I recently helped make a pitch for investment money for a great young tech company whose Board I’m on (see www.businesstexter.com). Now, one of the questions everyone gets when pitching investments is about the level of risk. I typically reply by pointing out that, particularly in tech investing, investors should understand that they’re
“looking for a unicorn, not a pony”.
In other words, the technology industry is filled with start-ups, but most of them are fairly ordinary – those are the ponies. Only a very small few will become breakout successes like Facebook or Twitter – they are the unicorns.
These days, I believe that the desire to find a unicorn is stronger than it’s ever been – and not just in investing.
We have recently lost a jumbo jet, borne the brunt of Wall Street’s failure and non-punishment, muddled through the early days of healthcare reform, and are having one argument after another over various tenets of science. It’s reassuring therefore to believe that there might just be a magical solution out there; perhaps a mythical animal that could ensure the type of future that we all hope for ourselves and our children.
But, folks, it’s up to us. So, I’d like to pitch for some help. We need insight – the kind that comes from diligent analysis and research – to help us determine how to plan for a future that’s pretty unsettled. We need respect for dissenting opinions. We need inspiration that appeals to our most compassionate sensibilities. We need leadership that embodies all of these traits.
And we need to applaud those who sometimes say things we don’t want to hear. We need unicorns.
The good news – we are surrounded by unicorns.
As the saying goes, “Seek those who search for truth, run from those who’ve found it”. I think that particular wisdom is intended to remind us to look beyond arrogance and flashy presentation. Sadly these days, it pays to be skeptical. One of the best ways of evaluating businesses or leadership of any kind is to spend some time looking under the hood, remembering that all the best paint in the world can’t fix a bad engine.
Character and generosity are hard and no one scores 100% all of the time. But one of the great parts of living in a small town is that we get to know well our neighbors and friends who actually get things done. They often live simply, don’t make a lot of noise, and support their communities in remarkable ways.
They are the true unicorns…. right here in our backyards.
Next to the rainbow.
~ Diane Smith