Founded Blog, Founded Thinking | October 12, 2018

Brand Unicorn

By Richard Mabbott, Partner

Founded | New 90-day Growth Accelerator Service(TM)

They’re called “unicorns”—private companies valued at $1 billion or more. These billion-dollar technology startups were once the stuff of myth, but today they’re seemingly everywhere, backed by the longest-running bull market and our insatiable appetite for new, disruptive technology.

Since we started Founded in 2012, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with a number of businesses – and their investors – who have either made the club or are on the fast track to do so. One of our founding clients was Coupa, the cloud platform for business spend and disruptor of the ‘old’ procurement software category. Their IPO topped $1.6bn on Nasdaq and you can see that client success story and the power of a consistently executed Founding Idea here.

Through our work, we’ve noticed that those clients with real growth momentum share similar characteristics and attributes, something we’ve been looking into as part of a recent research project we’ve been conducting. We’ll be publishing the results soon but in the meantime I thought I’d share a few edited highlights.

First a bit of background.

When we start speaking to the leaders of recently invested in brands, we often hear the same things:

“We’ve got a great product … no, a better product … and the roadmap is amazing.”

“Our customers love us  … we’re delivering great results for them.”

“Our investors believe in us … they can see where we’re heading.”

But … there’s often a sub-text.

“There are those new guys across the street … annoying … getting more attention.”

“And those bigger, established businesses … dinosaurs but people still seem to think are a safe choice.”

“What have they got that we don’t?”

“How do we get that level of attention?”

To answer the question we talked to CMOs at some of those businesses we’ve helped grow for their thoughts on finding that winning formula and building a brand to capture the market’s imagination.

Here are a few shared perspectives and pointers that came out of those conversations.

#1 Define it

Don’t settle be another player in a crowded space. Be honest and if that’s where you find yourself then think about the value you bring and define your category against it. It’s often the smallest of nudges that can put your brand story into clear blue water.

#2 Simple Wins

A lot has been written about the brand purpose and its role in energising external and internal audiences.  But if that purpose isn’t understood, is generic or not connected to the truth of the brand then you’ve got a chocolate fireguard. Having purpose matters but simple ideas that are motivating, easy to understand, easy to sell and execute matter more.

#3 Make the waves

We talked a lot about being brave. If you’ve got the offering and the vision then there’s no bigger crime than to fly under the radar. Challenge competitors, challenge the market conventions, challenge what’s gone before. Be a champion for change but above all else, a champion for your customers. The more directly you can involve them in your story the more magnetic it becomes.

#4 Think long and short

Leads, leads, leads …. the focus of every technology marketing team is, of course, short-term pipeline. But how do you help your team scale demand and deliver truly meaningful growth … above category growth?  There are lots of studies to show that those marketers who deliver the short term but invest in the longer term are the ones to win. And after the conversations we’ve had, we think that’s absolutely true here.

#5 Ignite a culture

There’s always a common thread that links our most successful clients and the most successful brands. Talented, committed, energised people … pulling in the same direction …. excited by and evangelising the business and brand story. It’s very clear to us that creating, fostering and protecting a winning culture is a massive piece of the puzzle and your brand story can be the catalyst for it.

So if you’ve read this far, firstly thanks, but what next?

Well if you’d like to receive a copy of the research report we’re set to publish then just drop me a line at

And it goes without saying that if you’re leading a marketing team in a growth business, looking for help in developing your brand story and to take things to the next level perhaps after recent investment, we’d love to talk to you about how we could help.

Get in touch and we can share a few more client success stories and take you through our 90-day Growth Accelerator Service™ for newly funded technology businesses which you can read more about here.