Nurturing Zebras


We have been writing a series of posts that address the nature of business sustainability and the need to build ecosystems that support and foster innovation economies.  An excellent piece, “Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break,” written by Jennifer Brandel and Mara Zepeda, is an earnest reflection on the multitudinous failures resulting from a misplaced allegiance to a unicorn society. 

The authors cite a list of sins committed in the unicorn culture – from fake news, to wage manipulation, to circumnavigating regulations, to generalized degradation of justice, purpose, and collective societal well-being.  The authors, having observed these failings, invite “founders, investors, foundations, corporations, and their allies” – and you – to rally around a solution that values quality, creation, sustainable growth, and shared prosperity – over a more self-interested paradigm, i.e., the unicorn.

The authors champion an alternative model, represented by the zebra – companies that “repair, cultivate, and connect.”  The authors extol zebras as a societal solution, and indeed, an underpinning of democracy.  The authors contrast unicorns and zebras, and outline the challenges for zebra companies.

Finally, the authors echo a familiar refrain you have read in our other posts, such as Tom’s blog titled “Clusters Outside of Nebraska.”  In reference to zebra companies, the authors caution that these companies will not  “be created by accident.”  Instead, argue the authors, “[w]e must intentionally build the infrastructure to nurture them.”

Laura Neeson