Zebras Unite
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Zebras Unite

Zebras in the Wild: Veronica Guguian | Chapter Co-Lead Amsterdam, Netherlands

With our series “Zebras in the Wild”, we are excited to take you on a journey around the world to meet founding members, chapter leads, co-op members and allies! We talk to Zebras in the wild and report back how they’re challenging the status quo, how they envision the future and how we can support them in their mission!

I sat down with Veronica Guguian, who co-leads our Amsterdam chapter, to hear more about

  • The misalignment of our values in the modern workplace
  • The power of community and collaboration, and
  • Lessons from the pandemic.

Read the highlights from my interview with Veronica:

A Zebra is…

A company that is in business for a few years (because you need to have product-market fit and understand your niche to be profitable) and is guided by a certain set of values: Is the company in the world to make money and make owners rich? Or is it there to change something, to help their community and make life better?

When I met Lana, my co-lead, three years ago, we decided to create a conference. Before we got into the planning, we wanted to ensure we were on the same page, and we both really like to define terms. So we sat down and tried to define our target audience for this event: We knew we wanted to work with startups and companies that have been in business for at least three years, have at least three employees, are profitable and looking to grow. Further, we knew that the companies we wanted to cater to wouldn’t just want to grow for the sake of growth but because they wanted to contribute and give back to society. Shortly after, my Lana went to a conference and came across the term ‘Zebras’. When she returned, she told me about it, and we realized those are the exact companies we want to work with!

Chapter Co-Leads Lana Jelenjev & Veronica at their BASE Conference 2019

Values misalignment

Here’s what I’ve been asking myself:

  • Why are we waking up in the morning and working like crazy every day?
  • Why are we so excited about growth and bigger profits?
  • What is the cost of that growth?

In order to increase profits at maximum capacity, you have to cut costs. Of course, you can be innovative about it but for the most part, companies that keep wanting to drive costs down are mostly doing it to the detriment of their employees and/or the quality of their services.

Veronica’s Vision for the Future

In an alternative future, we would be kinder to and co-creating with each other. Instead of trying to make more money at any cost, how about we join forces to see what we can co-create? And remain curious throughout the process?

In a way, the COVID pandemic was a great example. Look at what has happened since COVID broke out: We were all locked down and in standby. But people showed initiative, creativity and innovation. Look at how many things were created that otherwise would have never seen the light of day! For example, look at how much easier and “normal” it has become for people from all over the world to start networking and meeting virtually. We see that quite a lot with the Online Networking with a SPIN. You don’t need to travel and spend lot’s of time and money fostering new collaborations with people you didn’t even know an hour ago. Now you can do it with just a simple click.

Stop chasing unicorns!

We need to stop chasing unicorns! Instead of exponential growth and quick exits, how about we start investing in companies that want to be around for a while, that want to create value for their employees and the communities they operate in?

When looking for an investor you need to also “interview “ her or him and see if you want to be associated. It should be a mutual evaluation, not just one-sided, as they will also have a say in the values and direction of the company. Define what growth is for you and how you want to grow. Sometimes it is better to take your time and scale at a slower pace, having the time to create processes and procedures that fit you.

Community as a place for inspiration and shared learning

I strongly believe in community. Before we launched the Zebras Unite Amsterdam chapter, I launched an online community just to connect like-minded entrepreneurs. My intention had been to create a network of local founders but it quickly became international and has tripled in size since our launch. There’s so much we can learn from each other once we look beyond our immediate comfort zone.

SPIN Ideas = community

That’s the power of community: We convene, exchange ideas, experiences and learnings with each other. By staying curious you can take what works for you and apply it in your community. It’s not stealing, because you can never implement an identical idea in a different location and expect identical outcomes. But it’s a way to innovate, and report back to the community about what worked and didn’t work for YOU — that way the next person can learn from you and iterate.

A culture of curiosity & collaboration

  • Curiosity: you never know from where the next idea, collaboration or project can come. Be open-minded, ask questions, meet as many people as you can, read opposite points of view and diverse sources.
  • Collaborations: instead of “fighting” for the attention of the same audience, work with the people around you and offer more value. In this way everyone will win.

Veronica’s contribution

I love connecting people and ideas through events, speaking, writing and convening people in whatever way I can! That’s why I’m excited to be part of the Zebras Unite family! It allows us to present other ways of doing business and if we educate people and show them what else is possible, we can create large-scale change!

How Can We Support You?

Join my events and bring your friends! With greater diversity of ideas and cultures and interests allows us to get the word out about Zebras Unite and a different way of doing business!

Veronica asks the community…

What lessons have you learned throughout the pandemic and how are you bringing them into the future?

Everyone talks about “Going back to Normal” — how do you want to live and work from now? How do you want to connect with others?

Shout-out

Epic Hub is a revenue-based financing platform for impact-driven companies and investors. They’re there to help Zebra companies get funded.

Connect

Originally published at https://socialventurers.com.

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Anika Horn

Anika Horn

Ecosystem builder for social change. Founder at www.socialventurers.com Meet me over at www.anikahorn.com for all things social enterprise!