The Unseen Unicorns: Small Starts to Big Businesses

Making a big business is a milestone. Making a unicorn company is a dream, one which very few get to achieve. It’s not completely impossible, but it does take a lot of hard work, sleepless nights and a perseverance to be the best.

There are many ways a startup can fund itself, a few being: bootstrapping, crowdfunding, incubators/accelerators and Venture Capitalists. The lack of capital is the major setback that entrepreneurs face and why they turn to VC. But very few have the chance to be one of the special few we consider a unicorn.

For those of you who are new to entrepreneurship, “VC (venture capital) is a form of private equity financing provided by venture capital firms or funds to startups, early-stage, and emerging companies that have been deemed to have high growth potential or which have demonstrated high growth.” as defined by Wikipedia.

Simply put, VC are either people or firms that invest – provide monetary funds – to the startup, in exchange for equity. 

What is meant by a Unicorn Company?

In the VC industry, the term unicorn refers to a startup that has reached a valuation of $1 Billion. Some popular unicorns are Airbnb, Uber, SpaceX, Buzzfeed, Quora and Grammarly to name a few. The term was first coined by Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures. The term is used to refer to the rarity of such an occurrence.

This is a difficult milestone to reach by a company on its own, many turn to other ways of financing, VC is a very popular choice, to expand the company and increase the revenue and valuation. The company may go through many rounds of financing before they are able to reach a valuation of $1 Billion.

The diversity in India is reflected by its innovations and revolution in the startup scene, and while the number of startups have tremendously grown in the last two years so has the number of Unicorn Companies in the country.

India has reached the status of the ‘3rd largest startup ecosystem in the world’. A title that is not thrown around lightly, there has been a lot of work and sweat that has gone into getting this title by many companies, a few of them have been compiled by us in Top 15 Successful Startup Companies in India.

What is the criteria to be a unicorn?

Innovation: most companies that have reached the unicorn status have caused major changes in their respective industries and revolutionized the way they conduct business. Like Uber, they have changed the way that people commute and how booking takes place.

Technology: most companies are able to achieve efficiency and maximum optimization of business by integrating new tech and IoT services into the product development process or the way the services are given. An example would be blackbuck, they have taken logistics into another league by using IoT and tracking software to keep an eye on their pilots and trucks.  

Being New: the companies in the unicorn list are usually either companies that have been keen on innovations and have been the first to implement a new method or business model to help them reach optimum in their industry.

Type of products: the goal of a company is to manufacture products that can make everyday tasks and life easier. It is imperative to know your product inside-out and potential customer base and to produce a product in line with all the criteria’s and market in such a way as to optimize reaching the wanted demographic.



The company website has seen 4X the website engagement post-covid and has sold over 2,00,000 units. The company was launched in 2015 by Vikram Chopra, Mehul Agrawal, Gajendra Jangid and Ruchit Agarwal. The first round of funding commenced in 2018, 3 years after the company was founded and was able to raise a sum of $50 million in Series A and Series B. The company saw a tremendous growth in sales within the first month of its inception. 



The company was founded in 2013 by Harsil Mathur and Sashank Kumar and is based in Bangalore. The company provides payment and monetary solutions to businesses and individuals. It participated in the Y combinators cohort in 2015, and raises about $120,000 in funding. Since then, they have steadily grown both in revenue and the funding that they have raised from investors.

Pine Labs


Founded in 1998 by Lokvir Kapoor, Rajul Garg and Tarun Upaday, the company offers financing and financial transactions technology. The company has more than 70,000 retailers across India and has expanded into other parts of Asia. The company changed from petroleum automation solutions to becoming a payment service. 



This is the first Indian gaming company to enter the unicorn club. It was founded in 2008 by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth. By 2014 the company had reached 1 million registered followers which increased to 2 million in 2016, by 2018 they had 45 million users. Their investors include Kalaari Capital, Think Investments, Multiple Equities and Tencent among a few. Dream11 raised an undisclosed amount in 2015, in series A of funding from Kalaari Capital.

Mu Sigma


Mu Sigma offers data analytics using decision science and data science. It was founded by Dhiraj Rajaram in 2004. In 2008 the company raised its first investment of $30 million from FTV Capital. It offers marketing analytics, brand/customer equity analysis, customer satisfaction analysis, marketing measurement, retention modelling, prospecting and optimization, and others.



It is a company that lets individuals invest in stock, mutual funds, broking and bonds. The company was founded in 2010 by Nithin Kamath, who himself is an investor, had been in the game since he was 17 years old. By 2019, the company was the largest stock broker in India. They were titled as a unicorn in 2020. The company has about 12 lakh customers and won the award in the “Bootstrap Champ” category in “Economic Times Startup Awards 2016”. Nitin has gone from eating an engineering degree to successfully running his own billion-dollar company.



