Of the 20 most valuable unicorns in Europe, only four are confirmed to be profitable on an annual basis, Sifted finds.
That is despite more pressure on many scaleup leaders from investors to prioritise profitability amid a tougher fundraising environment.
Neobank Revolut, fintech Zepz and lending platform Lendable, which made Sifted’s list last year, are still profitable according to their latest metrics. This year, they are joined by fintech SumUp.
That said, the list of the 20 most valuable companies has changed slightly since last year as many startups have struggled to raise capital at their previous high valuations and had their price tags marked down by investors or internally.
Companies that have not yet made a profit have highlighted their focus on growth by expanding services or product ranges, and through internationalisation. Some companies also declined to comment on profitability.
Meanwhile, Octopus Energy, a new entrant to this year’s list, says it would have been profitable this year had it not decided to absorb the increased cost of energy for its customers.
Some companies have seen fluctuations in profits, like Klarna, which recorded its first month of profits in May, despite posting losses for the second quarter, and Finnish scaleup RELEX Solutions, which was profitable in 2021 but posted a loss in 2022 due to investments into new product expansion.
Here is what we found.
Revolut - profitable
Most recent valuation: $33bn (at last funding round), though one investor has marked the value of its Revolut shares down by 40%
The digital bank generated its first full year of profit in 2021, posting £100.3m adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) and £26.3m in profit. It has an end-of-September deadline to publish its 2022 earnings.
Although the group reported profits for the first time, some questions were raised over its accounts, which were only released after months of delays. The bank’s auditor BDO said it was not able to independently verify three-quarters of revenues. Sifted understands that publishing a clean set of 2022 financial results is central to the fintech’s banking licence approval process in the UK.
Most recent valuation: $15bn
The payments platform says it doesn’t disclose specific financial metrics and only filed small company accounts in the UK.
A spokesperson says the company’s focus is on expanding its global footprint, “investing in innovative solutions” and deepening its relationships with partners and customers.
They add: “We believe that these strategic initiatives position us well for future success and sustainable growth.”
Most recent valuation: $13bn
The German technology company says it doesn’t disclose any numbers related to revenue or profit. However, a spokesperson said that in the five years since it was founded in 2011, Celonis was bootstrapped, and therefore cashflow positive. The group started expanding into new markets after receiving external funding for the first time in 2016.
The latest set of financial results the company filed in Germany are for the 12 months to the end of May 2019. These show an annual loss of €6.5m.
Most recent valuation: $12bn
Parts of the Swedish battery maker’s operations have reached maturity and profitability, according to vice president of communications Anders Thor. However, since the company’s focus is to build multiple gigafactories to deliver on $55bn worth of orders, the group is focusing on investment and expansion, he says.
Northvolt posted a loss of 1bn SEK in 2021, according to results filed in Sweden, down from a loss of 1.2bn SEK in 2020.
“As the gigafactories come online during the upcoming years, we see a clear pathway towards profitability in the company overall,” Thor adds.
Payments company Checkout has not released its global accounts and a spokesperson said that it doesn’t comment on group financials. However, the company’s CEO Guillaume Pousaz has repeatedly said that it is profitable. It has filed accounts in the UK, posting a pre-tax loss of $13.4m in the year to December 31 2021, down 65% year-on-year. Checkout previously told Sifted that these results aren’t representative of the whole company.
Most recent valuation: N26 was last valued by investors at $9bn
N26 has not yet released its financial results for 2022, which will be published in the next six months. However, its accounts for 2021 show a loss of €172.4m, up from a loss of €150.7m in 2020. Over the period, the German digital bank grew its revenue from €121.3m to €182.4m.
An N26 spokesperson says: “N26’s financials are tracking nicely. With strong development in our unit economics and our robust balance sheet, we are on track to reach profitability on a monthly basis next year. We remain focused on deepening our revenue streams by growing customer activity and account usage in our core markets.”
Most recent valuation: $8.5bn
The HR software company registered a loss of €112m in 2021, according to its latest filing in Germany, up a whopping 283% from €33m in 2020. Sales more than doubled to €51m on year.
Hanno Renner, CEO and cofounder of Personio, comments: “Our foremost dedication lies in our investment in sustained growth. We’re proud of this continuous growth, having now reached more than 10k customers and more than one million employees managed in Personio. However, we believe we’re still only scratching the surface of the immense market potential that exists. Our focus remains on delivering value to our customers while making strategic investments in growth, innovation and product enhancements.”
SumUp - profitable
Most recent valuation: $8.5bn
The financial technology company posted a pre-tax profit of €853k in 2021, up from a profit of €185k the previous year, according to Companies House accounts. This is on a revenue of €100.3m, down from €154.6m in 2020. When asked about profitability in 2022, the company says it is not something it can comment on.
