For centuries, when someone talked about unicorns, everyone knew they were talking about a mythical creature that populated fairy tales. In the last few years, though, investors have jumped all over unicorns as real entities—in this case, startups that were worth $1 billion or more.
But as has been noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the inordinately high number of unicorns in the VC world is now drawing suspicion—especially given the fact that a large percentage of these unicorns end up failing. Digging deeper, it turns out that many of the investments in these startups have been rigged so that the principals and the most recent investors make the most money (a practice known as “dirty term sheets”). And because the companies have been grown and exploited as rapidly as possible, they are not stable and end up imploding, the founders and the employees often losing out.
And, it seems, actually prudent, stable investments like Pipeliner Sales are coming back into fashion.
Behind the scenes, it seems that the only moral that has counted has been the one of, “Make money no matter the cost.” Now that the truth of this viewpoint is being revealed, things are turning back around to where they should be.
Let’s take a close look at a couple of the principles which have been followed, which have most likely contributed to these debacles.
Be First To Market At All Costs
For whatever reason, there has been an assumption that if you are first to market, you then dominate that market. The practice of this principle has been seen in many unicorn companies, that arrive very suddenly and with high profile, everywhere you look.
The logic behind this assumption can be seen to be pretty flimsy. First, if it were uniformly true, you wouldn’t have the SaaS business world as it exists today: There are daily new entrants into the SaaS market, despite products of their types that have been there for years.
Another fact that negates that “necessity to be first to market” is the fact that customer loyalty is not what it was 20 or 30 years ago when this “be first to market” might have counted.
For example, I helped found one of the first Apple dealerships in Austria. How dedicated were we to the Apple brand? We all had Apple bumper stickers on our personal vehicles!
That kind of fierce product loyalty just doesn’t exist today—people have a preference for the product, not the brand. When a better product comes along, people will switch to it, no matter the brand.
So what is the point in that giant—and very costly—push to be first to market, when a customer is going to be watching for a great product—not necessarily yours? You could just as easily take extra time developing a really fantastic product from the bottom up because any customer truly desiring a great product like yours is going to find it up the line.
So all you can really do, if you truly intend to last, is build the best possible product, and attract buyers because you’re providing what they really want. And an additional approach we take at Pipeliner is that we create a great customer loyalty program so that we keep those buyers.
Invest in Lots of Startups
One thing being noted in the press today is the sheer number of unicorns that VC firms have invested in. But when you examine how many of those startups actually make it out the other side—into successful businesses—you see how worthwhile those investments weren’t.
So are all those investments being made because investment firms really want to invest in lots of startups? Or, are they investing in many hoping to recoup losses—and reap rewards—from a few? I truly think it’s the latter.
So if principles such as these have not worked most of the time, what principles will work most of the time?
Let’s start with one that’s been around for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
A Good Product, Desired By Its Target Buyers, Will Always Succeed
In business, the only thing that wins this game is consistency. And the only way you’re going to have consistency is with a great company and a great product, carefully built to last. And it seems that in this “unicorn” environment of the last couple of years, “built to last” wasn’t what was being aimed for. More like, “built to make enough money for us, so we can get in, then get out.”
Another one that is almost a self-evident truth:
Money Alone is Not the Answer to Business Success
While that one might seem ridiculously obvious, given the amount of money that’s been thrown at startups in recent years, and then the amount of cash that’s been liberally thrown about in an effort to be “first to market,” it sure seems it wasn’t obvious to some.
I’m certainly not arguing against money, here. But what I am arguing for is building real capital.
Real Capital: The Pipeliner Example
Here is how we are operating in far more stable stance than these “unicorns”—and why we have continued with 100% year-over-year growth for the last 3 years:
- We are creating a lasting company—not a quick money machine for a few people
- We are building a strong and unique product that is the sound basis for the long-term
- Rather than aiming for a hyper-growth rate, we aim for consistent and growing profitability
- We have carefully cultivated and built a highly effective, long-term team. This is instead of how many high-tech companies are doing it today, in which the average term of employment is 2 years
These are fundamentals of real capital. As you can see, in a marked comparison to the way the VC world has been operating for the last few years, we have a totally different concept. We have seen, and continue to see, that sound business execution requires applied knowledge and experience, along with some wounds and hiccups. Much like real life.
And real life is where sound business happens—not in some fantasy world. Where, unfortunately, you’ll find all the unicorns.
Pipeliner CRM has been the cornerstone of our company stability. Find out why!