Here at PIE, we’ve been following the Zebra Movement with great interest. And it’s not just because a PIE alum is among the cofounders of the effort. (Although, we’re super proud of that.) It’s because the model they’re proposing — which counters the prevailing “Unicorn” startup thinking — seems to both resonate and reflect a number of startups with whom we find ourselves working at PIE.
But like so many things in the startup world, a lot of the evidence about these companies is, at best, anecdotal. And that’s why we were really happy to see the Zebras Unite folks making an effort to get more definitive information on the Zebra population. By running a census of sorts.
We would love to see as many companies as possible responding to this census. So if you feel like you’re building a Zebra company and are interested in learning more about your peers and the programs that are being built to support you and your company, please take a few moments to respond to this survey.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned after nearly a decade of working with Portland startups — and startups that are attracted to Portland — it’s that financial gain is often the last thing motivating and driving our founders. And even if there are financial motives, they do not often come with a “growth at any cost” mindset.
Long story short, we do not chase unicorns. Because we do not have the resources that will help those types of companies. We have different strengths.
At PIE, we have found our motivations aligning with our founders’ motivations. We are here to build better founders. And a better community. We’re here to make new mistakes. And to help Portland be the next great version of itself. We’re not in it for the money, because honestly, there are millions of easier ways to make money than running an early stage startup accelerator — or helping other accelerators help startups.
So we’re an accelerator without the unicorns. So what do we have? What types of companies do well as part of the PIE family? To whom are we being helpful? What companies do well in Portland? And what were we supposed to call those companies?
Well, thanks to Jennifer Brandel and PIE alum Mara Zepeda, we now have a term for the types of companies that PIE loves: zebras.
- To state the obvious: unlike unicorns, zebras are real.
- Zebra companies are both black and white: they are profitable and improve society. They won’t sacrifice one for the other.
- Zebras are also mutualistic: by banding together in groups, they protect and preserve one another. Their individual input results in stronger collective output.
- Zebra companies are built with peerless stamina and capital efficiency, as long as conditions allow them to survive.
Sound like something you’re building? Join your peers at Zebras Unite. And consider attending DazzleCon in October. And, of course, we’d love to hear from you, too. We could always use more zebras in the dazzle that is Portland.