Open becomes 100th unicorn of India, raises $50 million led by IIFL

Open, a neo banking platform for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), has raised $50 million at a valuation of $1 billion, sources revealed to Moneycontrol. This makes it the 100th unicorn to emerge from India, marking a seminal moment for the Indian startup ecosystem.

The Series D round was led by IIFL and saw participation from existing investors Temasek, Tiger Global, and 3one4 Capital. The round was majorly an immediate raise, with a small secondary component. The company is also the 16th unicorn of 2022.

The round comes just six months after Open raised $100 million, led by Google, Temasek, Visa, and Japan’s SoftBank Investments. The company’s valuation post the last round was $500 million, and the valuation has doubled with this round. Moneycontrol was the first to report that Open will soon look at a follow on round to reach the $1 billion valuations.

Founded in 2017 by former PayU and Citrus Pay executives Anish Achuthan, Mabel Chacko, Ajeesh Achuthan, and Deena Jacob, Open focuses on small and medium-sized businesses by offering them a current business account. The account includes digital banking, payments, invoicing, and automated bookkeeping services.

Anish Achuthan, Mabel Chacko, and Ajeesh Achuthan are second-time founders and became a part of Citrus Pay and later PayU after their first startup, Citrus Pay, acquired Zwitch Payments in 2015. Open is also one of the rare unicorns with two women co-founders.

Open’s fundraising underscores investor confidence in India’s startup ecosystem, which recently got recognized as the world’s third-largest. So far, in 2022, India has seen 16 new unicorns.

This is on the back of a blockbuster 2021 when the country saw as many as 44 unicorns minted with investors pouring billions of dollars.

The platform is gearing up for the launch of three new products to enhance the capital needs of SMEs apart from its existing SME credit card offerings. The new products include Open Flo – an innovative revenue-based financing product for eCommerce businesses, Open Settl – an early settlement credit offering, and Open Capital – a working capital lending offering for SMEs. Open is targeting to disburse $1 billion in lending through the new suite of products on the platform in the next 12 months.

While a few unicorns have struggled to raise funds in 2022, especially at late stages owing to their high cash-burn model, corporate governance lapses, among other issues, venture capital firms like Sequoia and Accel have raised or are in the process of raising significant funds to invest in startups in India, indicating their bullishness on India’s startup ecosystem.

Moneycontrol had earlier reported that Accel had raised a $650 million fund, its seventh focusing on India. Sequoia Capital India was in talks with its parent in the US and investors to raise $2.8 billion in funds for Indian and Southeast Asian startups.

Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Jitendra Singh recently said that the country was now number three in the world in terms of unicorns and that there are 99 unicorns in the country.

Inc42’s unicorn tracker, too, shows 99 unicorns. Trackers by CB insights and Venture Intelligence show 96 and 95, respectively.​

For Open, this is also a strategic partnership with IIFL as it works towards launching its lending vertical for SMEs. The startup will be able to leverage IIFL’s Rs 2,000 crore loan book, sources added.

The company is also working on accelerating its new product lines – Zwitch, its embedded finance platform, and BankingStack, the cloud-native SME banking platform for financial institutions, currently deployed at over 15 Banks in India.

Over the next year, Open will expand its base to five million SMEs and expand to global markets like South East Asia, Europe, and the US.

Moneycontrol reported on January 7 that TVS Capital Funds was likely to lead the Series D round; however, according to multiple sources, the talks did not go through.

One of the sources told Moneycontrol on anonymity, “Open in talks with several investors, and discussions with TVS Capital Funds were advanced. But both parties mutually decided not to go ahead with it. Moreover, IIFL is a strategic partner for their lending plans.”

The startup’s other investors include BEENEXT, Speedinvest, AngelList, Tanglin Venture Partners, Unicorn India Ventures, and Recruit.

While the neo banking space has many players, including Jupiter, Freo, Niyo, EpiFi, etc., Open directly competes with RazorpayX, which is also an SME-facing neobank. The other players provide banking solutions for individuals.

As per the startup’s latest financial filings for the financial year 2021 (FY20), the company had reported a loss of Rs 65.7 crore, with total revenues at Rs 15.7 crore, according to a report by Inc42.

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