Cockroaches, Donkeys, Unicorns: The (cool) Animal Kingdom in the Start-up Ecosystem

Credit: The Economic Times

Of all the animals describing businesses in the start-up ecosystem, the unicorn is the most desirable. It is regarded as one of the most popular mythical creatures and is often portrayed as a white horse with a horn erupting from its forehead.

The term became synonymous with success in the ecosystem circa 2013. Thanks to Aileen Lee who put ‘unicorn’ in a report about a minority of start-ups in a league of their own.

There began the relationship between animals and businesses.

Every start-up aspires to the sometimes-elusive unicorn status; that exalted stage signalling a valuation of over $1B.

It’s a beautiful one too, as the legendary beast symbolises purity, innocence and power.

But did you know that the start-up lexicon is brimming with other animals too? Camels, cockroaches, dragons, donkeys, gazelles, mosquitoes, rhinos, zebras . . .

They might not be as exclusive or as lofty-sounding as the unicorn, but they certainly have their uses and advantages in the start-up landscape.

The animal kingdom in the start-up ecosystem

Animal Roll Call

No introductions needed.
This is the dream of every founder.
Follow a business model that incentivizes shareholder value at all costs.
To belong in the over $1B valuation club within the first decade of operations.
To achieve rarity and alchemy.
And be listed within the same sentence as Alibaba, Google, Flutterwave, Andela, Chipper Cash, Uber, Netflix, etc.

Can survive in desert situations of cash-strapped, volatile markets.
Create value with or without funding.
Not overly dependent on large funding rounds.
Take a long-term approach and manage burn rate effectively.
Ready for any downturn that might occur.

Strong grasp of the product-market fit (PMF)
Bootstrapped, lean operations.
Sustainable growth, self-funded
A unicorn that turned out to be overvalued
No layoffs and still hiring!

“In 2023, we may see more cockroach start-ups at seed stage as the mortality in this stage is the highest,” Yagnesh Sanghrajka, Founder & CFO of 100X VC.

Annoying insects but possess excellent qualities.
Focus on profitability instead of growth.
Less risky.
Built to last and have the resilience and adaptability of an insect.
Can withstand challenging times and keep going; always find a way to keep moving forward.
Agile, quick to adapt to changes in their environment, and have a strong foundation that helps to weather any storm.
What founders should aspire to.
Interestingly, most unicorns were cockroaches before attaining their legendary status. Think Google and Facebook. In Nigeria, one such cockroach start-up is Gokada, the motorcycle-hailing company. A notable example in America is SurveyMonkey.

Tend to grow (run) quickly, doubling revenue every 4 – 5 years.
Investors love them.
Often found in Africa
Create good employment opportunities.
Important for the growth of a nation.
Found more among tech start-ups.
Apple, Meta and Amazon fall under this category.

“A start-up is like a mosquito. . .a mosquito is designed for one thing: to score. No energy is wasted on defence. The defence of mosquitoes, as a species, is that there are a lot of them, but this is little consolation to the individual mosquito. Start-ups, like mosquitoes, tend to be an all-or-nothing proposition. And you don’t generally know which of the two you’re going to get till the last minute.” – Paul Graham, Y Combinator

No grey areas; life is black and white.
Conservative, responsible and solves real problems.
Shy away from venture funding.
Follow a business model that adheres to principles of mutualism, shared property, and multi-stakeholder value.
Collaborate with their kind.
Create sustainable value.
Fuse purpose and profit.
Adopt a holistic ethos.

Others not featured here include dragons, rhinos and mosquitoes. There could be more contributing to the plethora of interesting activities in the start-up ecosystem.

As a founder, what animal-speak business are you building?

Here’s some advice from Sam Jacobs, CEO @ Pavilion, if you’re still undecided about where you stand: Date a unicorn. Marry a donkey.

To this, GetFundedAfrica adds: Become a cockroach!

Related: Meet the 7 FinTech Unicorns in Africa

About GetFundedAfrica

GetFundedAfrica is building Africa’s largest tech-enabled marketplace, connecting African founders with global mentors, coaches, corporates, investors, and government. Whether you want to raise funds ranging from $100, 000 to $50m or you simply want to grow your business, sign up for free at:

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button