Unicorn CFO hiring in India and the USA

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19th June 2023, Mumbai: After the Covid pandemic, India has experienced a significant surge in the number of unicorns, many of which have plans to launch their initial public offerings (IPOs) in the next few years. These Indian Unicorns are valued over $350 billion in valuation. However, the last few months have witnessed a funding winter.

Commenting on the current times, Gibin Varghese, Partner-Technology Practice at WalkWater Talent Advisors, said, “Startups are facing many challenges in the current business landscape. CFOs today are called upon to shape the growth of the company, focus on profitability, raise funds, drive M&A, and lead investor & board relations. As a result, the demand for CFO recruitment has intensified, prompting our study into the trends of Unicorn CFO hiring in India and a comparative analysis with the more matured startup ecosystem in the United States.”

WalkWater Talent Advisors, one of India’s top Executive Search firms, conducted an extensive study and researched 150 Unicorns (100 Indian Unicorns and 50 US Unicorns). The study has been co-authored by Gibin Varghese, Partner-Technology Practice, and Shambhavi Singh, Managing Associate-Technology Practice.

Key Highlights:

Start-up Experience: In India, only 33% of unicorn CFOs were hired from other start-ups indicating a higher reliance on talent from traditional sectors. BFSI, Industrial & FMCG are the top 3 sources of the remaining 67% of the non-startup talent pool. In contrast, in the United States, 72% of Unicorn CFOs were hired from other start-ups with Enterprise SaaS and Fintech emerging as the top talent sources.

Experience and Age Distribution: Unicorn CFOs in India tend to be younger compared to their American counterparts. 15 – 25 years of experience make up 60% of the Unicorn CFO talent pool in India compared to 20-30 years in the US.

Gender Representation: Gender diversity remains a challenge in both countries, with the USA showing relatively better representation. The study reveals that 17% of unicorn CFOs in the USA are women, while in India, the number stands at a mere 4%. Bridging this gender gap is crucial for fostering an inclusive and balanced entrepreneurial landscape.

Commenting on the findings, Harold D’Souza, Co-Founder and Director at WalkWater Talent Advisors, said, “The Indian startup ecosystem has witnessed an exceptional surge in unicorns, reflecting the resilience of many entrepreneurs. In exploring the intricate realm of finance and innovation, we unravel the pivotal role of CFOs in our study, who bring a wealth of diverse backgrounds and experiences to enrich the unicorn landscape, nurturing growth and fortitude. However, it’s intriguing to discover that despite their significance, 30% of unicorns continue to rely on VPs of Finance instead of embracing the full potential of CFOs.”