Elevator's CEO Professor Gary McEwan joins us today to de-mystify the business terms 'Gazelle' and 'Unicorn'.
The terms ‘Gazelle’ or ‘Unicorn’ have crept into the language used in entrepreneurship recently. These terms have been coined to describe a business start-up, which gains traction extraordinarily quickly and becomes globally recognised in a remarkably short period of time, with the speed and agility of a Gazelle. They are very rare indeed, as rare as a unicorn you might say and they grab the headlines.
Skyscanner and FanDual are two such success stories that have emerged in Scotland over recent years and have established themselves as Gazelles.
Globally, business models and therefore, markets are changing with unprecedented speed. The Fortune 500 reveals the 500 largest US Corporations (by gross income). Historically the famous names listed would have a lengthy pedigree spanning many decades of organic and steady growth. A close look at it now reveals an increasing number of Gazelles, who’s growth is so prolific, they are nudging themselves in alongside some of the US’s biggest brands.
The business models being created now are simply different. Technology is allowing companies to become enormous without the encumbrance of expensive infrastructure or capital spend. Airbnb has a market capitalisation approaching that of The Hilton Group yet it doesn’t own a hotel or a guest house.
Uber has created a global taxi company without having to purchase any taxis. These business models would not have been imagined until technology facilitated their emergence.
This should be a real wake-up call for corporate giants who are going to find competition coming from unanticipated sources. Previously corporates would have a firm grasp on who their competition was and gaining an edge was achieved from a level playing field but as consumers warm to doing things in a non-conventional way, corporate giants need to understand and realign themselves with demand lest they are caught short. Corporates do many things well, they measure everything and often have solid decision-making processes but what do they do when they see a Gazelle coming up fast in their rear view mirror?
They need to rediscover how to be a Gazelle. They need to recapture the essence of entrepreneurship and think in an entrepreneurial way. This is easier said than done because, over time, this ingrained skill is weakened in the culture of a corporate. They need to employ entrepreneurial people and facilitate their concepts better, giving them a platform and a support structure to keep them in the forefront of their market.
As a business support organisation, Elevator wants to see more Gazelle’s coming forward. These entrepreneurs visualise their businesses trading beyond a local market and having the opportunity to build a business quickly. Given the right support and nurturing, these businesses, while rare, can be given the tools they need. This is specifically why we created our Elevator Accelerator Programmes in Aberdeen, providing an intensive learning experience for ambitious entrepreneurs. Our 10 and 20-week programmes immerse early stage businesses in a world of possibility assisting them to truly understand what it takes to be a Gazelle.
Whilst we see an emergence of Gazelles like SkyScanner it is important to note how unique they are. Aspiring entrepreneurs could be mistaken for thinking they are commonplace by their consistent coverage in the media – but they are in fact extremely rare.
This is why it is essential not to overlook the importance of steady growth built upon solid profitability. Through our Accelerator Programme, we hope to identify a true ‘Scottish Gazelle’, providing us with the opportunity to propel them into the global marketplace. However, the early stage, high growth potential businesses we see applying for the next cohort are equally exciting to us, we see these businesses as the key to diversification and the future economic development of the region – creating wealth and jobs as the time of economic instability.
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