‘I heard 150 noes before first funding’- reveals one of India's newest unicorns Dream11

  • Dream11 founder Harsh Jain shared his plight with finding investors in the first few years of his startup that is now a unicorn.
  • At the TiE Global Summit 2019, Jain said that the first 150 investors refused to invest in Dream11 but he learnt a lot from those rejections.
  • It raised $110 million from Tencent. It turned unicorn (startup with a valuation of over $1 billion) in November 2019
  • Its popularity skyrocketed after IPL and ICC signed them as the official partner.
In 2009, Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth were living a fantasy. Those were times when iPhones were just becoming popular and smartphones are not all-pervading like they are –right now. Even for those who owned such phones, 2G powered data did not come cheap. Yet, the Founders of Dream11 were trying to raise money for a fantasy cricket game shaped after EPL, after IPL was launched a year back.

“We had 150 people say ‘No’ before we got to our first funding. Perseverance is what it takes. Every single no came with a why, it taught me something about our business and how to grow,” Jain said at the TiE Global Summit (TGS). In a session chaired by Business Insider at the Summit — an annual event which showcased India's vibrant startup ecosystem — Jain shared the journey of his startup that introduced 'fantasy gaming' as a business to India.

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) is a global not-for-profit organisation founded in 1992 by a bunch of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who had roots in the subcontinent. TiE helps startups with mentoring, networking, education, funding, and incubation. Dream11 founder Harsh Jain was a headliner at this year's edition of the TGS.


The Dream journey

Within nine years, Dream11 raised $110 million from Tencent. It turned unicorn (startup with a valuation of over $1 billion) in November 2019 after a secondary investment from Steadview Capital, an Asia-focused alternative asset manager.

Its popularity skyrocketed first after IPL and ICC both signed them on as the official partner. It now has 75 million users on its platform and has a robust model to go with - as it earns 15-20% of a gamer’s winnings.


Jain believes that there is a lot of potential ahead for fantasy gaming. “India is a large market to address where 700 million people expected to use sports online in India in the next few years,” he said. Other than providing a platform for gaming, Jain believes that their offering provides with something more--- a way to overcome tediousness.

“Indians are bored that's why they keep looking at their phones. Suddenly because of Jio everyone has data and access, we need to engage them and provide entertainment. The reason why Dream11 is popular because we give that on something they love – sports,” he said.

Dream11-backed Fancode will sell sports merchandise and game tickets