In March, I served as one of the four judges at the Entrepreneurship World Cup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a prestigious competition that empowers entrepreneurs from around the world to showcase their solutions and businesses and compete for a total of US$1 million in prize money. At this year’s event, we witnessed first-hand entries from very innovative and promising startups from over 200 countries. The top 100 finalists qualified from an impressive pool of over 21,000 participants.
As an entrepreneur and ecosystem builder, I have seen many changes occurring in the industry over the years. However, I must commend Saudi Arabia for its unparalleled commitment to women’s inclusion, innovation, and building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, which has led to significant economic progress in the region.
Creating a unicorn, a startup valued at over US$1 billion, is the ultimate dream of every entrepreneur. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula to building a successful business, the best startups typically possess a few key traits. They are disruptors in their field, challenging conventional business models and introducing new ideas and products. To achieve such an extraordinary feat, entrepreneurs must possess a deep understanding of their industry, be able to identify gaps and business opportunities, and have enough determination to persevere and endure when faced with failure and other challenges.
I would like to congratulate the winners of EWC WhiteHelmet وايتهلمت, NDR Medical Technology Pte Ltd, Hera Health Solutions, Marlow, Digiphy, PragmaClin Research Inc., APICAL, Biogrip Tech, Desert Control, Waykana Guayusa, genengine and to remind them to never be afraid of shooting for the stars.
The Path to Becoming a Unicorn Entrepreneur
Becoming a unicorn entrepreneur is no easy feat. I would like to share a few of my stories in the hope they will inspire you to dream big, lead from the heart, and never give up when you are faced with adversity in life.
As teleworking became the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, which gave me the opportunity to become the first Latin American woman to lead a company worth US$1 billion. My business became a unicorn in October 2020 and is now valued at US$3.2 billion.
During my visit to Saudi Arabia, I was also invited to speak at BIBAN 2023, one of the largest startup, SME, and entrepreneurship forums in the region, which every year brings together more than 350 speakers, 750 entrepreneurs, and over 100,000 attendees. I must say I was overwhelmed by the energy and enthusiasm of the audience.
During my keynote, I shared stories that had changed my life and encouraged those in attendance to never hold beliefs that limit their potential, to dream big, and challenge the status quo. I’ve always lived by the motto of “skirt the rules” in my professional career, which means to go around the rules without breaking them. Having this as a guiding principle has ultimately enabled me to transform crises into opportunities.
The path to becoming a unicorn is not linear and requires not just passion and hard work but also a keen understanding of timing, innovation, and execution. Only then can you achieve that elusive goal.
The road to success is closer than you think
As an entrepreneur, I have always been passionate about teaching people how to become economically empowered. In recent years I discovered that the model that enables people to access capital markets was broken and needed to be fixed.
Drawing on my own experience of raising capital, I came up with the idea for Unicorn Hunters, an interactive reality show and investment platform that would give budding startups the opportunity to showcase their talent and ideas to the world and attract investment. The investment panel is made up of: the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak; Rosie Rios, the former Treasurer of the United States whose signature appears on about US$1.3 trillion of American currency in circulation; Lance Bass, the charismatic bass singer in American pop boy band NSynch, US attorney and political advisor Moe Vela, and Russian entrepreneur and former banker Alex Konanykhin. The panel selects startups that show unicorn potential and grills them on the show to find their weaknesses and strengths. We also invest in these businesses and give them the visibility they need so that millions of people can also invest in them via the web.
At Unicorn Hunters, we live by a conviction of seeking to democratize access to capital for entrepreneurs and provide access to investment opportunities for the masses. The show has been a box office hit, watched by millions of people around the world, and has received millions of dollars in investment deals.
As entrepreneurs, we are always on the lookout for problems to solve. So, we decided to do something about the volatility of cryptocurrencies and created a securitized digital asset backed by the Global Innovation Fund that also allows people to earn dividends.
We understood early on that the future of money is digital and that a currency that pays you is better than one that doesn’t and most definitely better than cash, which is losing popularity. That led us to launch UNICOIN, a new cryptocurrency that can be used to invest in startups and other assets with high growth potential. Our currency is also geared towards women who have traditionally been marginalized in the financial system. Our goal is to build one of the largest cryptocurrencies worldwide and redefine the term smart crypto.
Building a startup that becomes a unicorn is an impressive achievement that takes hard work, talent, and vision. But for those who are willing to put in the effort, becoming a unicorn entrepreneur is not just about achieving financial success. It is about making a meaningful impact and leading with purpose, and inspiring others to do the same.