Startup lexicon can be confusing, with so many acronyms and buzzwords. But there is one word that everyone should know: unicorns.
It is the crowning title for magical companies worth more than $1 billion dollars.
While unicorns are rare, Victoria has 20 of them that together have created over $100 billion in value.
You are probably very familiar with some of Victoria’s own products, including SEEK, CarSales and realestate.com.au. And you’re likely to hear about our more recent unicorns, too, including Zeller, Linktree, and A Cloud Guru.
What’s magical about unicorns?
It’s not just their impressive growth from a small startup to a large company in typically less than 10 years that excites us at LaunchVic. It’s also the catalytic effect they have on the growth of the startup ecosystem and the broader economy.
When startups successfully scale, they are incredible job creators helping talented people to work at a fast-growing company.
The magic really happens when exits like IPOs happen, taking the local ecosystem to the next level. That’s because many startup operators continue to set up new startups or help other emerging startups to scale up, which catalyzes the growth of the startup ecosystem.
In addition, the founders, as well as leaders who have access to employee equity plans, realize wealth, which they typically reinvest in the ecosystem by becoming angel investors or creating their own venture capital funds.
But we know that achieving unicorn status is far from easy, as the margin between success and failure can be small for startups and scale-ups.
Sometimes it’s about getting the right help from the right people to steer the business in the right direction at the right time.
Ironing the daily things
The unicorn effect on our ecosystem was one of the main reasons LaunchVic developed its 30X30 program. The program aims to actively support 30 Victorian startups to become unicorns by 2030, notably by getting their back offices in order.
In Australia, very few startup executives have the experience to grow a business from a startup to a scale-up to a unicorn.
First-hand accounts of existing unicorn leaders — including our own LaunchVic chairman Leigh Jasper, who founded Aconex — show that supporting HR, operations and finance executives as they scale will ultimately support the company’s growth.
It not only develops their functions, but also exposes leaders to common scaling challenges and bottlenecks. Most importantly, it frees up founders to focus on continued growth.
There is very limited formal support for scale-ups, so LaunchVic has implemented the program with some of the best existing and former unicorn executives from Australia and abroad.
The program includes an executive coaching and mentoring program, sponsored education and free access to LaunchVic’s extensive national and international networks.
We currently have some of Australia’s top startups going through the program, including Carbar, July and Bare, and we have two more programs to roll out by 2024.
Adopting a unicorn mindset
The UK Tech Nation can vouch for the success of this type of program. Their Future Fifty program has served 30 percent of the UK’s 105 unicorns since its launch in 2013, raising more than $36 billion in venture capital investment.
Large Aussie scale-ups are growing rapidly and reshaping our economy. They have already created thousands of jobs and we know their success will bring more economic growth.
We learn from the best and adopt a unicorn mindset to give promising scale-ups every opportunity for growth.
- dr. Kate Cornick is CEO of LaunchVic.