Although the Cloudinary CEO says the consistent way to get to be a billion dollar company is to go the VC route, he provides an example of a software company that has been able to almost reach unicorn status without going that route. We have seen clinical testing firms and others follow somewhat similar strategies using sales revenues and monies from collaborations and product shares to support the growth of the startup.

Lahan says the company simply never needed venture money. The founders came up with the idea for the business while running a consulting firm in Israel that built technology for other startups. The clunky software they had to use to manage videos and photos convinced them to create something better. Their consulting clients were Cloudinary’s first customers, which enabled it to turn a profit as soon as it opened its doors. Since then, it has generated enough money—cash flow as measured by Ebitda last year was an estimated $6 million, or about 9% of sales—to finance its growth plans every year and to build a 300-person team.