November 29, 2022

N26 alumni have created more startups than those from Wise, Revolut and Klarna 

Undeterred by the current market conditions, Europe’s founder factories keep fuelling the next-generation of startups

Harry Nelis, partner at Accel

N26, the Berlin-based neobank, has seen more former employees go on to launch startups of their own than any other private European unicorn.

Other fintech unicorns — including Klarna, Revolut and Wise — have also seen dozens of employees begin businesses, in a strong sign that startup success spawns more startup success. 

Out of over 300 VC-backed unicorns in Europe and Israel, 203 have seen their employees create 1,018 new startups between them, according to a new report by global VC firm Accel and intelligence platform Dealroom. 


And even amid the current economic downturn, many VCs — including Accel partner Harry Nelis — believe that Europe’s startup factory won’t stop working. 

“While capital isn’t as free flowing as it was last year, we believe Europe now has the generational talent, experience and know-how to mint new startups and unicorns alike throughout a recession,” Nelis says. 

What’s more, some of the tech talent affected by the layoffs sweeping the sector might also take the opportunity to start their own thing, as Index partner Danny Rimer told Sifted recently.

The top founder factories

Well-established companies such as Delivery Hero, Spotify and N26 are, predictably, among the top founder factories in Europe. 

“Skills and experience from working at the ecosystem’s earliest major players — like Skype, Spotify and Zalando — have paved the way for the emergence of thousands of world-class founders, marketers, product managers and engineers. These initial ‘founder factory’ companies have created hundreds of new startups,” Nelis tells Sifted.

Sifted has been tracking the ventures founded by the alumni of some of the top European unicorns, including:

Fintechs in full flow 

The flywheel is spinning fastest in the fintech sector. 61 fintech unicorns in Europe and Israel have led to 310 new startups, and 40% of those are also in fintech.  

At Klarna, 65% of its 23 alumni startups are in fintech; at wefox, 62% of its 13 alumni startups; and at Wise, 58% of its 19 alumni startups.

Neobanks N26 and Monzo have a comparatively low number of alumni startups in fintech: just 21% of the 24 startups created by former employees at N26 are in fintech and just 44% of the 16 Monzo alumni startups. — Europe’s most valuable startup on paper — has notably only seen six startups created by its former employees. 


The startup creation flow

The top founder factory location in Europe is London, where 27 unicorns saw 168 new startups founded by former employees. 

Berlin and Paris follow close behind, with 24 Berlin-based unicorns creating 138 startups and 22 Parisian unicorns creating 125 startups. 

Most of the startups created by ex-unicorn employees are in the same location as the unicorn, boosting the local tech ecosystem. Out of the 168 startups created by London-founded unicorns, 69% were in London. In the case of Berlin and Paris, 70% and 75% of startups were founded in the same city, respectively. 

“Over the next few years, we’re confident that Europe’s entrepreneurs will continue to flourish despite the impacts of the global economic downturn,” says Nelis.

“The reality is that the market is a bit slower and that’s because a lot of fundraising was done last year, but this is still a great time to build a business from scratch. Many of the successful businesses today were built in previous crises and darker times and there’s a lot of money still available.”