Part 1: 4 Strategies Unicorn Founders Embrace
“How do I go from early stage to unicorn?”
I recently met with a fantastic founder who raised her hand when I shared the goal of 10 female unicorns in 10 years.
She’s picked a big market and she’s secured funding. What’s next, she asked? What have you seen in unicorn companies and founders?
[Kathryn’s note: What a great question. Clearly thinking like a unicorn founder already!]
What are the strategies or characteristics of companies that cross over that $1 billion valuation mark?
Specifically – what’s within a founder’s control that they can start doing today?
Here’s the first 4 strategies that unicorn founders use to take them from $1 to $1 billion. Check in next week for Part 2!
4 Strategies That Unicorn Founders Embrace
1. Pick a big market.
I’m a broken record on this one. The first step to being a unicorn is being in a big market! No matter how amazing your leadership or product, you can’t build a billion dollar company in a small market. It’s way easier (and more probable) to grab 1% of a $100B market than grab 100% of a billion dollar market.
Think your market isn’t big enough? Adjust your strategy or pick a new idea.
You can also build a great small to mid-size business. Be clear on your personal goals to decide what’s right for you.
2. Embrace 10x thinking.
In the early days, the question is: how do we get 1 more customer?
When you’ve found product market fit (in your HUGE market), it’s easy to continue that pattern: how do we get a few more customers?
In a unicorn mindset, you ask, how do we get 10x more customers?!?
It’s straight out of the Google playbook. They’ve built a pretty nice business 😉
Try it at your next strategy or planning session. Take a problem or goal and brainstorm what 10x looks like. How do you get there? What big ideas does it trigger?
3. Stay focused.
Once you find product market fit, optimize for your ideal customer.
Design your marketing programs, sales process, and product roadmap for this ideal customer. Do not get distracted by shiny objects!!
Examples of shiny objects:
enterprise deals that aren’t a good fit
one-off product features
marketing to fringe user segments
a new product line or platform before you’re ready
Pardot was fantastic at this focus. We knew our sweet spot was SMBs. We didn’t chase enterprise deals or crazy technical requirements (even though our competitors did). We followed the 80/20 rule with product development and only added a feature if 80% of our customers could use it.
As a result, we had strong retention, a repeatable sales process, and scaled faster in the long run.
4. Settle in.
Building a unicorn is the fastest marathon of your life. On average, it takes 10 years for a startup to reach unicorn status. It will feel fast and slow all at once!
Be prepared for the long haul. Everything is urgent and crazy – and it will be for 10 years! Figure out ways to take care of your physical and mental health along the way.
…there’s more! Tune in next week for 4 more strategies for building unicorns. 🦄