Unicorns might be all the rage on Instagram and at Starbucks, but I think they're totally overrated when it comes to business.
For us digital entrepreneurs, a unicorn is what we call a start-up with a valuation of more than a billion dollars. (Yes, I said billion -- with a B.) It's what every self-employed techie dreams of: coming up with that one needle-in-a-haystack idea that's going to pay off every penny of debt and let you live a carefree life for the rest of your life.
I've always had big dreams, but I've never been on that hunt for a unicorn (or rather, creating one). I'd be much happier with a zebra.
Sure, unicorns are sparkly and magical, but zebras are strong and sturdy -- and let's be honest, a lot easier to find.
Medium came up with the zebra concept, and I have to say: I'm buying what they're selling.
They describe a zebra as a business that is:
- Improves society
- Their individual input results in stronger collective output.
- Built with peerless stamina and capital efficiency, as long as conditions allow them to survive.
While every business needs to be profitable (see my notes on that here), one of my main business goals has always been to make people's lives easier. Of course there is upside to being at the helm of a billion-dollar company (you really can't argue that) but at the end of the day, there's so much more to being an entrepreneur than making a ton of money.
When you work for a big corporation, your life isn't your own. (You can try to tell me it is, but it isn't.) You go to work when they tell you to; you go to meetings when they tell you to; and you go home when they tell you to. You typically work Monday to Friday (and some weekends) and get a certain amount of vacation in return for a pre-determined amount of money (your salary).
When you're an entrepreneur, your life is your own. Of course you'll work a lot, but how much you work is often related to how much you make. If you want to start work at 11, you can. If you want to take off at 2pm because the weather is gorgeous, you make that choice. There is a lot of freedom (and responsibility) that comes with working for yourself--and that's what I love.
One of my favourite aspects of running my own business is creating a work culture that people want to be a part of. I like giving my employees some of the freedom I feel as an entrepreneur. Sure, we have somewhat set hours and I pay them a salary in return for a certain job, but I also want them to feel like they can work from home when they need to or take off early if they want to. Have an idea? Pitch it. Think we can do something better? Tell me.
At the end of the day, I think that's what made me start The Bullet. I know it's not going to break the internet (well, hopefully just one time) or make me a billionaire, and that's A-OK with me. If I can build a business that's profitable, sustainable and makes people's lives easier, then I'll be happy.
To me it's pretty black and white: I want it to be a zebra. It's so much more magical than a horse with a horn.
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