What Is A Phoenix Company?

A Phoenix company is an organization that managed to survive and it thrived for over two hundred years. Opposite to the concept of Unicorn, a company that managed to overgrow and gain traction to become valuable in the short-term. A Phoenix Company is all about the long-term.



Unicorn Company vs. Phoenix Company

In the last decade, Unicorn Companies have become the most admired in the world.

Those companies are the ones that experienced massive growth and the potential to reach billion-dollar marks.

While Unicorn Companies and Startups do capture most of the media attention.

There is another kind of company that a few know about. Those are companies that have managed to live for more than two centuries.

In a tech world that prioritizes growth over anything else, there isn’t yet a company that can be classified as a Phoenix.

First, Silicon Valley is a phenomenon, which is relatively young. Fred Terman, considered “the Father of Silicon Valley” died in 1982.

And the birth of the Silicon Valley phenomenon can be dated to the 1940s and 1950s. When Terman, as dean of engineering at Stanford encouraged young students also to pursue their own companies.

Second, companies coming out of innovative business models, that pursue growth over else, might be able to create initial traction and advantage, but over time they are not able to deliver consistent results.

For instance, companies like Google and Amazon that came out from the ashes of the dot-com bubble also became the most promising companies.

Third, Unicorn Companies become often good prey for larger organizations, that have the liquidity to buy them up.

Therefore, before a Unicorn might get listed via an IPO and become too expensive, large organizations might buy them up for a relatively low price.

Thus, a Unicorn Company has mastered the short-term game.

It has managed to understand how to gain traction so quickly, to become among the most valuable companies in the world.

However, Unicorn Companies might either go bust or become part of larger organizations. And only a few might thrive in the long run.

A Phoenix instead has mastered the long-term game. It might not have become a billion-dollar company.

Or even if it did it managed to survive many transitions, generations, and eras.

Opposite of a Unicorn or a Decacorn company, which is usually, a tech-based company, which is very aggressive at the onset, as it tries to grow itself into a tech giant by disrupting existing markets.  

A Decacorn is a company valued at over $10 billion. The top ten Decacorn Companies in 2022, comprise Bytedance, SpaceX, Stripe, Klarna, Epic Games, Cana, Checkout.com, Instacart, and Databricks.  With the rise of consumer technologies able to have worldwide traction, unicorns seem to be no longer the rule. In other words, a decade ago a billion-dollar valuation was a strong position to be which allowed the company in that position to create a long-lasting advantage.

RelatedWhat Is A Unicorn Company?

A glance at the Phoenix landscape

Phoenix companies are gems.

And according to Wikipedia, there are based on a report published by the Bank of Korea in 2008 in 41 countries “there were 5,586 companies older than 200 years. Of these, 3,146 are in Japan, 837 in Germany, 222 in the Netherlands, and 196 in France.

Until recently (2006) the oldest company alive was Kongo Gumi, a construction company headquartered in Osaka, Japan.

The company was absorbed in 2006, as part of another company called Takamatsu Kensetsu. 

This means the company managed to live for over 1,400 years.

The key, in this case, seems to be the family tradition, passed down from generation to generation since its founders. 

These construction techniques leveraged these traditional tools and techniques to build and maintain and repair Buddhist temples.

While I didn’t find any scientific research that could point out what made those companies so everlasting, some of them seem to be family businesses.

Yet the point of this article is the long-term focus.

How a bunch of new companies managed to survive for centuries and be passed on from generation to generation.

In a world driven by companies that try to dominate the market at full speed.

I thought it might make sense to stop for a second to look at those companies and think about how entrepreneurship means also thinking in terms of generations.

Data for the list included in the infographic: The Oldest Companies Still Operating Today

Statistics about oldest companies by country: Wikipedia

Statistics about over two hundred years old companies in Italy: IlSole24Ore

Key Highlights

  • Unicorn vs. Phoenix Companies:
    • Unicorn Companies: These are startups that experience rapid growth and have the potential to reach billion-dollar valuations in a short period.
    • Phoenix Companies: These are organizations that have survived and thrived for over two centuries, demonstrating long-term sustainability.
  • Tech-Centric Nature of Unicorn Companies:
    • Unicorn companies are typically associated with the tech industry and focus on aggressive growth to disrupt existing markets.
    • While Unicorn companies can achieve high valuations quickly, they may also face challenges such as going bust or being acquired by larger organizations.
  • Short-Term Success of Unicorns:
    • Unicorn companies can master the short-term game by quickly gaining traction and becoming valuable in a short span.
    • However, only a few of these companies may thrive in the long run, as some may face challenges or fail to maintain their success over time.
  • Phoenix Companies and the Long-Term Game:
    • Phoenix companies excel in the long-term game, demonstrating the ability to survive through transitions, generations, and eras.
    • These companies may not always reach billion-dollar valuations, but their ability to endure sets them apart.
  • Phoenix Landscape and Examples:
    • Phoenix companies are rare and often family-owned businesses that have been passed down through generations.
    • Kongo Gumi, a Japanese construction company, was one of the oldest companies, having survived for over 1,400 years before being absorbed by another company.
    • These long-lasting companies often possess a family tradition and leverage traditional tools and techniques.
  • Focus on Generations and Longevity:
    • Phoenix companies emphasize a multi-generational approach to entrepreneurship and business management.
    • In a fast-paced market dominated by companies striving for rapid growth, Phoenix companies offer a different perspective on longevity and sustainability.
  • Statistics and Resources:
    • The Bank of Korea’s report from 2008 identified over 5,500 companies older than 200 years across various countries.
    • Family traditions and a focus on generational continuity have contributed to the longevity of some of these companies.

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