reminiscence with the old watch dogs. So, here's to to all the entra/intraprenuers, who dream of the Unicorns, on alternatives that you may want to pursue.

Side note: A Unicorn is a startup that is valued at or greater than an Billion dollars. Also, If you're interested in Innovation, here's a good primer: The 3 types of innovation and their varying values 

Cockroaches: As the term and real life experiences can attest to, cockroaches are pests - they just have a nack to survive. Similarly, unlike unicorns who are usually more about growth vs profitability (ex: Uber, AirBnB...etc), cockroaches, strive for incremental growth and profitability day one vs exponential growth/Loss (aka: the Hockey stick effect). The founders may not be venture capital (VC) darlings, but just like their cover page counterparts, are passionate and driven. 

Zebras: Sometime ago, I came across this headline: "Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break" - never fully agreed with the statement, but it's an interesting quote. Zebra's and Unicorns primarily differ in the context of capitalist approach. Unicorns according to academia, are self promoting, self preserving entities, driven by greater than 10x+ returns for investors. Zebras on the other hand, while driven by capitalism also have a social purpose. With a social purpose, social dynamics start playing a role in their success or demise. Have a look at The company has its roots in an industry that most shy away from - Death. But if you look closer, it serves a business purpose, coupled with Humanness and Empathy!

Camels: Camels and Zebras are somewhat similar in nature. Both look to have 2x-5x returns (profitable). Camels, like zebras, cockroaches and unicorns, start off by solving a business or consumer problem. Unlike the Unicorns though, profits and operational controls are a priority vs exponential growth. Sustaining continuous margins is the name of the game!

To my visionaries - If you've a got a billion dollar idea, your business strategy (how to extract value), should take into consideration time horizons. Are you playing the long game with a sustained competitive advantage or is the exit strategy to have VC's invest and grow exponentially. At the early stages of the venture, the firm is a reflection of the founders vision and overtime it may reflect someone else's - if you let it!

No one said that the alternatives can't become Unicorns from a valuation perspective; the journey might be a little longer, but oh so sweet!