Unicorns drive the LBS $4bn success story

How LBS helps nurture unicorns and global enterprise

1140x346 Unicorn article

Livspace, Wayflyer, Razor GroupZepz, HelloFresh and Feedzai – the names vibrate to the excitement and speed of today’s business world. They are brands with personality that actively resonate with customers, investors, market commentators, analysts and the media.

Moreover, these are six very special companies founded by alumni of London Business School and which share the status of being unicorns - so named because they are so rare and worth more than $1bn.

The magnificent six

And this particular stable of LBS unicorns offers refreshing levels of diversity too! Livspace, for example, is one of Asia’s largest omni-channel home interior and renovation platforms. The company provides a one-stop renovation solution for homeowners—from design to managed last mile fulfillment for all rooms in a home. Anuj Srivastava (MBA2003) co-founder, CEO of the company successfully raised $180m through a Series F round led by KKR, a global investment firm.

By vivid contrast, revenue-based financing platform for e-commerce companies, Wayflyer, has raised $150m funding in a Series B round. Wayflyer has a post-money valuation of $1.6B (approx €1.4B). Wayflyer co-founder and London Business School alumnus Aiden Corbett (MBA 2013) said the investment would enable Wayflyer to accelerate its expansion in the US, across Europe, and into Asia, as well as allow the business to hire excellent talent and expand its product offering.

Razor Group is a Berlin-based startup that buys up promising Amazon vendors and scales them into bigger, multichannel businesses. Not yet two years old, the company has been building out its business at a fast pace and has quickly amassed a stable of business categories such as personal wellness, sports and home and living. Tushar Ahluwalia (MiM 2010) is co-founder & CEO Razor Group raised $125m of equity funding in late ’21 in a Series B round that Ahluwalia says pushes the company past a $1bn valuation.

Feedzai is an AI-powered risk management platform that provides banks, others in the financial sector, and companies managing payments online with the tools to spot and fight fraud. In the beginning of ’21 it announced a Series D, or the fourth stage in the company’s seed funding cycle, raising a US$200m, with a valuation which moved it into the unicorn club. Co-founder and London Business School alumnus (MBA 2009) Nuno Sebastião left a high-flying role at the European Space Agency to follow his dream to become an entrepreneur.

Zepz, formerly WorldRemit Group, is a digital cross-border payments platform operating two market-leading brands (WorldRemit and Sendwave, acquired in 2021), with more than 11 million users across 150 countries. In summer ’21 the company announced it had raised $292m in new primary financing, achieving a valuation of $5 billion. Ismail Ahmed (EMBA 2010) is founder and executive chairman of the company, spotting a gap in the market based on personal experience of the transformative effect of migrants sending money home.

Thomas Griesel (MiM2010) is co-founder of HelloFresh. The company achieved unicorn status after raising €75m in a funding back in 2015. HelloFresh delivers weekly meal kits — a kind of gourmet grocery service that makes it easier for people to make fresh food at home.

Skyrocketing success

Of the leading unicorn companies created in 2021, 341 were US-based, almost 4x larger than in Europe.

However, Europe shows signs of catching up. The pace of new European unicorns creation in 2022 has already increased compared to 2021, and London Business School is leading the charge, recognised as it is for being a powerful hub for its global network of alumni entrepreneurs. Indeed, it was recent reported in Business Leader, the School’s alumni raised almost $4bn of funding for their companies in 2021. Amazingly, this is more than Switzerland ($3bn) and Portugal ($600m) combined, further enhancing the school’s reputation as one of Europe’s most prestigious institutions.

IPEC and the LBS Incubator programme

Underpinning this staggering success story for LBS is an impressive body of teaching staff and seasoned business professionals, and further supported by a decidedly impressive global network that was greatly enhanced in September 2021 when the Institute of Entrepreneurship & Private Capital (IEPC) was formed.

Renowned for teaching entrepreneurship since the late Nineties, for the cultivation of start-up ventures, and the promotion of innovation, LBS is similarly well known for its research insights into financial markets and its exceptional teaching of the key instruments that drive today’s financial sector. When the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Private Capital came together, these powerful disciplines are now furthering the School’s reputation as a global hub for venture creation and financing and as an accelerant for enterprise growth.

A £100m incubator powerhouse

Last year at the same time that the IEPC was formed, the LBS Incubator programme celebrated its 12th year with the news that more than 100 businesses have now been developed and supported through the Incubator, with an overall staggering £100m raised in seed capital. The programme benefits from the financial support of Santander. Under the auspices of the Santander Universities programme, funding is made available for a number of activities including internship placements, helping to bridge the gap between the alumni teams and LBS students who are keen to experience life within a startup before they make that important leap of faith.

A perspective from Luisa Alemany, Associate Professor of Management Practice in Strategy and Entrepreneurship; Academic Director, IPEC

Why is LBS attractive for budding entrepreneurs?

Students and graduates are no longer as keen on entering the corporate world as they once were. They see the opportunity that entrepreneurship, particularly in the tech sector, offers. However, the entrepreneurs’ road is lonely and tough. At LBS we work on the practical skills that keep founders and entrepreneurs going, we help them to understand where entrepreneurs fit into the wider business ecosystem and to explore the opportunities fully. We have many different ways we can do this from regular lectures, seminars and course work, to The Entrepreneurship Lab and Incubator. At the same time in the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital, we have academics who are researching all aspects of being an entrepreneur. Budding founders who study here will make life-long connections that will help them be successful when they start their own businesses.

How does LBS help provide access to funding to entrepreneurially minded students?

We estimate that around 10% of total Venture Capitalists in London graduated from London Business School, boasting such names as Accel, Balderton, Beringea Index Ventures, Lakestar, LocalGlobe, Notion, and Octopus Ventures. The most recent LBS alumnus-founded unicorn, Wayflyer, received investment from QED Investors. The co-founder of QED Investors, Nigel Morris, is also an LBS Alumnus.

Enterprise 100 (E100) is LBS’ own angel investor network. It bridges the gap between what's happening in the classroom, the School's successful entrepreneurs and the business community at large. Regular pitch evenings with investors from E100 provides opportunities for feedback as well as investments.

Launched in October 2020 as a joint venture between LBS and Senderwood Group (LocalGlobe and Latitude) the Newton Venture Program is the first-of-its-kind global training program for future investors. The program aims to make the practice of investing in early-stage ventures more accessible with the goal of increasing diversity and making the industry more representative.

We offer courses such as ‘Private Equity and Venture Capital’ and ‘Financing the Entrepreneurial Business’ which attracts speakers from top firms, providing students with the opportunity to network with industry experts in London. We also recently launched a new programme called the ‘Private Capital Experiential Programme’ that provides students with hands-on experience of working in the venture capital and private equity industry in London while studying at LBS.

We also support student led initiatives such as Booster, Hackathon, the pre-accelerator Launchpad and competitions such as VCIC, Health Tech challenge or MIINT which help students develop and test their ideas, receive mentorship, and get the boost they need, in terms of funds and in-kind prizes, to take their ventures to the next level.

London is one of the world’s top three tech destinations, so it is no surprise dynamic founders are coming to the London Business School to strengthen their knowledge to grow their start-ups and expand their networks.