Why Near-Unicorn Zilingo Doesn’t Glamorize Valuation or Fundraising
The label of “unicorn” or any of its spinoffs, bequeathed upon startups that have achieved a valuation of over $1 billion, is often interpreted as a sign of success: as an indication of investor confidence over a startup’s ability to make it big.
But it’s something the co-founder of near-unicorn Zilingo is careful to harp on, as focusing on mega funding can contribute to a culture that she seeks to avoid, said CEO Ankiti Bose Wednesday. The Singapore-based e-commerce startup raised $226 million in funding in February from investors including Sequoia Capital and Temasek Holdings, valuing the firm at about $970 million.
Bose told Bloomberg earlier this year, “Either people will break or become assholes—standard unicorn assholes,” alluding to the effects of hypergrowth on startups.
Bose was asked onstage at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Next Gen summit about her anxieties over how the same theme could affect Zilingo, and how the company, which has grown rapidly in recent years, seeks to avoid that path.
“Internally inside the company, we try to make sure we don’t glamorize valuation, we don’t glamorize fundraising, we don’t glamorize metrics that are not related to margins or profitability or attention—things that will matter in the long run,” she said. “I actually think women tend to do it less because we question ourselves a bit more and we try to always be sure of our achievements before we claim them.”
Zilingo now has some 800 employees and is seeking a fifth office location in Singapore.
Bose’s comments come at a time when more investors are trading in talks of hypergrowth for discussions of profitability following the collapse of WeWork’s IPO and the disappointing stock-price performance of much-hyped decacorns such as Uber and Lyft in the public markets.
And while mega funding rounds can lead to eye-popping valuations and boost morale within the company, they can also be arbitrary and go up in smoke. Just look to e-cigarette maker Juul Labs.
Once valued $38 billion, investors have since slashed Juul’s valuation in the private market after a spate of regulatory actions and lawsuits. Fidelity most recently valued the firm at around $16.4 billion.
More must-read stories from Fortune’s MPW Next Gen Summit:
—Chanel Miller is more than “Emily Doe”
—The ‘blameless post mortem’ and other techniques that spur innovation—Career pivots are daunting. Here’s how three powerful women made them work
—Goldman Sachs removed one word from recruiting materials and female hires soared
—Exclusive: Enterprise scion Chrissy Taylor to become car rental giant’s CEO
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