A Statement from Zebras Unite on the end of Indie.vc

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Illustration by Mitch Wilson

On Tuesday, Bryce Roberts, founder of Indie.vc, announced the end of the fund.

Some context: when startups raise venture capital, it sets them on a path to grow by any means necessary, become a “unicorn” (valued at $1B+) and “exit” (sell or IPO) to maximize shareholder profit. If you’re a company that raised a bit of VC and then turned profitable this is, if you can believe it, a failure for investors. There’s no exit, no big payday.

Bryce, a successful VC investor, saw a different way: we need more…


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Illustration by Arthur Jones

Join us for a community conversation about this manifesto on Friday, February 19 at 1 PM PT

“Her birth did not go as planned.” This is how Zebras Unite co-founder, Aniyia Williams, and her husband Marco, describe their daughter Noemi’s unexpected arrival in her father’s hands, at home, in their bed, without medical professionals. Aniyia repeated her doctor’s advice: “Your body knows what to do.” The labor unlocked the family’s superpowers: listening to their instincts, presence of mind, and faith in a time of crisis. In this era of industrialized childbirth, Aniyia, Marco, and Noemi found their own way.

Like childbirth, there’s no one right way to build a business. …


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Illustration by Arthur Jones who: (1) in lieu of payment, asked we donate to Campaign Zero and Portland Protest Bailout (you should too!) and (2) has directed one of the most urgent films of our time, “Feels Good Man,” released next month, that tells the astonishing story of This Mess We’re In (how to get out of it).

Today’s calls for ethical, humane, responsible, regulated and beneficial technology, compounded with venture capital’s virtue signaling in solidarity with Black lives, brings us to a critical crossroads for corporate America.

Yesterday, tech giant CEOs defended their companies before Congress against allegations of stealing, breaking antitrust laws, and fueling disinformation. “We’ve invested billions of dollars in moderating hate speech from the trillions we’ve made off of it,” is how Safiya Umoja Noble, PhD paraphrased Mark Zuckerberg’s tragicomic defense.

What are the consequences when corporations define what they deem to be “responsible”? Past mistakes can often predict the future.

We can learn…


Cooperate on the future we want. Create a fund. Go to camp.

A drawing of cooperative zebras passing tools between each other by Sarah Nason
A drawing of cooperative zebras passing tools between each other by Sarah Nason
This great image was made for Zebras Unite by Sarah Nason https://sarahnason.myportfolio.com/

We honor Valentine’s Day each year with a major update. It’s because this work to create a better future for values-aligned founders is fueled by a fierce love and urgency for connection.

In 2016 we were broken-hearted, unable to find the right match between the companies we were creating and startup culture’s status quo. We sent the bat signal for others who also felt alone. In 2017 we articulated the ethos for the kind of companies and world we were eager to create. We hosted the first ever convening, DazzleCon. In 2018 we shared the joy and relief of finding…


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Image courtesy of Julien Tabet

By Jennifer Brandel, Astrid Scholz, Mara Zepeda and Nathan Schneider

If you’ve been paying attention to WeWork’s aborted IPO, you might have noticed that WeWork is not the only company hanging in the balance. During its bid for “unicorn”-style market dominance, the company bought up other startups. Business Insider reported in late September that WeWork was looking to unload three of those businesses, including the exceedingly vital, civic-society-strengthening company Meetup.

As WeWork confronts its demons, there’s a chance to rescue Meetup through the very mutualism that the platform enables. …


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Illustration by Julia Green

Zebras Unite partners with Institute for the Future

For the last two years we’ve asked why startup culture was so broken for so many. Last November, hundreds of founders and funders eager for change gathered at DazzleCon, our inaugural conference. Attendees told us the solution is not to fix this broken system with incremental progress and disingenuous half measures. No more band-aids. We need to intentionally build the equitable, inclusive, collaborative, sane future we wish to see. This alternative model will be designed to support entrepreneurs solving real-world problems that improve society.

Now is the time for these solutions. …


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Portraits of DazzleCon attendees by Jacob Hinmon

Who gets to build the future? Why humane tech must be built by humans serving communities.

Last November, more than 250 founders and funders gathered in Portland, Oregon for DazzleCon, the first conference of its kind. It was inspired by “Zebras Fix what Unicorns Break,” which proposed a new system to help entrepreneurs build companies for purpose and profit. We call these companies “zebras” in contrast to the boom or bust “unicorn.” (A group of zebras is called a “dazzle,” hence DazzleCon).

Zebra founders and our allies believe that creating an ethical and inclusive alternative to the Silicon Valley status…


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By Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz, and Aniyia Williams

Four months ago, we published “Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break,” a treatise calling for a more ethical and inclusive movement to counter existing start-up culture. We called for an ecosystem that supports founders of all stripes. We argued that creating alternatives to the status quo is a central moral challenge of our time.

We wrote the piece as a reaction to what we were seeing, feeling, and experiencing as underrepresented startup founders at odds with systems not designed for us to exist, let alone thrive. …


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Magical thinking drives the startup economy — but we need a strong dose of reality.

July 13, 2017 update: For the latest, please read “Zebras: Let’s Get In Formation.”

A year ago we wrote “Sex & Startups.” The premise was this: The current technology and venture capital structure is broken. It rewards quantity over quality, consumption over creation, quick exits over sustainable growth, and shareholder profit over shared prosperity. It chases after “unicorn” companies bent on “disruption” rather than supporting businesses that repair, cultivate, and connect. After publishing the essay, we heard from hundreds of founders, investors, and advocates who agreed: “We cannot win at this game.”

This is an urgent problem. For in this game, far more than money is at stake. When VC firms prize time on…


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Startups, like the male anatomy, are designed for liquidity events. Consider the metaphors: “seed” funding, “up and to the right” trajectories, “acceleration,” “exit.” Paul Graham’s seminal essay “Startup = Growth” argues that explosive growth is the only measure of success. “Making it” means one of two things: go public or sell.

But a startup has about as much chance of making it as a single sperm has of fertilizing an egg.

Look no further than the numbers: 90% of startups fail. The majority die within 20 months of their last round of funding. …

Jennifer, Mara, Astrid & Aniyia

Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz & Aniyia Williams are the founding directors of Zebras Unite

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