McKinsey celebrates latest crop of alumni-founded unicorns in Asia

19 June 2019 3 min. read
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McKinsey has shone the spotlight on its most recent crop of unicorn-founding alumni, including the ex-consultants behind Go-Jek, Grab, and Zilingo.

A recent study by Strategy& outlined the profile of last year’s incoming crop of CEO’s at the world’s 2,500 largest publicly-listed companies: around a third hold an MBA, they were overwhelmingly male (~95 percent), and less than one in five were company outsiders etc. One statistical measure not supplied, however, was the percentage of ex-McKinsey & Company employees among them, although you’d have every reason to include such a category.

Dubbed variously as the ‘CEO factory’ or ‘CEO launch-pad’, by its own 2015 numbers McKinsey had around 450 of its alumni running billion-dollar-plus organisations across the globe, with an earlier analysis from around a decade ago claiming that more than 70 past and present CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were former McKinsey. Sundar Pichai (Google) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO – Facebook) are just a couple of high profile names among their well-known leadership league.

Lesser known, says the global strategy and management consulting giant, is that around one fifth of its former employees go on to found a business – including a growing number of unicorns over the past decade, that is, companies now valued at over $1 billion. In a recent blog-post, McKinsey celebrated these successful alumni, with several of them behind some the hottest companies in Asia: app and delivery giants Go-Jek and Grab, and e-commerce platform Zilingo.

McKinsey celebrates latest crop of alumni-founded unicorns in Asia

Headquartered in Jakarta, Go-Jek is noted as Indonesia’s first-ever decacorn (a start-up with a valuation of $10 billion or more). Founded in 2011 by Nadiem Makarim as a local motor-bike taxi company, Go-Jek has now spread across Southeast Asia (including Singapore, where fellow McKinsey alumni Lien Choong Luen was recently named as general manager) with two million drivers and dozens of app-based services. Makarim earlier spent three years at McKinsey.

Acknowledged as an inspiration for Go-Jek, and now a fierce rival competing in the same space, is the Singapore-based unicorn Grab (reportedly worth $14 billion) – founded by Anthony Tan together with ex-McKinsey associate Hooi Ling Tan, who spent over a year with the consultancy in the US following an earlier three-year stint with McKinsey’s branch in Malaysia. Established as a ride-hailing app, Grab now provides an array of services in eight Southeast Asian countries.

Zilingo, meanwhile – a regional beauty and lifestyle e-Commerce platform launched in 2015 and headquartered in Singapore – was co-founded by Ankiti Bose (alongside Dhruv Kapoor), who spent two years as a management consultant with McKinsey in Mumbai. According to a TechCrunch article cited by McKinsey, Zilingo in February was described by an inside source as “a rounding error away” from the $1 billion unicorn-mark, with revenue quadrupling last year.

Other start-ups-come-unicorns on the list founded by ex-McKinsey consultants over the past decade (with the firm calculating that its former employees have founded around 3.5 percent of the world’s current unicorns) include Middle East ride-hailing company Careem (Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson), which recently sold to Uber for a cool $3.1 billion, and global mobile-advertising platform InMobi of India (Naveen Tewari), the county’s first ever unicorn.