What it means to be an entrepreneur in 2023

The past five years have been the most dynamic and volatile phase for the startup ecosystem in India that we have seen in our 20+ years of backing early-stage founders in the country. Our daily interactions with founders reveal one consistent theme - uncertainty and confusion. About where the Indian startup ecosystem is headed, the funding environment, the talent outlook - just to name a few. Founders are deluged with a multitude of contrasting signals and information.

Through 'Elevation Founder Pulse’, we have harnessed our deep reach within the founder community to try and answer some big questions shaping their world. What are they excited about? What keeps them awake at night? Fundamentally, this report strives to decipher the essence of what it means to be an entrepreneur in 2023. We hope it will be of value to founders, operators, and just about anyone with an interest in the startup ecosystem.

250+ founders took our survey

The inaugural edition of the Elevation Founder Pulse is fueled by insights from our survey of 250+ founders across various stages and sectors that captured over 20,000 data points. We received rich responses on aspects ranging from the fundraising landscape, business outlook, and operational challenges to public market dynamics, recruitment and culture, and the regulatory environment.

250+ founders took our survey

The inaugural edition of the Elevation Founder Pulse is fueled by insights from our survey of 250+ founders across various stages and sectors that captured over 20,000 data points. We received rich responses on aspects ranging from the fundraising landscape, business outlook, and operational challenges to public market dynamics, recruitment and culture, and the regulatory environment.

Founder representation across sectors

B2B SaaS + AI 

Consumer Brands & Consumer Tech 

Fintech & Financial Services

What are they telling us?

Overall Sentiment

No better time than now to build in India

An overwhelming majority of founders agree: NOW is the ideal time to build in India.

8 out of 10 founders would choose to start up today

Q: Is this a good time to start a business?

Absolutely, there’s never been a better time!
Yes, it is favourable
No, it’s challenging

Amid the overall positive sentiment, late-stage founders sound a note of caution. 17% of growth and late-stage founders find the current funding climate to be challenging compared to just 5.8% founders in the early stages.

Early-stage sentiment:

Raised <$25M


Growth & late-stage sentiment:

Raised >$25M

Fundraising Outlook

Winter persists. But founders see a funding spring on the horizon.

The venture funding landscape in India has experienced a marked pullback since 2022. A significant 70% of the founders acknowledge the heightened difficulty in securing funds at this time.

Yet, there's a budding sense of optimism:

Half of the founders are hopeful for a warmer funding season in the next 12 months.

50% of founders see fundraising becoming easier over the next year

Q: How will the venture funding landscape look for your industry in the next 12 months?

It’s hard now, will become easier in the next 12 months
It’s hard now, will remain that way
Can’t predict
It’s easy now, will remain that way
It’s easy now, will become harder in the next 12 months

Over half the respondents (55%) believe that a runway of at least 18 months is ideal, however, one in three founders (33.5%) we surveyed is currently operating with a runway of less than 12 months.

1 in 2 founders believe having at least 18 months of runway is ideal

Q: What should be the ideal runway for startups in your sector?

Business Dynamics

Revenue growth concerns keep most founders up at night

Founders are looking inwards

When we asked founders to identify their three most pressing concerns, a strong majority (65%) highlighted revenue growth amongst their key worries.

About 30% of the founders consider high burn rates, hiring, fundraising, and longer sales cycles to be other top of the mind concerns. Only 16% of the founders state competition as a key concern, indicating a greater focus on internal business dynamics than externalities.

Q: What are the top three issues that keep you up at night?

Consumer founders are laser-focused on curbing burn

45% of the surveyed founders building in Consumer feel the need to manage burn as one of the biggest challenges after revenue growth.

B2B SaaS founders concerned about longer and tougher sales cycles

In the B2B SaaS sector, 55% of founders highlighted longer and more challenging sales cycles in their top three concerns. Market reports suggest that sales cycles have increased by at least 10%.

Regulatory curveballs keep fintech founders on their toes

Among fintech founders, 55% identified the regulatory environment as one of their top three challenges, weighing it equally alongside revenue growth as a primary concern.

Recruitment and Culture

The ball is back in employers’
court as talent landscape resets

Over 50% founders say tech salaries have cooled down

All indicators suggest that after two years of talent largely holding the upper hand, employers are beginning to see the balance of power appearing to shift back in their favour.

Founders are seeing signs of improvement in tech hiring, with 50% of them noting that tech salaries have cooled down compared to last year. Early-stage startups are finding themselves having to pay more to attract tech talent compared to their growth-stage peers.

Q: Has tech talent recruitment become easier or difficult for you this year?

