Unacademy turns into unicorn after SoftBank-led funding round

In this pic, Gaurav Munjal is standing at the centre while Hemesh Singh is in black jacket (right) and Roman Saini is in grey jacket (left).
Gaurav Munjal's edtech startup Unacademy may have become the latest unicorn in the country, but in his words, it is still Day 1 for the company. The firm, which was launched as a hobby on YouTube, has raised $150 million in a round led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank valuing it at $1.45 billion, a three-fold jump in just six months. This also makes the Bengaluru-based firm the second unicorn in the country’s edtech space after Byju's.

Existing investors General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Facebook, and Blume Ventures also participated in the round. Unacademy said, it plans to utilise the funds to launch new products and build a world-class team and organisation.

“Learning from the experts to achieve a life goal has mostly been a privilege, available only to those living in the top few cities of the country. At Unacademy, we are breaking that barrier and helping people achieve their life's most important goals, by giving them access to the best coaching from experts in the field,” said Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and CEO, Unacademy. “We’re delighted to welcome SoftBank as a partner to that vision. We started with test preparation and with this partnership, we will launch other goals on our platform,” added Munjal, who will soon turn 30.

Son of a doctor, Munjal’s father wanted him to join the medical field but he had other plans. He wanted to be a software engineer. In school, he built a KBC kind of quiz programme on QBasic and the entire class was shown the product. He always had the passion to create things and eventually wanted to create something that had an impact on people. That is how his journey as an entrepreneur began with Flat.to, a platform for college students to find accommodation, which was later acquired by CommonFloor in 2014. A year later, Munjal along with his friends Roman Saini and Hemesh Singh launched Unacademy, which initially started as an initiative on YouTube in 2010.

Unacademy now claims to have become the largest learning platform in India with a network of over 18,000 educators and over 350,000 subscribers. The company caters to the learning needs for more than 35 competitive exams, besides important life goals.

“By bringing quality education to a vast network of students for the first time, Unacademy is bridging the privilege gap in India,” said Munish Varma, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “We are happy to partner them in their journey of helping students from all backgrounds succeed in the future,”he said.

According to Sumer Juneja, a partner of SoftBank Investment Advisers, his organisation has been closely tracking Unacademy for the last 18 months and has been impressed by their growth, quality of product and consumer engagement. “They are truly democratising education in India and we look forward to helping them scale even further,” he said.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has been a watershed moment for India’s edtech sector. Since March, Unacademy has doubled the number of active subscribers. The monthly watch time has reached an all-time high of over 1 billion minutes.

Unacademy has opened up the platform to schools and colleges to conduct live classes without any interruptions. It expects to earn an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of about $300 million in the coming years.

The firm is also continuing with its popular programme ‘Legends on Unacademy’ where well-known personalities take live classes for its learners on life lessons. Top personalities such as Indian captain Virat Kohli, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Starbucks co-founder Zev Siegl, entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly have shared their experiences related to hard work, overcoming failures and moving forward in life. Each of these classes had over 30,000 learners learning from the legends.

Early this year, social media giant Facebook had placed its bet on Unacademy when it participated in a $110-million investment round in February. The round, which was led by General Atlantic, also drew funding from Sequoia India, Nexus Venture Partners, Steadview Capital and Blume Ventures.

Flipkart’s CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Udaan co-founder Sujeet Kumar also participated in that round, which according to sources, gave the company a post-money valuation of $510 million.

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