A gazelle is an extremely fast-growing company, which maintains consistent expansion of both employment and turnover over a prolonged period. There is no single definition of what constitutes an “exceptional” growth rate, but 20% and more per annum is a common definition.
As very small companies are almost bound to grow fast from a tiny base, they are usually excluded from discussions of gazelles. Some consider as potential gazelles only fast-growing companies which have already reached some turnover threshold, for example, $10m.
Gazelles are quite scarce in most economies, comprising about 5% - and at the most 10% - of all new entrants in a given cohort entry. They are of major political and economic interest because they are seen as potential large employers and wealth creators of the future. However, research shows that most gazelles have a major problem sustaining growth over more than five years.
High-tech and internet companies furnish many examples of gazelles such as Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Yahoo, Google and Cisco were all gazelles in their earlier days. More recently, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have grown their user bases very fast, exhibiting a gazelle-like performance on this metric, but they have famously struggled to leverage this into spectacular turnover and profit growth.