US Venture capitalist Aileen Lee introduced in 2013 the “unicorn” as name for a successful startup company with a value of more than one billion US-Dollar. If we see the high number of new companies, which never will achieve this size or fail in the their fist years, such a thing is really mysterious. In 2013 had been 39 unicorns worldwide, or in other words, 0,07% of all IT startups. Like medieval explorers, modern investors are hunting these magical creatures and speculate who might be the next Uber, Facebook or Tesla.
The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute creates the annual Global Entrepreneurship Index, what collects information on entrepreneurial attitudes, abilities and aspirations of the local populations and combines this with the social & economic infrastructure. The last includes the classic transportation, but furthermore also fast access to the internet. The 2017 edition of the index confirms the unicorn as an animal of the north. The six countries with the best environment for these mystical startups are the Unites States of America, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
If we compare the 2017 GEI Index with the 2015 Transparency Corruption Perception Index we achieve a correlation index of 0.91, what confirms a strong negative relation between entrepreneurship and corruption. This can be interpreted that in a transparent business environment the entrepreneur can concentrate on his or her vision of the business, and perceives less set-backs through corrupt officials and dysfunctional bureaucracy.
In Peter S. Beagle’s book from 1968 “The Last Unicorn”, the magical creature needed a wizard for its protection. Similar to this, a startup is still not an established company and requires also such a figure. A Compliance Officer can support to establish a workplace environment with clear rules that apply for all employees. Furthermore this defines and protects the individual’s responsibilities and freedom; basic to ensure a creative environment. Steve Jobs understood this and once said: “Apple is a disciplined company.”
As most of today’s startups are IT-related and include a young workforce, the Compliance Officer is less the traditional wizard, but more as Babylon 5’s Technomages, a group of people, which use high technology to create magical effects and results. We are in a continuous technological revolution. Different experts predict that by 2025 30% of our today’s jobs had been taken over by robots, what will include also Legal and Compliance positions. Due to this, such young companies will not build up anymore a big ethics department, but most probably limit this to one person, who can use advanced software to monitor third parties, manage training, elaborate a communication strategy and implement a whistle-blower hotline. Compliance and ethics are not about laws and guidelines, but human beings. With being liberated from the standard tasks, the Compliance Officer can focus on the individuals and do magic.