African Startups: Unicorns, Gazelles and Corporate Breakfasts
Over the past few years, the race has been on to find the first African Unicorn – an African startup valued at $1bn or more in its first 5 years. I think we can all agree, the idea of an African Unicorn is not a bad one, but is it realistic, and is it what Africa really needs?
The concept of a ‘Unicorn’ originated in the US, and as such, has assumed a global stamp of acceptance. In his recent blog post “African Startups. Of Unicorns, Gazelles and Corporate Breakfasts” however, Collins Onuegbu of the Lagos Angels Network argues that “Unicorns are mythical creatures. In Africa, we have the Gazelle – a sleek creature, stable and built for the tough turf of Africa.” Something we can all relate with.
Keet van Zyl, Co-Founder of Knife Capital, also argues in his blog post ‘Save the African Startup Gazelle and Forget the Lesser-Spotted Unicorn’ that “Entrepreneurship is hard in Africa”; and that “one of the key differentiators of many African startups is that they set out to build sustainable companies that solve real problems – because they have to”.
So, the conversation rages on. Should we follow the rest of the world in looking for our own Unicorns, or instead start better defining our Gazelles and creating our own lexicon to manage our own African journey?