How do unicorns finance their start-up in India?

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In India’s vibrant start-up ecosystem, there’s a fascinating creature that captures everyone’s attention - the unicorn. These companies, valued at over a billion dollars, often leave us wondering:

How do they finance their start-up journeys?


1. The Beginning: Seed Round:

Every unicorn starts small, usually with a seed round of funding. Think of it as planting the initial seed of an idea. Here, entrepreneurs pitch their vision to angel investors or early-stage venture capitalists. These investors provide the initial capital needed to get the idea off the ground. Start-up incubators and accelerators also play a crucial role in nurturing these early-stage businesses. Additionally, during the seed round, founders often leverage their personal savings or take out loans to supplement the initial investment.

2. Moving Forward: Series A Round:

As the unicorn grows, it moves on to the Series A round. This is a critical stage where the company needs more substantial funding to scale its operations. With a solid product and some early signs of success, the unicorn attracts larger venture capital firms. In India, Series A funding is crucial for start-ups to gain credibility and expand their reach. Moreover, Series A investors often provide more than just funding; they bring expertise, networks, and industry insights to the table. Additionally, some unicorns opt for convertible notes or SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) notes during the Series A round, providing flexibility and reducing valuation negotiations.

3. Scaling Up: Growth-stage Funding:

In the growth stage, unicorns seek even larger investments to fuel their expansion plans. They attract institutional investors, private equity firms, and sometimes even sovereign wealth funds. This funding helps them grow rapidly, enter new markets, and stay ahead of the competition. In India, unicorns leverage growth-stage funding to strengthen their position in the market. Furthermore, unicorns may explore strategic mergers or acquisitions during the growth stage to consolidate market share and expand their product offerings. Besides, some unicorns opt for mezzanine financing or venture debt to supplement equity funding and optimize their capital structure.

4. Reaching the Summit: IPO:

Finally, the unicorn reaches the pinnacle of its journey with an IPO (Initial Public Offering). Going public means the company sells shares to the public for the first time. It's a significant milestone, not just financially but also symbolically. In India, IPOs are celebrated events, marking the success of a start-up's journey. Also, post-IPO, unicorns may continue to raise capital through follow-on offerings or secondary offerings to fund further growth initiatives and strategic expansions.

5. Strategic Partnerships:

Unicorns often forge strategic partnerships with established companies to access resources, expertise, and distribution channels. These partnerships can also bring in additional funding or investment opportunities, allowing unicorns to accelerate their growth trajectory. In India, strategic partnerships with corporate giants or international players can provide unicorns with a competitive edge and unlock new avenues for expansion. Moreover, strategic partnerships may involve technology licensing agreements, joint ventures, or co-marketing initiatives to drive mutual growth and innovation.

6. Government Initiatives and Grants:

In recent years, the Indian government has launched various initiatives and grant programs to support the start-up ecosystem. Unicorns can benefit from these schemes, which offer funding, mentorship, and infrastructure support. Further, government-backed funds and grants provide validation and credibility to unicorns, making them more attractive to investors and stakeholders.

7. Debt Financing and Alternative Funding Sources:

Apart from equity funding, unicorns in India explore alternative financing options such as debt financing, convertible debt, or revenue-based financing. Debt financing allows unicorns to access capital without diluting ownership stakes and can be particularly useful for funding specific projects or acquisitions. Moreover, unicorns may leverage crowdfunding platforms or peer-to-peer lending networks to raise capital directly from the public, democratizing the investment process and expanding their investor base. Additionally, unicorns may issue corporate bonds or securitize future revenue streams to raise debt capital from institutional investors and diversify their funding sources.

8. Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) Investments:

Unicorns often attract investment from corporate venture capital arms of established companies seeking strategic alignment or access to innovative technologies. These investments not only provide financial backing but also open doors to potential collaborations, market insights, and distribution channels. In India, CVC investments are increasingly prevalent as corporations recognize the value of investing in disruptive start-ups to stay competitive in rapidly evolving industries. Moreover, CVC investments often come with additional benefits such as access to the corporate partner's customer base or distribution networks, enabling unicorns to accelerate their growth and market penetration.

9. Bootstrapping and Frugal Innovation:

Some unicorns in India adopt a bootstrapping approach, relying on internally generated revenue and minimizing external funding dependency. This frugal innovation mindset encourages resourcefulness, efficiency, and sustainable growth. By focusing on profitability from the outset, bootstrapped unicorns maintain control over their destiny and build resilient business models capable of weathering market fluctuations and economic uncertainties.
The financing journey of Indian start-up unicorns is multifaceted, encompassing various sources of funding and strategic maneuvers. Delve into our website for further details!