Yes, it’s been easier. Tech salaries have moderated
It’s been about the same as previous year
No, it’s been harder. Salaries remain elevated

Only 7% founders report an increase in voluntary attrition

Employees are increasingly choosing to stay with their current employers for longer periods, indicating a trend of improved retention in the workplace. Just 7% of founders report an increase in voluntary attrition. Nearly half (48%) state that voluntary attrition rates have remained consistent with the previous year, while 46% observe an improvement in their retention metrics.

Q: What’s the change in voluntary attrition at your company in the last year?

Voluntary attrition has stayed the same
Fewer people left, our retention is improving
Deteriorated, we have seen a bit of a shuffle

Fully-remote work setup is going away

Only 5% of founders support a fully remote arrangement

Less than 5% founders now support a fully remote arrangement. Half of the founders we surveyed advocate for a fully on-site work environment, and the remaining 45% prefer a hybrid model.

Q: Which work setup helps your company thrive?

Among those preferring an on-site setup, an overwhelming 90% of founders were able to execute a smooth back-to-office transition.

Transition to a fully on-site setup was smooth for most founders

Q: How has the transition to a fully on-site setup been for you?

The Elevation Startup PayPulse Report 2023 encapsulates valuable insights on compensation and talent trends to help founders make informed people decisions. You can download the report here.

Download Report

Founders have profitability firmly in their sights

Majority of founders are aiming for profitability

Founders navigating this winter are embracing the winds of profitability, trimming their sails to cut costs.

The majority of founders (58%) we surveyed aspire to be profitable in the near to medium term while 18% state they have already reached this milestone.

The trend signals a collective move towards greater financial sustainability and improved economics within the Indian startup ecosystem. We see numerous large startups and venture-backed unicorns clearly targeting profitability. 35-38%* of Indian unicorns have already become profitable and several more are expected to turn profitable within the next 12-18 months.

Venture-backed Indian unicorns are targeting profitability

As startups lean into efficiency, two out of three founders we surveyed reduced their monthly burn rates over the past year. Among these, half have managed to lower their burn by at least 30%

1 in 2 founders reduced burn by at least 30%

Q: By how much has your monthly burn rate come down from last year?

Among functions, Marketing witnessed the most dramatic spending cuts. Of those who brought down their burn in the last year, 38% identified marketing as the area where spending was most curtailed. Meanwhile, in 20% of startups, engineering and product development expenditures were the most significantly reduced.

Marketing witnessed the highest spending cuts in 38% of startups

Q: Which area of your company has seen the most reduction in spending?

IPos and M&As

Founders expect liquidity events to surge

Founders are viewing the IPO landscape in India for venture-funded startups with renewed optimism even after the boom witnessed in 2021.

66% founders believe that there will be more IPOs of venture-funded startups in the next 5 years compared to the previous five, with the optimism ringing even louder (75%) among late-stage founders.

Optimism about listing momentum remains positive

Q: Do you think that there will be more or fewer IPOs of venture-funded startups in the next five years compared to the last five years?

Founders are also bullish about the M&A landscape with around 70% believing that M&As for VC-funded firms will see an increase over the next five years.

70% founders believe M&As will increase

Q: How do you see the acquisition landscape for VC-funded firms in your industry over the next 5 years compared to the past 5 years?

Sectorally, BFSI founders expressed the highest level of conviction, with an impressive 95% believing that M&A activity will increase. Additionally, 78% of Consumer founders and 75% of B2B & SaaS founders also share this positive outlook.


M&A will increase
M&A will stay the same
M&A will reduce


M&A will increase
M&A will stay the same
M&A will reduce


M&A will increase
M&A will stay the same
M&A will reduce

In Hindsight

Lastly, we asked founders to look back and identify what they would do differently if starting up again today. Perhaps influenced by the current challenging conditions, their reflections on how they would approach building their startup differently centered on business fundamentals. Shaped by their entrepreneurial experiences, founders highlighted four key areas:

  1. Prioritizing profitability earlier
  2. Placing greater emphasis on customer feedback and iteration
  3. Allocating more time to product development before launch
  4. Bootstrapping for a longer period before seeking investment
Elevation View

We at Elevation believe that founder confidence in India is underpinned by its strong fundamentals.

Best in-class digital infra &
Rapid progress on physical infra
Young population & improving living standards
Healthy corporate and household balance sheets
Strong services growth &
Manufacturing beginning to fire
Increasing formalisation &  financialisation of economy

All In On India!

Founders across the board are united in their belief that there is no better time to build in India than now – a sentiment we couldn’t agree more with. The confidence in the India story and our economic fundamentals have never been stronger. Founders, young and old, are emerging from this winter battle-hardened and smarter, resilient and wiser, having learnt the right lessons in a challenging environment. From funding and talent acquisition to exits, we see, as do founders, unmistakable signs of positive change. There is no better time than now to be All In on India!