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Welcome to Startup Lexicon: Minicorn to Super Unicorn

The startup ecosystem, which has emerged as the 3rd largest globally as of August 3, 2022, is expected to power India’s ‘techade’. Currently, there are 66,000 DPIIT-recognised startups with more than 100 unicorns or startups with a valuation of over USD 1 billion each.

India has seen over 20,000 per cent growth in the number of startups in the last six years as the number rose from a mere 471 in 2016 to 72,993 as on June 20, 2022.

The ecosystem is not just growing but making and breaking new records. Startups, especially unicorns, have been changing the rules of the game with their innovative solutions and concepts and, of course, business models across the globe while generating large-scale employment. Uber-Ola generation of startups could solve some of our inherent road transport and traffic woes besides ease of commuting. Paytm, India’s first fintech unicorn had common people doing transactions in seconds and Airbnb changed the way people planned their stay while travelling.

Founder of Cowboy Ventures and celebrated venture capital angel investor, Aileen Lee for the very first time in 2013 used the word ‘Unicorn’ in the context emphasizing the rarity of startups reaching USD 1 billion valuation.

However, it is time to have a look at the lesser-known parlance from the startup ecosystem.



Minicorn is a startup company with valuations of more than USD 1 million. Although each one can be pretty new in the game, these new-age startups have the potential of becoming a unicorn in the future with value getting attached to the idea as business plan along with cursory financial forecasts, draws investors.



Like the unicorn rush, India also saw more soonicorns or potential unicorns in 2021 than any year in the past. Such startups may get special attention from investors owing to future speculation and apparent valuation.

The ecosystem saw at least 20 new unicorns by July end as funding for the first half of 2022 rose 36 per cent to USD 17.9 billion compared to the corresponding period last year. This record pace of unicorn rush is expected to continue through the next decade, with a growing number of soonicorns poised to turn unicorns.

Around 70 startups in the soonicorn club are likely to cross a valuation of over USD 1 billion before the end of 2022. Bengaluru is leading the list with 31 potential unicorns, Mumbai is second with 19, while Delhi-NCR is expected to witness a rise of 13 unicorns this year, according to Inc42.

Indian soonicorns are spread across industries such as e-commerce, financial technology, healthcare technology and logistics. Fintech sector is expected to contribute 20 new unicorns, followed by 13 from the ecommerce sector. The enterprise tech and media and entertainment may see eight unicorns each over the next couple of years.

The new funding of USD 20 million (Rs 150 crore) from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) saw Mobikwik’s valuation jump by nearly 50 per cent within three months to USD 700 million. Khatabook Inc, which keeps digital transaction records for merchants, also entered the ‘soonicorn club’ with USD 100 million Series C cheque at a valuation close to USD 600 milion.

Mumbai-based startup Zepto with a USD 570 million valuation is also a major contender in quick commerce business.



India is the third-largest unicorn hub after US and China. The country got its 100th unicorn in May this year when neobanking fintech portal, Open, raised fresh capital to push up its value to over a billion dollars. The number rose to 105 within the next two months. It is pertinent to mention here that India produced nearly three-fifths (63) of its unicorns in the last 20 months. While 44 were born in 2021, as many as 19 emerged in the current year as against 37 in the previous 10 years.

According to the Iron Pillar report titled ‘India Tech Trends’, the aggregate valuation of Indian unicorns stands at USD 535 billion in 2022.

Year 2022 saw LEAD (edtech), Darwinbox (HRtech), DealShare  (socialcommerce), Polygon (blockchain), Livspace (home interior and renovation), ElasticRun (B2B ecommerce), Xpressbees (logistics), Uniphore (conversational AI), Hasura (GraphQLdeveloper), CredAvenue (fintech), Amagi(mediatech), Oxyzo (fintech), Games 24×7(gaming), Open (fintech), Physics Wallah (edtech), Purplle (beauty), LeadSquared (SaaS), OneCard (fintech), and the latest, 5ire (blockchain) enter the billion-dollar club.

In order to realise their growth potential, Indian unicorns are also exploring the public listing avenues. Zomato, Nykaa, PolicyBazaar, Paytm and Freshworks were some big unicorns that went IPO. Delhivery, Droom, Mobikwik, OYO and SnapDeal will be making the public debut in 2022 while Byju’s, Ola and Flipkart are expected to file their preliminary paperwork for the IPO by mid-year.

In the Mann Ki Baat programme in May, the Indian Prime Minister said that the country’s unicorns have a faster average growth rate than those in the US, the UK and other major economies.

While India is minting unicorns faster than any other country in the world, this number is expected to increase by 140 per cent in the next three years. There will be 250 unicorns by 2025, second only to the US, which currently has 618 unicorns, Inc42’s upcoming ‘The State of Indian Startup Ecosystem Report 2022’ said.



With the global startup ecosystem witnessing a shift, we are gradually transitioning from the age of unicorns to the age of decacorns, privately-held firms that exceed the valuation of USD 10 billion.

Facebook in 2007 was the first decacorn after an investment round of USD 240 million led by Microsoft.

Globally, there are 53 decacorn companies as of date and these include four from India. Flipkart was the most valuable decacorn with USD 37.6 billion after raising USD 3.6 billion in July 2021 followed by Edtech company Byju’s USD 22 billion. While Nykaa entered the club in 2021, Bengaluru-based food ordering and delivery platform Swiggy was the fourth to be added to the decacorn cohort closing a USD 700-million funding round led by asset manager Invesco in January this year.

Notably, 2021 saw the most number of decacorns, almost double those in 2020. Paytm, which was valued at USD 16 billion, however, lost its decacorn status soon after the public listing.

A study by Crunchbase at the end of 2021 showed an exponential growth in the number of decacorns with the US and Europe startup ecosystems leading the tally, making them more attractive in the eyes of investors.


HECTOCORN or Super Unicorn

A startup exceeding a valuation of USD 100 billion is called a hectocorn or a super unicorn. The term hectocorn is formed from the Greek root word ‘hecto’ which can loosely be translated as hundred.

There are 48 such startups in the world and none from India yet. Familiar brands of today, once startups, such as Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Oracle are examples of Hectocorn.



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