What the world’s most successful startups all have in common

Amazingly, it’s only been 15 years since the first decacorn was created. A US$240 million investment from Microsoft took Facebook, now Meta, to a US$10 billion valuation – the first of the successful startups to reach this previously unheard of milestone.

With more and more unicorns, more and more companies are taking this next leap.

There are now 48 decacorns, according to Fairy, including familiar brands like Canva, Byju’s and SpaceX. While they focus on different areas, they all have the same value.

And that’s not the only similarity. Experts believe that the most successful startups have various characteristics that make them decacorn material.

First of all, it is important to understand that decacorns are not just old versions of unicorns, explains Krithika Randhawa, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School.

“Decacorns grow in value faster and more sustainably than a unicorn, doubling their growth every year for more than a decade,” he said. The CEO Magazine.

However, it is serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Jamie Pride, who writes Unicorn Tears: Why Startups Fail and How to Avoid Thembelieve that unicorns and decacorns are cut from the same cloth.

“While decacorns are widely seen as the ‘new unicorns’, the truth is the foundations of a high-performing startup are the same regardless of valuation,” he pointed out.

So when it comes to finding the next decacorn among the ever-growing haystack of startups, where to start?

Debneel Mukherjee, the Founder and Managing Partner of Singapore-headquartered venture capital firm, Decacorn Capital, believes that it is more about the people than the idea.

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“You have to know why a founder is a founder, why a founding team does what they do and what they are willing to sacrifice or do to make it happen,” he reveals. “And then do they have the hard skills that enable them to have a crack at the difficult problem they’re trying to tackle?”

A Meaningful Path

A big consideration is whether the company is doing “meaningful work”, according to Mukherjee. This means moving away from “copy models”. “Only truly original ideas have disruptive power,” he emphasized.

Startups looking for a “quick flip” — doing something without looking up — are also on the wrong track, he added. “If you’re just here to make money, then we’re the last ones to invest,” he said.

“That’s what we need to know in our conversations with founders — what’s the drive? What’s the motive?”

Pride agrees and insists, “The biggest challenge is that startups should not pursue unicorn/decacorn status as a focus. Startups that care more about their valuation or their customers are usually not stuck. startup that focuses on creating a great product that solves an important problem for a customer will be rewarded.”

To achieve success and then sustain it, companies must be willing to continue to evolve and disrupt.

“Beyond radical and scalable technologies, investments in innovation and disruptive business models are also at the heart of the great growth potential of decacorns,” explains Randhawa.

It’s about being proactive rather than reactive, Mukherjee believes – constantly trying new things, finding new revenue streams and tapping into issues “that really matter”.

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However, he warns that mastering this art of reinvention is very difficult. “Disruption doesn’t happen from within,” he warned, adding that companies like Google stay abreast of new trends and technologies by essentially incubating startups to keep innovating, and then synergize these findings into their own business models.

A Global Approach

Look at some of the biggest success stories from the world of startups and they tend to have a global presence rather than a regional focus. “There are very few unicorns/decacorns that aren’t global.” Notes of pride.

By scaling globally, companies can quickly spread geographically, with a “multiplier effect” on an international scale, Randhawa expands. They are also developing in different areas, breaking the traditional dominance of Silicon Valley in the United States.

“Decacorns are grown all over the world,” he said. European examples include Klarna in Sweden and Celonis in Germany. In Asia, there is ByteDance in China, and Byju’s and Swiggy in India.

While decacorns are largely built on technological innovation, one company’s expertise is not enough. It should also be relevant. “We’re trying to see, what technologies become more versatile because of certain changes?” Mukherjee said.

He points to the 1983 crash of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 as an example, which prompted the United States’ decision to make GPS available for civilian use. “As a result, a vast sea of ​​opportunity has opened up, disrupting major markets and creating significant value for the producer as well as the consumer.” These tech-savvy companies can also use their in-house expertise to fuel their growth, according to Pride.

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“They often use technology to support hypergrowth and scale – hence why unicorn status is not equally centered around software technology startups,” he explained.

Meanwhile, developing a “digital ecosystem of partners” can also boost a startup’s chances of success, Randhawa added. “The Decacorns have always adopted an ecosystem approach to maximize their reach and impact,” he said.

“They tap external stakeholders with complementary capabilities for collaborative development of products, services and offerings, with global appeal and market potential.”

The culture of any ambitious startup should factor in the ability to remain committed, even in the most difficult times, as well as not being afraid of failure.

It’s a tenacity that Mukherjee is looking for evidence of in his colleagues — one of the reasons he sees the United States continuing to lead the startup space for the foreseeable future.

“In America, if you fail, you come back, you make another start, nobody blinks. But in other places, there is less risk appetite,” he said. “You have to be ready to go through even something, going through a wall, walking through fire. It’s about survival. It’s about longevity.”

Even if companies are growing well, it is important to stay strong and ensure that your business model is effective for long-term sustainability. “If you’re a unicorn or a decacorn, if there’s almost no stake in the company left for you, then why would you run that extra mile?”


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