Unicorn Startups of 2020 – What they did Absolutely Right
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An Open Letter To Startup Founders to learn from the Best

Here’s a Pop quiz – To judge what needs to be done Right to achieve Unicorn Status.

Which of these do you agree with?

  1. Achieving Unicorn Status is no big deal!
  2. You got to have a Brilliant Startup Idea to be able to make it to the Unicorn Club.
  3. Unicorn Status and Funding are directly proportional
  4. Hard work and Persistence are the key to achieving Unicorn Status

Take a minute and give yourself the answer…

Hope you have the answer. Now what you would expect is that I would give you the right answer and probably a pat on the back if you got it right. Ok, here’s the thing.. The right answer is – A Perfect Blend of all of the above.

In fact it is a lot more than just the above options. I’ll prove it you!

Here is the list of some Startups which achieved a Unicorn Status in the year 2020 – The so-called “worst” year due to the pandemic. Well, would these guys call it the worst year? No way! They achieved their dreams in this year irrespective of the mayhem that was happening around them.

They must’ve dodged all reasons that lead to Startup Failure. They must’ve done something right!

Pine Labs enters neo-banking turf for micro-merchants with app-strategy

Pine Labs – Dominating the world of PoS Systems

Lesson #1 – From late 1990s to 2004, Pine Labs provided smart card-based payment and loyalty solutions exclusively for the petroleum sector. In 2004, founders Rajul Garg and Tarun Upadhaya left the company. Executive Chairman and Former CEO Lokvir Kapoor took the reins and never looked back. It must have been extremely hard to pick up from scratch but he was persistent

Lesson #2 – Innovation was at the heart of decisions which made Pine Labs diversify its product portfolio from payment and loyalty solutions to the world of digital payments infrastructure, making the company a Fintech pioneer.

Lesson #3 – Desire for Scalability inspired Lokvir to expand the scope of business from the Petroleum sector to other industries.


Firstcry – Baby Products

Lesson #1 – Supam Maheshwari – Founder of Firstcry – was a frequent traveller. He made it a point to get toys for his daughter whenever he came back from a trip. The dearth of foreign toy brands and in general a lack of selection variety inspired him to create Firstcry. It was a clear solution to a problem rather than an envisioned business.

Lesson #2 – Sensing a market in Tier 3 cities, firstcry.com expanded its physical base to cities like Bhilai, Dehradun, Haridwar, Kanpur, Bharuch etc

Lesson #3 – All aspects of the stores – location, architecture, products etc. was managed by the core team. This attention to detail made sure quality standards were upto the mark.

File:Nykaa.png - Wikimedia Commons

Nykaa – Beauty and Wellness

Lesson #1 – From Investment Banker to Entrepreneur in the Beauty ECommerce space – Falguni Nayar knew she had to make the transition since her passion to start off on her own overpowered all other success parameters that she had already achieved.

Lesson #2 – In her own words “I felt that there is a lot of early-stage value creation by entrepreneurs, and yet, there are several naysayers.” Believe in yourself, don’t let the naysayers pull you down.

Lesson #3 – The earliest employees of Nykaa were themselves Entrepreneurs. They chose a team which was invested in the business by heart and mind rather than money.

Postman API Development Platform

Postman – Collaboration Platform for API

Lesson #1 – Abhinav Asthana – CEO of Postman – started his entrepreneurial journey from a small town Lakhimpur in Uttar Pradesh. Starting small was the first stepping stone in Abhinav’s success which finally transported him from Lakhimpur to the Bay Area in USA.

Lesson #2 – Postman was never Abhinav’s initial vision. His first product was TeliportMe. Although he was passionate about building a business, he realised TeliportMe wasn’t his core vision so he moved on to make something bigger – Postman.

Lesson #3 – In his own words – He said: “The process of building is very iterative; we make a tonne of mistakes and our mistakes are open for everybody to see. Our bug tracker is open. The features we have are on our website, the features we don’t have are on our issue tracker. We saw that if you build a great product, you get a great community and [if] you are really constantly listening to them, people like to be part of this journey with you.

Unacademy Edutech Platform

Unacademy – Edutech Pioneers

Lesson #1 – Gaurav MunjalFounder of Unacademy – has a lot of experience of building, scaling up and selling businesses. His co-founder, Roman Saini, was one of the youngest persons to clear the IAS exams. He is a trained Medical Doctor. With this kind of quality experience which is a must for any Edutech Startup, there was no stopping!

Lesson #2 – Initially the founders themselves created courses for the platforms. But as they saw growth, they were intelligent enough to invite other experts to collaborate and build courses, thereby improving the content quality and quantity of the platform

Lesson #3 – When they started off, courses were provided for free on YouTube. Once there were enough followers, the founders knew when to quickly switch to a Freemium model. From then on there was no looking back.

Hope you are all charged up and inspired already. These were just a few Unicorn examples. There are many more out there who have achieved that milestone long time back. And then again there are those who are on the verge of achieving it soon.

And having said that, achieving a Unicorn Status should not be the end goal. I strongly believe that if you have a product-market fit, the market gets pulled towards you. It is this market which will make you the Unicorn, if you really have it in you to solve a problem with all your heart and soul and DO IT RIGHT.

What I have expressed above is just an analysis from my perspective. Pick what you feel applies to you, filter the rest. Here’s to your success! May you achieve the Unicorn Status and give me the privilege to feature you in my list for 2021.

Adios for now. For any help that you ever need – remember I am just a message away!