Strain-promoted azide-alkyne cycloaddition (SPAAC) as a conjugation tool has found broad application in material sciences, chemical biology and even in vivo use. However, despite tremendous effort, SPAAC remains fairly slow (0.2-0.5 M(-1) s(-1)) and efforts to increase reaction rates by tailoring of cyclooctyne structure have suffered from a poor trade-off between cyclooctyne reactivity and stability. We here wish to report tremendous acceleration of strain-promoted cycloaddition of an aliphatic cyclooctyne (bicyclo[6.1.0]non-4-yne, BCN) with electron-deficient aryl azides, with reaction rate constants reaching 2.0-2.9 M(-1) s(-1). A remarkable difference in rate constants of aliphatic cyclooctynes versus benzoannulated cyclooctynes is noted, enabling a next level of orthogonality by a judicious choice of azide-cyclooctyne combinations, which is inter alia applied in one-pot three-component protein labelling. The pivotal role of azide electronegativity is explained by density-functional theory calculations and electronic-structure analyses, which indicates an inverse electron-demand mechanism is operative with an aliphatic cyclooctyne.