Omidyar Network Announces Grant to Zebras Unite to Improve Access to Capital and More Equitable Business Models
REDWOOD CITY, CA — Omidyar Network today announced a grant to Zebras Unite, the grassroots, founder-led movement that supports purposeful startup companies. In contrast to so-called Unicorn companies, that celebrate competition, disruption, subsidized growth, and shareholder profit, Zebra founders prioritize cooperation, social benefit, sustainability, and shared ownership. The funding will help grow and sustain the Zebras Unite community, which includes a global network of 4,000 values-driven entrepreneurs, investors, and allies who are calling for a more ethical, inclusive, collaborative, and distributed movement to transform prevailing startup and venture capital culture. Together, Omidyar Network and Zebras Unite aim to cultivate new capital ecosystems to support businesses that focus on integrating profitability and socioeconomic equity.
“Zebras Unite’s founders have built a community of more than 4,000 values-driven entrepreneurs, startup founders, and investors that are responding to a clear call for companies that create a more just and responsible society," says Sarah Drinkwater, a director at Omidyar Network. “We need bold leadership to reimagine a tech industry that puts people over profits and a global community of diverse pioneers driving this movement. We look forward to supporting Zebras Unite over the coming year as they continue to cultivate and grow a global community of diverse and consciously scaling founders," she continued.
This announcement comes on the heels of the recent statement by the Business Roundtable, the most powerful group of US CEOs, in which they concede that maximizing shareholder profit can no longer be the singular focus of American corporations. The growing awareness of the detrimental impacts of venture capitalists’ insatiable demand for outsized returns, and the technology industry’s recent crises, illustrate that building socially responsible businesses from the start is fast becoming a central moral challenge of our time.
“As society and our capital markets reckon with the impact of venture-capital fueled companies such as Uber and WeWork, we see an increasing need to expand financing options beyond venture capital,” says Dr. Astrid Scholz, CEO of Sphaera and a co-founder of the Zebras Unite movement. “With Omidyar Network’s support, founders of a different stripe now have the opportunity to lead the creation of the future we want, working in collaboration with funders and their local communities,” she added.
The grant will fund a survey of Zebra companies and examine the characteristics, capital needs, and unique attributes that make these businesses identify as part of the growing movement. The survey will inform Zebras Unite’s work to support startup founders with the community, culture, and capital they need to scale ethical, equitable, and sustainable companies. Funding will help the group utilize interactive technology tools, organize accessible online micro-conferences, and bring the Zebras Unite community together for a conference, DazzleCamp (dazzle is the collective noun for zebras), scheduled for spring 2020. Omidyar Network and Zebras Unite also plan to explore the feasibility of raising a Zebras Unite Fund — one that would generate positive social and financial returns.
Addressing challenges of new and alternative capital sources lies at the heart of the creation of a more just and responsible society. By driving new models and operating practices, Zebra companies can more effectively enable profit and purpose. Zebra companies offer clear benefits to both local communities and the broader public, often providing cooperative opportunities for those without traditional access to resources. The long term profitability and sustainability of these ventures is frequently underestimated in the demand for short term exits with high financial returns that so often characterizes Unicorn companies (a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion) that dominate the headlines and public mindshare. The positive sum benefit of the Zebra community, culture, and capital contrasts favorably with the companies that currently attract the majority of venture capital.
Additional details on Zebras Unite’s future plans will be announced at Techfestival in Copenhagen on September 6, 2019. Ten thousand people are expected to gather for the event and another 150 will attend the parallel 2019 Think-Tank sponsored by Omidyar Network.
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Mary Ellen Green at FleishmanHillard or Susan Towers at Forerunner PR.
Mary Ellen Green
About Omidyar Network
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by philanthropists Pam and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, the organization has committed more than $1 billion to innovative for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To learn more, visit www.omidyar.com, and follow on Twitter @omidyarnetwork.
About Zebras Unite
Zebras Unite is a global network of entrepreneurs, funders, investors, and allies who are calling for and building a more ethical, inclusive, collaborative, distributed, and sustainable movement to transform prevailing startup and venture capital culture. We believe creating an alternative to the status quo is a moral imperative. For more, visit, www.zebrasunite.com.