Breakout Startups #33- Unacademy

How a YouTube Channel became India's Top Education Startup

Hi y’all,

Ideally, this newsletter would have gone out on the previous Sunday. But thanks to some work and something I launched this Monday along with my friend Anmol Maini.

We are live with the first episode of Paisa Secured, where we discuss the week's most interesting startup news (incl. a new breakout startup each week). The first episode is live and you can access it by joining Anmol’s Whatsapp Newsletter here. The next episode is out on Monday😀

Coming to this week’s breakout startup, this week we are going to cover only Indian Startups. Today, we are talking about Unacademy, the learning platform that provides content for major competitive examinations.

Origin Story

Unacademy didn’t have a really flashy beginning but was a result of the resolution Gaurav had taken in 2010. So, in 2011, he went on and recorded a video explaining Variables.


One week later recorded, he recorded another one talking about Scan Line Polygon Algorithm and that one became popular in a month and he started getting messages from all across the country. This was the origin story of Unacademy.

Since then, the startup has gone on to deliver 1.5 Million lessons, bring onboard more than 14K educators on the platform, reach $30M in ARR and have raised more than $198.5M in Funding.


But how did it go about becoming the largest education platform in the country? The journey has been full of turns. Gaurav along with Roman & Hemesh started working on Unacademy full time in 2015 as a YouTube channel. In 2015, for the first time, the channel recorded over a million views in 30 days.

Then, in 2016. it moved to and finished the year with over 500,000 registered users. At this point in time, the team was focused only on Civil Exam Preparations owing to Roman’s background.

Fun fact- The team first met each other on Quora.

Then, after this, the team saw its registered user base reaching 1 Million and the YouTube channel become one of the most well-recognized names in the Indian Education scene. During this high growth phase, the company also expanded to include test segments such as Railways and SSC.

In the following two years, the company went ahead and focused on adding new courses through acquisitions such as WifiStudy. Along with this, the company started offering paid courses which became one of the biggest drivers of revenue.

Come to 2019, it was a monster source for the company. The company launched its Unacademy Plus offering which is similar to Netflix-like offer of unlimited choice and content in the year after a brainstorming session with Shailendra Singh from Sequoia. By the end of the year, the company crossed 74,000 Active Plus Subscribers with an average watch time of 60 minutes per day per subscriber.

Since the launch of Plus, the company saw its revenue increase 7 times in the year.

The company’s YouTube channels see more than 150M views every month along with organizing 2500+ Live Classes every day. At this point in time, Unacademy has more than 10K+ quality educators on the platform and is increasing this number rapidly.

Unacademy Marketing Ploys

Unacademy's marketing team has been killing it with their efforts. Some of their efforts deserve a mention👇🏻

  1. First, their partnership with The Viral Fever, India’s Most popular content creator on YouTube to sponsor a web series about country’s IIT Entrance Examination scene titled Kota Factory

  1. Second, the #LetsCrackIt Campaign to cash in on the Hip Hop wave thanks for the movie Gullyboy.

  1. After this, the company sponsored the Road Safety Series where legends such as Sachin Tendulkar & Virender Sehwag were playing.


Despite the growing competition on all fronts, Unacademy has been able to maintain its strong footing in the Indian Student Community. The word of mouth has surely helped the company grow but it has also a number of competitors to play with to become the leader.

Byju’s has become the $4B behemoth and reached profitability last year and will be someone to contend with. Other than this, Vedantu & Gradeup are upcoming players who have a strong footing in India.


L R Roman Saini Gaurav Munjal Hemesh Singh

Gaurav Munjal- Founder & CEO. Product brains at Unacademy. Sold his first company to CommonFloor.

Roman Saini- Founder, Unacademy. Met Roman on Quora. A doctor from AIIMS, Cleared Civil Service Exam-2013 and became IAS.

Hemesh Singh- Founder & CTO, Unacademy.


  • To date, Unacademy has raised a total of $198.5M in funding over 7 rounds.

  • The company’s latest funding round, a Series E of $110M by Facebook, General Atlantic & Sequoia India valued the company at $510 Million.

  • Prior to this, the company had raised money from SAIF Partners, Nexus Venture Partners, and Blume Ventures.

  • Along with this, the company has received the backing of a number of marquee angel investors in the company.

Given the amount of cash the company has in the bank right now with the recent funding, it affords the startup enough ammunition to take on its competitors😀


That’s it for today. Next Edition out on Sunday.

BTW, You can follow me on Twitter @ankitkr0 :)