As the number of start-ups have grown exponentially over recent years, some have found the road to unicorn status and others have not. While there is no set model that will ensure your start-up will be fruitful, there are some attributes unicorns share.
In order to find commonalities of unicorn companies, Commit looked at five new unicorns (Pentera, Front, Multiverse, SumUp, and Vendr) to compile a list. Here are the top 4 characteristics these unicorn start-ups share:
Let’s start with Mathilde Collin, co-founder and CEO of Front, a customer communications company valued at $1.7 billion, who credits her company’s success to discipline. According to Collin, “Many founders get caught up in the day-to-day churn of running a startup. Applying a disciplined mentality to everything you do, whether it’s an email you send to your team, a presentation for investors or a company offsite, is deceptively simple — but it’s so impactful.” In fact, Collin values discipline so much that she created a clear guide to building discipline in your company, which we highly recommend checking out.
Amitai Ratzon, CEO of Pentera, a cybersecurity company valued at $1 billion, advised CEOs and founders of cybersecurity companies to “not rush anything. Before you convince others that you have something right in your hands, you’d better convince yourself.” It’s easy to get excited about a project you’re passionate about, but, as Ratzon mentioned, don’t rush the process. Of course, this takes great discipline–you want to share your product with the world now–but in order to get funding, you want to have the absolute best product possible.
Discipline is a simple yet strong trait to have in a company; it is the lifeline of a company as it creates the necessary structure to create your unicorn. For more helpful tips and tricks about maintaining discipline, check out Commit’s very own Max Nirenberg’s video.
Next we have Multiverse, a $1.7 billion valued edtech unicorn that connects companies with young people who are interested in apprenticeships. They believe that reaching their goals “should not be at the expense of the quality, both in terms of what people are getting out of experiences, or the resulting talent that is getting recruited.” And, a major component to receiving their funding is the undeniable quality of their programs, with over 90% of those who complete their apprenticeships staying with jobs at the same company.
To improve the quality of the original product, Vendr, a SaaS buying platform valued at $1 billion, has created Vendr 2.0 as the “complete, no-brainer” SaaS buying solution. The quality–and not to mention, value–of the product is much greater with all of the improvements, including: integrations with existing business platforms, robust spend management features, and a custom workflow feature. With rave reviews from companies like Brex, Hubspot, and Mixpanel, we’d say clients are happy with Vendr. Even as a unicorn and the only company of its kind, Vendr continues to strive for the best quality product.
Another unicorn that puts an emphasis on quality is SumUp, an $8.5 billion valued fintech company that helps small businesses accept payment more easily. According to their website, “It’s important that the software [they] use is reliable and of the quality expected by our engineers when they come to work at SumUp.” How do they achieve quality in their product? They actually break it down in their Product Development Pillars, taking you step by step through their process of creating a seamless experience for their customers with “quality in every element of [their] product, from code to copy.” Now, this isn’t to say there’s only one way to achieve the quality desired, but if it’s working for this unicorn serving over 3.5 million markets worldwide, it may be worth a try.
The quality of a product can truly determine the company’s duration in the market. High quality products build trust with customers, increase retention rates, and establish credibility. Set your standards high like these unicorns and hold your team accountable to reach that quality.
While it may sound like a given, you need to make sure there’s a need for your product. And, if you’re not creating something new, you must reinvent or improve upon an already existing product.
Take Front, for example; they are innovating two of the most saturated markets, email and customer support software. Collins, revealed, “Front has taken a contrarian approach: We’re building technology that scales customer relationships without losing that human touch.” In a world full of customer service robots and automated responses, the idea of adding human communication back into the mix is a refreshing change to the status quo.
The unicorn Pentera has also found a need to innovate in the inundated cybersecurity market. Instead of using the standard simulated method, they use ethical hacking techniques to provide a more realistic assessment of the security posture of an organization. Additionally, unlike most cybersecurity companies that need human intrusion testers and physical access to facilities, Pentera has the ability to run tests remotely, which proved indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, they experienced 300% growth between 2019 and 2020 when companies began working remotely, therefore needing a remote cybersecurity service.
Multiverse addresses both a societal need and a market need. Societally, two-thirds of Americans do not have a college degree, yet 65% of jobs require a college education, leaving a significant portion of the population without a chance of a great career. As for the market need, hiring and retaining tech talent has proven difficult. Through providing apprenticeships, Multiverse is, of course, contributing to a market demand by supplying these apprentices, but is also creating a positive impact on society by helping provide opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have any through both hands-on experience and education tuition-free and salaried. They have trained over 5,000 apprentices with more than 200 of the world’s top companies, and, as previously mentioned, over 90% of those who complete the program stay with the same company. Multiverse found and filled not one, but two needs, and is finding success because of it.
It is essential for companies to find and fill needs in order to be successful and stay relevant in the marketplace. By providing solutions, businesses can take advantage of growth opportunities while also benefiting customers, and as needs change over time, it is vital to be able to adjust and continue meeting these needs.
Finally, the five companies cultivate an environment where customers are valued. Customers are one of their top priorities as their companies continue to expand.
Vendr is a perfect example of a company that values its customers; it was created with the customers in mind and continues making updates based on requests of the customers themselves. In fact, Ryan Neu, co-founder and CEO of Vendr, explained how, at the beginning, they “focused on what [their] customers craved” and actually built the product backward by “building and iterating on an offering solely informed by [their] first customers — rather than creating bells and whistles, hoping people needed what [they] built.” Now, as Vendr continues to grow, they’re still updating based on client requests, having created Vendr 2.0 after clients’ desires for spend visibility and spend tracking.
SumUp is another company that is all about its customers from start to finish. Customers can actually go in and read their handbook for full transparency, and in it you can find a previously mentioned section, Product Development Pillars, in which part three entails how they try to anticipate their customers’ needs and are constantly learning and improving the product to deliver the best possible experience. This really came into effect when businesses suffered due to COVID-19. In order to help their customers pivot, SumUp created–within only a few months–an online payment tool. Their vision? “A world where small businesses can be successful doing what they love.” And, with 3 million businesses currently using SumUp, they’re well on their way.
Remember, understanding and valuing your customer can lead to greater success as they’re the ones buying your product. By listening to their suggestions, not only are you demonstrating to them that they’re heard, but you’ll also be better equipped to meet their needs and improve the quality of your product.
Of course, every start-up’s journey is unique, and there are no set rules on how to make your start-up successful. With this being said, these common characteristics may just give your company an advantage on the road to success.
We would love to be a part of your start-up journey and help you find success by building the best product. Contact us to learn how we can help!