Nykaa was founded in 2012 by Falguni Nyar. The company is an online retail store for wellness, makeup and fashion products. They have over 3 lakh products from 1,500 brands. It was inducted into the unicorn club when the company raised INR 100 crore from Steadview Capital in march 2020.



The application was launched in 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal. It is an Indian freeware and cross-platform messaging application. The program can work offline as well via SMS and has a standard one-time password for authentication. As per CB Insights, the company is valued at 1.4 billion with more than 100 million mersisters users in 2016. It was able to raise $7,000,000 from Bharti SoftBank in 2013, a year after its launch.



CitrusTech is a healthcare technology service provider, which has partnered with about 50 healthcare companies across the globe. The company has over 1,400 healthcare professionals and they are present in more than 5,000 locations. They have a plethora of awards, a few of them being – 2019 Innovators Award for the Best Value-Based Care Solution and Best Companies to Work Award for 7 years in a row. The company was founded in 2005 and acquired $111.3 million in funding in 2014 from General Atlantic.



Icertic is a software company that provides management software for businesses. It was founded in 2009 by Samir Badas and Monish Darda and is present in 12 locations with its headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, US. The company started Series A funding in 2015, raising a collective of $6 million from their investors. The company uses AI technology to ease contact management with easy-to-use tools. A few of their customers are Airbus, Microsoft and Roche. They have managed about 5.7 million contracts in over 40 languages across 90 countries.



The company was launched in 2007 by Naveen Tewari, Mohit Saxena, Amit Gupta and Abhay Singhal under the name mKhoj with SMS based mobile advertising services. It was renamed as InMobi in 2008. The company has raised a total of 4215.6 million in three rounds of funding and is Indian first unicorn startup company.

Some other unicorn startups to know about are given below. They are international companies that have started from the ground up and the way they do business has changed the landscape of entrepreneurship. Some of them started out to solve simple problems or problems that they themselves faced, and built a booming business out of it. 



Necessity may be the mother of all inventions, however the hate for a tedious task can mean an innovation and a billion-dollar company. This is exactly why Co-Founder Ben Chestnut came up with MailChimp. He integrated services like demographic data, marketing tools and business insight while streamlining the process with automation technology and easy to use built in tools. Since its inception in 2001, it has amassed a revenue of $700 million, as of 2019.


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Teaching is a profession that leaves much to learn. While trying to teach web designing tools, the founder – Lynda Weinman realises that there is not much material that she thought up to par, and went on to make instruction videos to help educated her students better. As the number of her tutorials increased, so did her customer base, she helped developers and designers improve their skills. The company was later acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion and renamed LinkedIn Learning.



A hardware business is hard to self-fund, but not impossible as shown by Chad Laurans and Eleanor Laurans. The company manufactures and sells self-installed security systems since its inception in 2006. The couple in the beginning soldered and assembled the circuit themselves to save money. It was launched in the year 2009 and in one year they had made $1.4 million in revenue.

SparkFun Electronics


This company manufactures and sells microcontroller development boards. All products are sold under the category of open-source hardware. It was founded in 2003, by Nathan Seidle and has become a popular supplier of circuit boards and Arduino related devices. Its main customers are from robotics, IoT experimental groups and people from hackerspace and electronic based events like the AVC (Autonomous Vehicle Challenge), an event held by SparksFun.



The best job is the one that combines a way to make money and fulfils a passion. ShutterStock was the perfect combination of both for Jon Oringer, who is a professional software developer and an amateur photographer. The company was founded in 2003 and is a provider of stock photography and music as well as editing tools. The company’s library consists of around 200 million royalty free photos and illustrations and around 10 million video clips and music tracks available for licensing.



This is an e-commerce website, launched in 2002 and formerly known as CSN Stores. Their projects range from furniture, rugs, appliances, and decor and lighting. The company has more than 14 million products ranging over a wide number of brands. Wayfair is present in the United States, Canada, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Cards Against Humanity


This is a part game, and one which is very popular. It is in a fill-in-the-blank format, with a main black card and a few white answer cards. The objective is to make a sentence that would normally be considered as offensive, politically incorrect or risqué. It was released in 2011 with a start by a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that saw a total funding of $15,000. They were able to reach their original goal of $4,000 in under weeks.


A unicorn is not something of fables and fairy tales anymore. It is now a very real and tangible thing, even if it doesn’t happen to be a mythical creature, it is still just as rare and extraordinary.

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