Aaron Bornstein

Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns

A modern and professional looking blue and white unicorn in front of a beautiful waterfall representing the Israel start up ecosystem - Generated with Microsoft designer
How VCs and Angel Investors Confuse Logistic Growth with Exponential Gains and the Economic Risks for the Start Up Nation - Image Generated with Microsoft Designer

In the world of venture capital, the pursuit of exponential growth is the golden grail. Startups with the promise of rapid and boundless expansion attract the attention and funding of investors eager for substantial returns.

However, a critical misjudgment often occurs when venture capitalists (VCs) mistake logistic growth for exponential potential. This misinterpretation can have significant repercussions, not just for individual investments but for the broader economy of the “Startup Nation” and can help explain some of the risks the market has faced in the past year.

Understanding Logistic vs. Exponential Growth

To comprehend the issue, it’s essential to distinguish between logistic and exponential growth through simple mathematical models.

Exponential Growth

Exponential growth is characterized by a constant growth rate, leading to rapid increases over time. The mathematical formula for exponential growth is:


  • P(t) is the population at time t,
  • is the initial population,
  • is the growth rate,
  • is time,
  • is the base of the natural logarithm (approximately 2.718).

In this model, as time progresses, the population P grows exponentially, creating the classic hockey stick curve. This model assumes unlimited resources and no constraints on growth, which rarely holds true in the real world.

The Lure of Exponential Growth

Venture capital thrives on the allure of exponential growth. The narrative of a startup disrupting an industry, capturing significant market share, and achieving unicorn status (a valuation of over $1 billion) in a short period is incredibly compelling.

This potential for outsized returns drives VCs to pour substantial capital into startups, often based on optimistic projections and ambitious growth plans.

Misjudgment: Logistic Growth in Disguise

However, many startups that appear to promise exponential growth are actually on a logistic growth trajectory. Initial rapid adoption and revenue spikes can give the illusion of limitless expansion, but as these startups scale, they encounter real-world limitations. Market saturation, increased competition, regulatory challenges, and operational constraints often temper growth, leading to a plateau.

Logistic Growth

Logistic growth accounts for environmental constraints that limit growth as the population increases. The formula for logistic growth is:


  • K is the carrying capacity (the maximum population the environment can sustain),
  • P(t)is the population at time t,
  • is the initial population,
  • is the growth rate,
  • is time,
  • is the base of the natural logarithm (approximately 2.718).

This model starts with exponential growth but slows as the population approaches the carrying capacity , resulting in an S-shaped curve. This reflects more realistic growth patterns, as it considers limitations such as market saturation, resource constraints, and competition.

Overvaluation and Market Bubbles

When VCs mistake logistic growth for exponential growth, they tend to overvalue startups. This overvaluation can create market bubbles, as seen in the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and more recently in sectors like cryptocurrency and fintech. When the true growth potential becomes apparent and valuations adjust, the resulting market corrections can lead to significant financial losses for investors and a broader economic impact.

Misallocation of Capital

The misjudgment leads to the misallocation of capital. Funds are funneled into startups with overestimated growth potential, while other ventures with realistic but modest growth prospects may be overlooked. This distortion can stifle innovation and skew the development of industries, as capital is not efficiently distributed to areas with genuine potential for sustainable growth.

Unrealistic Expectations and Business Failure

Startups facing unrealistic growth expectations may engage in risky or unsustainable practices to meet investor demands. This can include aggressive expansion, excessive spending on customer acquisition, or compromising on product quality. Such practices can lead to business failures, resulting in job losses, wasted resources, and economic instability.

The Path Forward: A Balanced Approach

To mitigate these pitfalls, venture capitalists need to adopt a more nuanced approach to evaluating growth potential. This involves:

  1. Rigorous Due Diligence: Conducting thorough market analysis and stress-testing growth assumptions against real-world constraints.
  2. Recognizing Inflection Points: Identifying and understanding the potential inflection points where exponential growth may transition to logistic growth.
  3. Diversifying Investments: Balancing portfolios with a mix of high-growth and steady-growth investments to manage risk and promote sustainable returns.
  4. Fostering Sustainable Practices: Encouraging startups to prioritize sustainable growth strategies over short-term gains.

Relevance to the Israeli Startup Market

Israel’s startup ecosystem is globally renowned for its innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. The country’s high-tech sector has produced numerous success stories, driving significant economic growth. However, the intense focus on rapid, exponential growth can lead to the same pitfalls seen elsewhere. Israeli VCs and entrepreneurs must be particularly mindful of the unique market conditions in Israel, such as its relatively small domestic market and geopolitical challenges, which can impose additional constraints on growth.

By adopting a balanced and informed approach, Israeli venture capitalists can better navigate the complexities of startup growth trajectories, contributing to a more stable and prosperous economic landscape. Recognizing the natural limits of growth and investing accordingly will help ensure that both startups and the economy at large can thrive sustainably in the “Startup Nation.”

About the Author
Aaron (Ari) Bornstein is an AI researcher with a passion for history, engaging with new technologies and computational medicine. As Applied Machine Learning and Data Science lead for Microsoft Healthcare in Israel, he works on developing disruptive technologies for the Healthcare industry using advanced NLP algorithms. Previously he worked in positions in which collaborated with the Machine Learning Community and Israeli Start Up Ecosystem. In 2017, Ari founded Olim In Tech, a volunteer led community geared towards empowering & connecting Olim who work or want to be working in hi-tech.
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