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In the startup world, there’s an ongoing obsession with Unicorns, a race to attain that elusive billion-dollar valuation. This singular metric has become the be-all and end-all for startups, overshadowing other crucial elements in the journey to success. 

Yet, when we look at startup environments, success involves more than just a high value. It involves elevating societies, economies, and communities, creating jobs, and establishing sustainable models with a lasting impact. It is fair to state that this fixation on valuation in the startup scene significantly contributes to fraud cases, leading aspiring founders to believe that success is solely determined by valuation. 

Hence, the idea of Zebra came into existence, a departure from the Unicorn rush. Zebras are startups driven by purpose, valuing sustainability, social responsibility, and community impact. Created by Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz, and Aniyia Williams, the Zebra movement, founded in 2017, prioritizes values that resonate beyond mere financial gain. 

Zebras focus on constructing sustainable and profitable businesses that contribute positively to the community and the environment. Rejecting the “move fast and break things” idea widespread in the tech industry, they prioritize long-term growth and societal impact. Their success metrics extend beyond valuation, encompassing social impact, sustainability, and community engagement. 

And as consumers are increasingly becoming more socially aware, the Zebra movement is gaining momentum. What sets Zebras apart is not just their purpose but also their unique approach to funding. Unlike Unicorns targeting venture capitalists, Zebras seek investment from entities that share their values and vision. Angel investment, community funding, crowdfunding, and limited impact investing have priority over traditional venture capital. This approach enables them to maintain greater control over the company’s direction and emphasizes long-term goals. 

The rationale of the name Zebra? In nature, Zebras’ survival relies on collective strength and forming a “dazzle” to protect themselves from lions, demonstrating that a humane future doesn’t hinge on one enormous entity. Instead, it emerges from the collaborative efforts of many smaller-scale solutions. 

In a world fixated on Unicorn valuations, the Zebra movement prompts us to question the essence of startup success. Is it merely a financial number, or is it the positive, lasting impact a startup can make on the world? Zebras provide an alternative narrative, challenging the prevailing norms and showcasing a more holistic approach to entrepreneurial accomplishment. 

To all young entrepreneurs, I encourage you to reflect before embarking on the startup journey. Ask yourselves, “Why am I doing this?”. This introspection will help you discover which path, whether the Unicorn or Zebra destination, is right for you.