Founders Resist Valuation Cuts As Funding Drought Drags On

Founders Resist Valuation Cuts As Funding Drought Drags On

In a recent annual State of Startups survey, a significant revelation emerged about the mindset of Indian startup founders amidst the ongoing funding challenges. The survey, conducted among 80 of India's top founders, investors, and internet executives, disclosed that a majority of startup leaders (around 80%) are unwilling to entertain funding at a lower valuation than their previous rounds. This sentiment prevails even as they anticipate a continued funding drought in the first half of 2024.

The survey reflects the cautious optimism among respondents, with 74% anticipating a gradual easing of the funding freeze in the second half of the coming year. However, concerns loom large, as 12% of respondents fear a potential worsening of the capital allocation squeeze for new-age companies in 2024, compared to a challenging 2023 marked by a seven-year low in fundraising.

The top priority for Indian startups has shifted towards achieving profitability, with nearly 60% of founders and investors acknowledging a correction in valuations akin to global markets. Late-stage firms with sufficient capital are adhering to 2021 valuations, deterring new investments. Investors like SoftBank Investment Advisers and Tiger Global are exhibiting a more cautious approach, prioritizing sustainable growth over rapid expansion.

The survey indicates a changing landscape for startups, with more scrutiny on financial sustainability. The year 2023 witnessed a notable decline in startup funding, except for a boost in December attributed to a major investment in Flipkart. Startups are readjusting growth expectations, focusing on sustainable expansion with efficient cost structures.

Looking ahead, respondents foresee consolidation at scale across sectors and anticipate the growing role of artificial intelligence in fintech. Despite the challenges, nearly 90% of respondents expect improved market sentiments for new-age companies. As 2023 draws to a close, startups are adapting to tighter budgets, renegotiating contracts, and emphasizing cultural shifts towards sustainable business practices. The filing of draft IPO papers by companies like FirstCry, Ola Electric, and Awfis suggests a potential rebound in the IPO landscape, reflecting a renewed sense of confidence in the startup ecosystem.

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December 29, 2023

Kalpana Maurya