Looking For A Unicorn

AR_UnicornBy Diane Smith

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

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Rural & Small Town Population Comparison

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By Diane Smith

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Go Team USA

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By Diane Smith Question: What do Lebanon, NH (pop. 13,500), Prairie Du Chien, WI (pop. 6000), Newton, PA (pop. 2,300), Iron River, MI (pop. 3000), Winthrop, WA (pop. 406), and my home of Whitefish, MT (pop. 6500) have in common? Answer: All sent a U.S. Olympian to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. In a […]

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Selling Soap

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By Diane Smith There’s nothing like spending time in a developing country to remind us of what’s great about our own U.S.A. I just had the amazing opportunity to spend time in Myanmar, a country the size of Texas with 60 million people nestled between India and China. About 40% of the world’s population lives […]

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Alohomora 2 – The Unlocking Spell from Harry Potter

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By Diane Smith Once again, I’m so moved by someone else’s work that I can’t wait to share it with everyone I know. This time it’s Malcolm Gladwell’s stunning new book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. By exploring a wide range of subjects, including high performing dyslexics, impressionist painters, […]

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It’s a Mystical, Magical Time

AmericanRural Winterscape

By Diane Smith As we head into the holiday season, it’s a great time to focus on the important things; family, friends, charity, spirituality, cookies. During this season, Mother Nature also blesses those of us in the northern hemisphere with her own special reminder of hope and renewal; the winter solstice. In the summer months, […]

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Malcom Gladwell’s – David and Goliath

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By Diane Smith Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is a useful resource for those of us living in rural and small town America.  This week, we’ll be posting some of Gladwell’s insights:

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Shark Tank

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By Diane Smith The other night, we were watching Shark Tank. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, Shark Tank is a television show where entrepreneurs pitch their products to 5 really rich investors who grill them on their profit margins, sales, marketing strategy, and business potential. Being a household of entrepreneurs, […]

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Inspiration, Education, Execution

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By Diane Smith American Rural is less than a year old and we’ve already made amazing progress. We have grown to over 5500 followers on Facebook, begun fundraising, initiated our newsletter (Ruralistically), hosted our first webinar, and continued our research and writing about the wonderful future we see for rural and small town America. I’ve […]

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Dead Plan Walking

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By Diane Smith One of the first rules of good strategy is that you don’t launch an effort without understanding two things: 1) what happens if you win and 2) what happens if you lose. Neither calculation seems much in evidence by the orchestrators of the current government shutdown. Congress, lead by the Republican controlled […]

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