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| 2 minutes read

Unicorn ambitions? You better grow your leadership team

It sounds obvious right? The better your leadership team, the more chance of unicorn success.

Yet many start-ups still fail to invest in building the right leadership team and ultimately they feel the effects in the long-term!

The article shows a study of 80 unicorns versus a sample of control start-ups (who in the first 5 years had the same type and size of early investment). The results found that on average, unicorns had 9 more senior leaders after 5 years, than the control start-ups. The most experienced leaders in these unicorns had considerably more years behind them than the most experienced in the control start-ups, and the unicorns had at least one senior leader in each department, with more in engineering, sales & BD, and marketing & comms departments.

So, the data here shows that the most successful start-ups invest in the right leadership team in their first 5 years.

Working in Executive Search, we speak to hundreds of start-ups across Europe and North America, and thankfully those we partner with as clients understand the value of a strong leadership team - in fact several of our early-stage clients have ultimately gone on to unicorn status e.g. Verkor, 1KOMMA5°

However, far too many Founders are reluctant to do so. But why?

Well, some try to be magicians, with involvement in absolutely everything across their business and a reluctance to let things go. Some can be overly protective and struggle to let “outsiders” have influence over their “baby” . Others simply feel they don't have the budget to invest in senior leaders, failing to recognise that over the long-term, these hires can be the real difference when it comes to attracting new investors, customers, and future employees. 

Whatever the reason may be, this research shows that you're more likely to reach long-term success if you build effective leadership teams, with the long-term value in mind. We've seen too many promising start-ups get this wrong - Founders / CEOs will try to put existing “square pegs” in “round holes” rather than hire externally or will fail to delegate, and ultimately the short-sightedness comes back to bite them. 

If you want the best possible exit, then you NEED a great leadership team around you!

Here at Hyperion we've hired executive leadership teams for hundreds of cleantech start-ups across Europe and North America, many of which have had fantastic growth stories. We partner with Founding teams to build out the best possible leadership structure for their long-term success. If you're a Founder or start-up CEO looking to add to your senior leadership team, then contact me at 

On average, unicorn companies hire more senior employees across their first five years compared to companies that don’t make it to unicorn status.


c-suite, hiring, leadership, energy storage, cleantech