The secrets of the rapid growth of unicorn startups

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Founders and CEOs seek rapid growth, often first and foremost.

This means massive funding rounds and mind-blowing valuations, infusions of top talent, bandwidth to focus on more strategic tasks, as well as the all-important lead to create great products, bring them to a larger market. and grow the business to unicorn status of over $ 1 billion and beyond.

But before you can achieve this goal, you and your motley team must overcome great difficulties and obstacles.

It’s about finding the fit between the product and the market, recruiting your core team, effectively managing your meager finances, finding your first customers, creating recurring revenue, getting media earned, between others.

And perhaps most importantly, in a sea of ​​ever-changing priorities and pivots, there is knowing what to focus on.

Few (if any) true entrepreneurs take the direct route to success. Failures, mistakes, and pivot points are inevitable in building a successful business.

Of course, only a small percentage of startups are able to catch the wave of rapid growth and lift a Series A round. An even smaller percentage (2.5%) achieve unicorn status.

So what are the secrets of these founders who overcame great difficulties, bad turns and many dead ends to succeed? And what did they do during COVID-19 to get through the worst disruptions, to continue or even accelerate growth?

I spoke with three CEOs of companies that achieved unicorn status and a “unicorn whisperer” for my Commander-in-Chief podcast to find out how they did it.

Here’s what they shared.

Ronni Zehavi, CEO of HiBob

“If you take a look and follow the majority of success stories, there is one thing repeating itself in each one. They all talk about culture. You hear it over and over again, once the game is over and [they’re] a great success. You don’t hear much about it when you climb the greasy pole.

I went through three crises: 2000, 2009 and last year. You have to surround yourself with great people better than you who can be the CEO of what they do, who can challenge you. You [have to be] humble and mentally strong enough to listen because CEOs are alone. To balance your life, you need to pause, take time, zoom out. If you are not surrounded by strong people, you will be lost. You will be pulled down all the time and you will not be able to breathe.

Omer Keilaf, CEO of Innoviz

“One of the problems for startups is, when they create the basic DNA [of their business], it gets diluted when they grow up. When you have a strong core, no outside force can change it. It becomes like a magnet.

Suppose you don’t know anything. The first three to four months, you’re just going to learn. The problem we wanted to solve was three to four orders of magnitude harder than we thought. The motto of my military unit is “Talent, commitment and passion make the impossible possible”. There have been so many times that we have faced an impossible situation and found a way to resolve it. It’s a bit addicting. In the last six months we’ve had eight to ten people who left the company and then came back. People lack business and passion. When I see that the passion is nurtured, it is the most important thing in the world.

When it comes to managing COVID-19, we continue to work from our offices, but let people decide to work from home if they need to. One of the most significant changes we have made is to decide to build our next generation production line at our headquarters rather than abroad (Germany). It allows us to run faster.

Adam Singolda, CEO of Taboola

“The first four and a half to five years, there was no income. We almost closed three times. It was very hard work to survive. Today we have 18 offices around the world with sales of $ 1 billion. This is what has shaped our culture ever since.

The very first people to choose [to work for you] don’t choose your vision or your business. They choose you. What really matters is the culture you establish at the very beginning. For us, our secret sauce is how we think about people. We now have 1700 employees, 1700 co-founders. I want to be open and transparent to let anyone ask for anything.

In terms of coping during COVID-19, we’ve embarked on a hybrid model where it makes sense. I think in the longer term it’s essential to bring people together in person rather than on another Zoom link. We have what I consider to be one of the best offices in the heart of New York for the haphazard inspiration and innovation it promotes.

Attract talent to the new [remote work] world, we have invested in the employer brand to communicate our values, why we do what we do and why it is important. Remote work will also be the best thing in recent years to foster diversity. We can now hire from anywhere, opening up more opportunities for those who may never have applied before. “

Hillel Fuld, Technology Marketing Specialist and Startup Advisor

“It’s a good business to help others get business. Like a candle. When a candle ignites another candle, it loses nothing. But if you don’t give out your fire like a candle, you will burn out. When I focus my time and resources on creating value (marketing, press coverage) and not on monetizing, when I exceed expectations again and again, I create pleasure. When I come back after delighting a business, now we can do business.

The concept “We don’t need to make money now” works. If you don’t invest in growth, you will never achieve profitability. One of the first Facebook employees approached Mark Zuckerberg with a business idea. Zuckerberg wrote “growth” on the whiteboard. He said, “If we have 2.5 billion users, we’ll find a way to monetize.” So build your product, then align your brand with it.


Yuri Kruman is CEO of HR, Talent & Systems Consulting, Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker and Author of Be your own commander-in-chief.

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