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Unicorn CFO hiring in India and the USA – a study by WalkWater Talent Advisors

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 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 makes up 60% of the Unicorn CFO talent pool in India compared to 20-30 years in the US.

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.”

About WalkWater Talent Advisors:

Started by Recruitment industry leaders in 2011, WalkWater Talent Advisors is one of India’s fastest growing Executive Search and Talent Advisory Company – headquartered in Bangalore.

WalkWater has an impressive track record across sectors – Technology; Consumer and Retail; Industrial; Pharma, Healthcare & Life Sciences; and BFSI. Apart from assisting 275+ companies hire 600+ leaders, WalkWater has also completed 40+ bespoke Talent Advisory engagements for established organizations and start-ups.


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