Apna.co, a professional networking platform for blue- and grey-collar workers, has entered the coveted club, or those companies with a valuation of $1 billion or more, in just 21 months, the fastest Indian startup to do so.
The company said it had raised $100 million in a new financing round, led by existing investor Tiger Global.
Owl Ventures, Maverick Ventures, and GSV Ventures have also come on board as new investors in its third funding round this year.
Prior to this, business-to-business (B2B) commerce startup
Udaan was the fastest domestic startup to reach unicorn status, within 26 months of its registration.
The startup has raised $190 million so far this year, including the current round.
Existing investors Sequoia Capital India and Insight Partners also participated in the latest round.
Apna.co has also become the 27th unicorn this year, as unprecedented amounts of capital have been pumped into the startup ecosystem.
More than $21 billion has been invested in various startups as of September 3, according to data from Venture Intelligence.
“I think, for me, valuations are nothing but a directional marker, that we are going in the right direction,” chief executive and founder Nirmit Parikh told ET. “We have had a stellar growth. Strong performance and consistent performance have created a lot of investor confidence. And that is why we see a bunch of investors doubling down.”
Expansion of apna.co
Apna.co, which was present in about 14 cities in June, has expanded to 28 cities in the last two months.
The startup plans to utilize the fresh capital for product development and add to its 280-member team across functions like engineering and product.
It will also use the funds to expand across the country by the end of this year and target overseas markets such as Africa, Middle East, and the United States next year.
While the company is currently focused on growth, it is still in the early stages of monetization of its products.
“We have been able to successfully pilot recruitment products as well as skilling products,” Parikh said.
The company is not prioritizing monetization immediately, he added.
“Today, our priority is India’s acceleration over monetization. And, I think, job markets are coming back. So, very soon, we will also scale up our monetization….all our pilots have been extremely successful,” he said.
The company has grown by 125 times over the past 15 months, he said.
According to Parikh, Owl Ventures, an ed-tech focused investor which has
invested in firms like White Hat Jr and Leap Finance, will help the company chart its skill-tech trajectory, which would be a combination of in-house curriculum and curation from existing creators and companies.
“We are going to heavily invest into skilling tech because that is what the world needs today. Owl will be our thought partner as we build this out,” he said.
Founded in 2019, Apna.co comprises vertical communities for skilled professionals like carpenters, painters, field sales agents, and beauticians. Users on the app access local jobs, network with peers, and tap into upskilling opportunities.
The company has run pilots for paid products and sees a monetizing opportunity in both recruitment and the upskilling market.
The platform has served more than six million employers across 70 vertical communities. Parikh said gig workers, sales, marketing, and business development roles are particularly popular and there has also been a surge in manufacturing jobs.
Its clients include Zomato, Flipkart, Urban Company, Byju’s, PhonePe, and Burger King.
It also has a peer-to-peer network among the job seekers on its platform, helping them reskill and upskill.
“Apna’s viral adoption is driven by a novel social and interactive approach to connecting employers with job seekers. We expect job seekers in search of meaningful connections and vetted opportunities to drive Apna’s continued explosive growth across India – and the world,” said Griffin Schroeder, partner, Tiger Global.
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