Zebras Unite
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Zebras Unite

Zebras Unite To Fix What Unicorns Broke

Portraits of DazzleCon attendees by Jacob Hinmon

To build humane technology — to build anything humane — we must support the people who personally experience a problem and bravely create solutions born of this lived experience.

Change for the common good often comes from the ground up.

  1. Was this designed for or by those affected? Today, startups engage in a process of customer discovery and validation. They parachute into a market to test a hypothesis and design a product. This results in disconnected, predatory colonialism whereby entrepreneurs profit from the insights they’ve gleaned to sell products as quickly as they can, and more often than not, fail and leave destruction in their wake. Lasting solutions are born from founders and teams who have experienced the challenges they’re solving for firsthand and collaboratively address their needs by building with the community they are serving. The designer is a facilitator rather than an expert and we build from a place of, “Nothing without us about us.”
  2. Does this disrupt or repair? The culture of disruption has a devastating impact on cities, and communities. “Move fast and break things” means a lot gets broken. Important things, like journalism, democracy, and social infrastructure. Deliberate and intentional processes that forge public, private, and community partnerships can sustain, repair and empower our communities.
  3. Does this hurt or heal ourselves and the earth? Harmful design patterns result in addiction, extraction, and the destruction of natural resources. New business models must be created to support companies that consider and improve both mental and environmental health outcomes. We work towards non-exploitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other.
  4. Does this result in big wins for very few or shared prosperity and intergenerational wealth? Less than 1% of venture capital goes to Black and Latinx founders and 2% goes to women. These underestimated founders represent an astonishing missed opportunity, with startup creation being fueled at a higher rate than average by women of color. The most promising path forward is to work towards profitable, sustainable companies that create shared prosperity and lasting, intergenerational wealth. We need new financing instruments like uncollateralized debt and local economic development programs to support these efforts. We provide tools and support to build successful businesses with modest resources.
  5. Does this reward shareholders or stakeholders? Existing business models and funding opportunities reward shareholders above all else. The alternative to these extractive, investor-owned models is to consider stakeholders like users and members, employees, freelancers, and other participants to share in the value created. New corporate structures can accommodate the collective interest.

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Zebras Unite: creating the capital, culture and community for the next economy

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Jennifer, Mara, Astrid & Aniyia

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