Unicorn club members discuss journey to $1 B valuation, startup regulations at TechSparks 2021

Over the years, 66 Indian startups have hit the $1 billion valuation mark, with half of these companies becoming unicorns this year alone.

For India, 2021 has turned out to be the year of unicorns. 

Nearly 35 Indian startups have hit the $1 billion valuation mark, with more than half of these companies becoming unicorns this year alone. 

At YourStory’s flagship event TechSparks 2021, founders of three unicorns —Capbase, Lunchclub and Zetwerk — discuss how startups can reach the coveted $1 billion valuation club. 

The panel session was moderated by Madanmohan Rao, Research Director, YourStory.

According to Capbase Co-Founder and CTO Stefan Nagey, the journey to hitting $1 billion or more valuation begins with inception. 

“Making sure all the intellectual property rights are locked up properly in the corporation. Making sure that all your employee incentives are aligned with their stock options. Once you start to build that solid team, you can achieve anything. The team is more important than the product,” he says. Capbase is a digital governance platform. 

Greg Miaskiewicz, CEO of Capbase, believes that while existing unicorns are mostly consumer-focussed, certain industries are ripe for disruption. These include sectors running legacy business models which aren’t tech-driven such as insurance, legal products, etc.

The journey to becoming a unicorn, according to the panel members, differs from startup to startup, with persistence being the key to success.


Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Co-Founder of Zetwerk as well as Vladimir Novakovski the CEO and Co-Founder of Lunchclub, believe that startups need to focus on building quality product and that the valuation, more or less, takes care of itself. 

Zetwerk is a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace for manufacturing items while Lunchclub is a professional networking club powered by artificial intelligence (AI). 

When asked about regulations in the Indian business ecosystem, the speakers agreed that despite a few challenges, the country is startup-friendly.


“We’re now seeing more regulation around moderation and safety around content, and I think those are good things. As we build our team in India, we definitely need to be aware of those,” Vladimir says.

Srinath is optimistic about the Indian startup ecosystem’s growth. “There may be bureaucracy challenges in India and things may not be as self-served as other countries but then there is a strong ecosystem of founders, legal companies and startups that help other startups accelerate the initial process today,” he adds.

“For us, we closed multiple rounds and it did not take more than two months of term-sheet signing to cash-in-bank. However, it does require certain bandwidth to be put into compliance, regulation and management etc. but it’s been smooth so far,” Srinath says. 

Founders of three unicorns Capbase, Lunchclub and Zetwerk discuss how startups can reach the coveted $1 billion valuation club. 

He praised the Goods and Services Tax (GST) policy and said that it has opened the market for Zetwerk.

For the future of unicorns in the world, Stephan believes that standardisation is important.

“Investing in a private company used to be kind of odd and that’s why in the US there are rules around investor sophistication. It’s different from a public market where you’ve got a security that’s traded on the NASDAQ and that’s a stamp of approval. But the exciting and encouraging thing is that we are now seeing those kinds of standardizations that allow us to have a stamp of approval,” he says.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken things up at startups across the world. 

According to Vladimir, the pandemic has opened new doors for Lunchclub. “For us, our networking has been entirely over video at Lunchclub. Even as people start networking in person again, video is still going to be a very important component so we’re setting ourselves up for the hybrid future,” he adds.

For Srinath, it’s the openness of people towards using tech in supply-chains that motivates him coming from the traditional manufacturing, outsourcing sector. “Today, people are interested in digitalisation, transparency, traceability and we also see democracy in how supply chains are behaving today. Earlier, supply chains were used to being consolidated and closed but now people are open to reconsideration of newer options which is extremely exciting.”  

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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti