The IPO market has been very quiet for European startups over the past two years.
The value of IPOs at VC-backed tech companies in the region fell from a high of $94bn in 2021 to just $11bn in 2022, according to Atomico’s State of European Tech report. Putting aside chip giant Arm’s outlying $55bn Nasdaq listing last September, 2023 saw just $15bn worth of IPOs.
So will 2024 be any different? The latter half of 2023 saw IPO chatter among Europe’s tech elite begin to pick up again and Goldman Sachs told Sifted in July that IPOs could start up again this year.
While a number of IPO candidates tell Sifted that the market still isn’t right for a listing, others say they’re beginning to get their ducks in a row.
So which European scaleups may have a public listing in their sights?
Sifted pulled a longlist of European scaleups that were founded between 2005 and 2020, have hit unicorn valuation and raised $100m in funding from Dealroom. We’ve cross-referenced with public statements of intent from companies and reached out for comments ourselves to narrow the list down.
The Swedish battery manufacturer has raised $7.7bn from investors since launching in 2016 and could look to tap the public markets in the next two years.
In February 2023, the company’s finance chief told Sifted that the company had been working to get itself IPO-ready and was waiting for the market to open up. Later on last year, the FT reported that the company was leaning towards a Stockholm listing, in what would be one of the biggest IPOs for a climate tech ever.
In the meantime, the company looks to cement its status as the European gigafactory frontrunner. Alongside operations in Sweden, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the US and Canada, last week Northvolt announced it had secured EU approval for a €902m deal that would see it build a factory in Germany.
Last raise: €902m grant, December 2023
Investors: Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Norrsken VC, Baillie Gifford and Volkswagen Group, among others
In November last year, buy now, pay later (BNPL) scaleup Klarna reported its first quarterly profit in four years following a turbulent period at the company that saw its valuation slashed, worker strikes and multiple rounds of layoffs as it looked to cut costs.
Klarna is now preparing for a possible listing, according to reports in the FT, and in 2023, established a UK holding company in a move that it called an “early step on a journey towards an eventual IPO”. Klarna has not decided on the timing or location of a listing, said the article.
Klarna declined to comment.
Last raise: $800m, July 2022
Investors: Atomico, Northzone, SoftBank, Sequoia Capital and Snoop Dogg, among others
The $4.1bn-valued secondhand clothes marketplace is never far from conversations about potential IPO candidates in Europe. In 2023, CEO Thomas Plantenga told Sifted that the company was “technically IPO-ready”, although remained coy about timelines.
Later that year, the FT reported that Vinted was considering a secondary share sale that would be worth more than €200m, and was working with Morgan Stanley to mull over capital structure ahead of a potential IPO.
A Vinted spokesperson tells Sifted that an IPO is “one of a number of potential options in the future for a business like ours and at this stage of growth”.
Last raise: €250m Series F, May 2021
Investors: Accel, Insight Partners and Lightspeed, among others
In May last year, the ride-hailing and food delivery company announced that it expected to turn a profit within 12 months and was readying itself for a listing in 2025.
“We are working to be IPO-ready by the end of this year, however any listing will be subject to market conditions,” a Bolt spokesperson tells Sifted. “No decision has been made on listing location.”
Last raise: €628m Series F, Jan 2022
Investors: Sequoia Capital, Creandum, Fidelity Investments, Owl Rock Capital Partners and D1 Capital Partners, among others
Last summer it was reported that German bus services scaleup Flix has picked JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas as advisors for a planned IPO in the first half of 2024.
The company runs bus and train services in 40 countries, including the Greyhound brand in the US and the FlixBus brand in Europe, and saw revenues rise 185% to €1.5bn in 2022.
A Flix spokesperson tells Sifted that the company has “no news” to share on its IPO plans.
Last raise: $650m (evenly split between debt and equity), May 2021
Investors: General Atlantic, HV Capital, Permira, Silver Lake Partners, BlackRock and Baillie Gifford, among others
The HR tech unicorn changed its legal form from a GmbH (a German limited liability company) to a Societas Europaea (SE; a European public limited company) at the start of 2023, in a move widely seen by market watchers as a foundation for an IPO.
Founder Hanno Renner told Sifted back then that “2024 will be the earliest possible date we can currently foresee” for an IPO and will depend on the shape of the market.
A Personio spokesperson tells Sifted that the company has “not set a specific target date for an IPO. The exact timing and location would depend on what is right for our business, including external market and internal considerations.”
The scaleup employs over 1,800 people across seven offices in Europe and was last valued at $8.5bn when it raised a $200m Series E in June 2022.
It’s also become something of a launchpad for future founders. Sifted identified 26 ex-employees at the company who’ve gone on to start their own businesses.
Last raise: $200m Series E, June 2022
Investors: Accel, Index Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Northzone and Global Founders Capital, among others
The German software giant cashed in during the boom times of 2021 and 2022, raising $2bn across those years ($600m of which was debt), which Celonis says puts it in a “very strong financial position”.
Towards the end of 2023, there were reports that Celonis was mulling an IPO in the US, and a company spokesperson tells Sifted that it “can certainly imagine being a publicly listed company at some point in the future”. The company doesn’t have a specific timeline in mind, however, they add.
Last raise: $400m Series D extension, August 2022
Investors: HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Accel, 83North and Deutsche Bank, among others
In the summer of 2023, the BNPL startup’s CEO and cofounder Philip Belamant said that he had met with 15 banks over a possible IPO and was weighing up a listing in the UK or the US after being “encouraged” by the former’s new listing rules.
"We’ve always been clear on our ambitions to IPO," Belamant tells Sifted. "It’s a race to the start as we see an IPO as one way to expand [and] unlock access to different pools of capital."
Zilch’s company filings for the year up to March 2023 showed that its revenues had increased to £30m — from £11m the year before — with losses down from £78m to £72m over the same period.
Last raise: £20m, between March and September 2023
Investors: M&F Fund, Gauss Ventures, Goldman Sachs Funds and eBay, among others
The German air taxi startup saw plans to roll out its helicopter-like flying machines during the Paris Olympics dealt a blow by the city’s councillors last year, but hopes to launch commercial flights later this year.
Volocopter tells Sifted that listing is “always under consideration” but the market was “especially difficult” in 2023. The spokesperson adds that “we continue to keep an eye out for the market to determine when the time is right to go public”.
Since launching in 2011, the company has picked up $769m from investors, according to Dealroom, and considering it’s yet to launch commercial flights is likely some way off profitability.
HQ: Bruchsal, Germany
Last raise: $182m Series E extension, November 2022
Investors: BlackRock, Intel Capital, b2venture, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Honeywell, among others
In December, digital lender OakNorth founder and CEO Rishi Khosla told the FT that the company could IPO in the future — but the destination of a potential listing was undecided.
OakNorth has raised over $1bn since launching in 2015 and tells Sifted it’s been profitable every year after its first year in existence. In 2022, it made a pre-tax profit of £152m — up from £135m the year before.
The company’s headcount is heading north, too. It had 146 employees in 2022, according to its most recent annual report, rising from 107 in 2021.
OakNorth tells Sifted that it doesn’t have any solid plans to list at the moment.
Last raise: $440m, February 2019
Investors: SoftBank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, The Clermont Group and Vision Fund, among others
Carpooling marketplace and transport ticket platform BlaBlaCar tells Sifted that an IPO is “one of the possibilities” for the future.
But while the company has begun to “apply the standards of a public company” to its financial and non-financial reporting, the market isn’t right at the moment, they add.
BlaBlaCar tells Sifted that 2023 saw Brazil become its largest market — climbing above its home territory of France — and is the place it sees the most potential for growth. Its headcount is more than 800 today, up from around 700 the year before.
Last raise: $115m convertible, April 2021
Investors: Accel, Insight Partners, Index Ventures, VNV Global and FMZ Ventures, among others
The pre-listing CFO hiring spree
These companies have appointed a new CFO in the past two years — one of the signs a scaleup could be readying itself for a listing.
What does the company do? Business expenses platform
New CFO: Søren Westh Lonning (December 2023)
What does the company do? Used car marketplace
New CFO: Liz Kistruck (July 2023, according to LinkedIn)
What does the company do? Drug discovery
New CFO: Andreas Emmenegger (March 2023)
What does the company do? Travel management platform
New CFO: Roy Hefer (July 2022)
What does the company do? Consumer tech subscription platform
New CFO: Michael Andersen (March 2023)
What does the company do? Business analytics platform
New CFO: Benoit Fouilland (May 2023)
HQ: Chemnitz, Germany
What does the company do? Employee communications platform
New CFO: Bijal Patel (April 2023)