Are Startups Becoming Camels Instead Of Unicorns?

August 23, 2021

Reading blog posts over posts, a post on Medium written by Alexandre Lazarow, “The New Hot Startups Will Be Camels, Not Unicorns”! Directly pulled to my attention, which you might also want to read.  

Since 2013, we have all been familiar with unicorns, the term was first coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee. They are the shining stars of the startup ecosystem. Unicorns are the startups that have reached a company valuation of over $1 billion, which we all know makes significant sensations with their valuations.

Coming across with the camel term made me stop for a minute. While Silicon Valley is fixated on raising the next unicorn, it is still debatable whether they’ll succeed or not. Silicon Valley aims to find, fund, and build the next unicorn in their standardized and utopic world. Apart from that utopic startup world, there is an outside world. An external world emerges in the developing markets, where real-life hits your face hard. The likening of camel comes from that realness and toughness that startups face from the beginning of their journey. They survived due to the explicit conditions of the business world, with less money and less support. Camels can adapt to the various climates, live up to several months without food and 15 days without water, and travel up to 100 desert miles without water. I think this is enough explanation for this term. But one more thing, you may see camels in real life, not like unicorns. As I mentioned before, unicorns are an output of Silicon Valley in that unrealistic world. Unlike camels, toughness and realness are a much better metaphor for startups.

For becoming a camel startup, there should be four main essentials;

  • Being resilient, always ready for the future, they have thoughtful and strategic growth. 
  • They are always cautious; they always have backups to get through hard times and save in their good times. Be careful with their economy, teammates, and after the best technology to change the market.
  • They are enthusiastic about business building basics and insist on unit economics at the beginning of early-stage to protect the effect in the long term. 
  • Knowing how to survive is the key, and if you are a startup, you need to create the solution, but there must be specifications that differentiate you, and most importantly, you need to be customer-focused. Customer needs should drive your product/s and business model.

These four elements are the outstanding notes of camel startups that will make and may set an example for other startups to learn before even getting started. And being resilient is a way to preserve the option of growth and sustainability at the same time if needed.

The uncertainty of the economy is a threatening challenge that the startup and technology industry will face. The ecosystem which we have known for years that raises unicorns is not used to this obscurity. Since then, it’s always been a “growth at all costs” attitude, but the external factors affect them to change. It is leading the startups to be more resilient and for the new ones embracing the mindset of camels to become successful and building a long-term company that will last for decades.

Read More