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Insights From The Success And Failure Stories of The Top100 Exponential Organizations

The Top100 Exponential Organizations were identified in 2015. It was asserted that these will deliver higher levels of resilience and impact. So, how have these Top100 Exponential Organizations performed over the years? Have they created Value or Otherwise?

Chander Nagpal
Chander Nagpal

While towards the end of Q1’22, we were seeing the decline of COVID after it impacted our personal and professional lives globally for nearly 2 years, the business world got shaken up by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the cascading manifestations in the form of supply chain challenges, high inflation, and a potential recession.

And with the recent meltdown in the financial markets, while the pundits are yet again asking, “Has the Bubble burst?”, the entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and business leaders who want to make a difference are continuing to ask a more vital and relevant question: “What can I/we do to be successful?”

The sobriquet of Unicorn came from a seminal article from venture capitalist Aileen Lee in November 2013, and from that point on, the meme of Unicorns has permeated not just the start-up land but the wider corporate world. As investors query new start-ups and business leaders in incumbent organizations embark on innovation initiatives, the elephant in the room has been replaced by the single-horned equine, as potential funders ask whether the hoodied founders before
them will indeed create the next Unicorn.

As part of the writing, the first version of "The Exponential Organizations" book, Salim Ismail worked with a group of 160 ExO experts across 45 countries to research and grade multiple start-ups and scale-ups founded after 2005, as well as several incumbent organizations using a diagnostics of their Exponential Quotient (ExQ), an aggregate score compiled from responses to a survey that reveals where an organization stands against the 11 exponential attributes.

All of these Top100 Exponential Organizations shared some key noteworthy characteristics. They all had a Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) and had leadership that wanted to create and leverage abundance toward a better future. They were exploring and exploiting disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, 3D Printing, Robotics, Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and Cloud, amongst others, towards not just digitization but, more significantly, dematerialization, democratization, and demonetization across different industries and arenas.

They were either driving or changing consumer behaviors. They were pursuing pursued strategies and practices to be scalable, adaptable, and flexible. They were breaking the mold and being different from the conventional organizations seen in the 20th century, hence potentially delivering different outcomes.

So, how have these Top100 Exponential Organizations performed?

We analyzed these organizations over eight years (2014 to 2022) and are not surprised that the ExO success formula has stood the test of time.

In a detailed report, I, along with Salim Ismail provide six key INSIGHTS based on the study of the "best" and "next" practices adopted by the successful exponential organizations, aka the DISRUPTORS, and six critical LEARNINGS from those who ceased to stay exponential and hence got DISRUPTED.


Given that majority of these Top100 organizations were (and still are) unlisted private firms, and hence the absence of robust datasets providing business performance data & information across various financial, operational, customer, employee, and social metrics - we focused on their VALUATION as the core measure of their success. For analysis purposes, we leverage multiple proprietary and public data sources such as Refintiiv, CrunchBase, etc.

In the report, we dive deep in the form of a SPOTLIGHT on what the likes of DUOLINGO, STRIPE, 3D HUBS, and FLIPKART have done over the last several years in terms of embracing the different exponential attributes in their organizations - to emerge successful.

At the same time, we also looked at a few others that failed to deliver and perished. TUMBLR, GO PRO, and SHAPEWAYS - they and several others haven’t certainly been successful - at least not as much as they promised OR as much as they could have, given that they were once an Exponential Organization.

Was it just bad luck or bad timing? Well - not really.

While one could argue that hindsight is always 20:20, analyzing the core reasons behind the rise and fall of the Top100 Exponential Organizations can certainly teach entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors alike to become better at what they do. Besides, understanding failures is crucial since so many accounts of innovation focus on the successes and are affected by survivorship bias.

Building a successful company is no easy task, and business leaders and entrepreneurs often find themselves battling against all odds.


In the report, we nail down SIX CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS and SIX KEY FAILURE MODES while looking at the success and the non-success stories amongst the Top 100 Exponential Organizations.

➡️ What critical success factors can you relate to? Which ones of those are visible in your organization?

➡️ And, in the same length - which key failure modes amongst those identified from the cases of downfall can you relate to? Which ones of those are visible (or worse off potentially hidden) in your organization?

Answering these two questions could/should be at the top of your agenda as a business leader or an entrepreneur. And, if you haven’t done it already - ask yourself another critical question - what’s the Exponential Quotient (ExQ) of your business/organization?

If you score high on the ExQ AND have more growth levers than the failure modes - WONDERFUL, you are on the right path.

However, if it’s the other way around - it’s time to reflect and ask yourself - Do you genuinely want to be disrupted? OR, would you like to make conscious choices to change your organization’s destiny and become future-ready?

In a detailed report, I, along with Salim Ismail provide six key INSIGHTS based on the study of the "best" and "next" practices adopted by the successful exponential organizations, aka the DISRUPTORS, and six critical LEARNINGS from those who ceased to stay exponential and hence got DISRUPTED.
Exponential OrganizationsTop100EXQ Exponential QuotientMTP

Chander Nagpal

With more than 25 years of experience in driving transformation initiatives, Chander is pronounced with a passion for delivering sustainable 10X impact through inspiring, engaging & enabling people.