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Reviewed by Nicola Jenvey for Readers' Favorite
Michael Bervell’s book Unlocking Unicorns brings to life ten stories about how a diverse group of entrepreneurs across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East took their start-up ventures and developed global successes. These are the unicorn businesses named for the mythical winged beast with its legendary single horn – the companies that not only beat the odds for success as start-ups, but became billion-dollar enterprises. The stories are as wide-ranging as their geographic locations, opening with the 1001 failures to which Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma still refers as his starting point to a father’s tenacity that saw Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw become India’s first female brewer. There is the thrill in reading about Mitchell Elegbe’s single-mindedness in achieving a cashless society in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria – a concept wholly impossible in a country where cash is king, but where he made the ease of transacting possible to have cash at customers’ fingertips rather than wasting days standing in bank queues. Last, but not least, is the remarkable success of Anthony Tan and Hooi Ling Tan in founding the transportation company Grab as an Uber copycat now dominating South East Asia. They rule the roost in a region that commands respect whenever anyone achieves success; most of all as a unicorn.
I loved Unlocking Unicorns from the opening pages, devouring the stories about how unlikely entrepreneurs beat the odds to create unicorns. Michael Bervell’s writing is passionate, gritty, and inspiring and you can hear the voices of success while he has not trivialized the time and dedication required to achieve those dreams and successes. It is refreshing to read stories that are inherently capitalist in nature, yet more broad in their extent and application. Money will always rule, but how profits can be used to improve our world is both a critical platform for consideration and a changing concept as witnessed in these stories. Bervell’s writing style makes it easy to comprehend complex business concepts, while his personalized approach to business can potentially inspire a new generation of unicorn entrepreneurs.