Most recent valuation: $8.1bn
Although the mobility startup’s revenue rose 152% year-on-year in 2022 to €1.26bn, the group still posted a €65m pre-tax loss, according to accounts filed in Estonia. That compares to a €544m loss in 2021.
A spokesperson at Bolt highlighted the significant challenges in the market last year, including the surge in inflation and rising interest rates. They commented: “…We were able to post strong results for 2022, increasing our revenue significantly, making strong year-on-year profitability gains and increasing our global footprint to over 45 countries and 500 cities. As a result, we are well positioned to continue to grow despite the tough market conditions.”
Most recent valuation: $6.7bn
The buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform reported a profitable month for the first time in three years, according to its results for the second quarter, released in August. Although the company still made a loss of €76m over the period, it was 77% narrower than losses in the same period a year earlier. The Swedish company’s management had promised a return to profitability a year ago by the end of 2023.
In a note to shareholders, CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski says: “Our results clearly rebut the misconceptions around Klarna’s business model, evidencing that it is incredibly agile and sustainable, as we support our healthy consumer base in making sound financial decisions.”
He adds: “Despite the volatile environment, we have done exactly what we set out to do, showing that we know which levers to pull to get back to profitability.”
Most recent valuation: Media have reported that an upcoming funding round could value the company at $2.5bn, down from $11.8bn
Getir declined to comment on profitability. However, its Dutch entity, Getir B.V, which is also the parent of its UK business and the sole shareholder of Getir Turkey, posted a pre-tax loss of €528m in 2021, up from €43.5m the year before. Its revenue over the period was €466m, up from €182m in 2020.
The Turkish startup has pulled out of some markets in recent months, including France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, and announced it was cutting 10% of its workforce in August, after making cuts last year.
Most recent valuation: $6.4bn
The French healthtech unicorn does not publicly disclose profit figures and did not respond to requests for comment. The business relies on subscription payments from doctors, which range between €89 to €139 depending on the service, resulting in recurring revenue.
Most recent valuation: $5.7bn
Thibaud Hug de Larauze, cofounder and CEO of the marketplace for refurbished devices, says the group has made significant progress towards its profitability goals and continues to strike a balance between “growth, providing high-quality, affordable refurbished technology and delivering the best possible experience for each customer”.
He adds that the firm has focused on sustained growth over the past year, with a focus on expanding into new markets such as Australia and South Korea.
Most recent valuation: $5.6bn
The software company’s spokesperson did not disclose whether it is profitable or not but said that the business experienced “massive growth” in the last few years, expanding its team, building its brand and market presence, as well as fuelling innovation.
The company is now focusing on further global and market expansion, the spokesperson says.
Most recent valuation: $5.5bn
The fintech declined to disclose financial details. In the year to the end of September 2021, which are the latest accounts the company filed in Germany, it made a loss of €35m, up from €10m the previous year.
Most recent valuation: $5bn
Group CEO and cofounder Mikko Kärkkäinen tells Sifted the profitability of the business fluctuates from year to year, depending on the growth and investment stages of the underlying business areas.
Most recently, the group was profitable in fiscal year 2021, while in fiscal year 2022, he says RELEX invested heavily in new product expansion areas as planned, making the year unprofitable. Mature business areas have been profitable for several years, he adds.
Most recent valuation: $5bn
Octopus Energy Group recorded a loss of £141m in the year to April 30 2022, up from a loss of £64.7m the previous year. A spokesperson says the group would have made a profit last year but deliberately chose not to in order to absorb £150m of the wholesale cost increase on behalf of its customers.
The group expects to make a profit soon.
Most recent valuation: $5bn
The French fintech has been working to reach profitability across all markets by the end of 2025. To achieve this, it is investing more than €100m in Italy, Spain and Germany by 2025. Qonto said in a statement: “Over the past years, and especially since its last funding round in January 2022, the company has been focused on paving the way for profitability. The goal is to reach profitability at the group level by the end of 2025, when the company expects to reach the threshold of one million customers across Europe.”
Zepz - profitable
Most recent valuation: $5bn
The money transfer service for migrants reached profitability in the first half of 2022, Mark Lenhard, CEO of Zepz, tells Sifted and achieved 67% revenue growth to $399m. Its 2023 financial results haven’t yet been published but as of April 2023, the company had increased overall customer transactions by more than 25% globally.
Lenhard says: “Bringing global remittances brands Sendwave and WorldRemit under one dynamic organisation has been pivotal to our success in achieving profitability goals. Through this integration, we have successfully laid the groundwork for long-term sustainable growth and profitability.
“We are focused on both organic and inorganic growth and are capitalising on expansion plans in key areas of the business.”
Lendable - profitable
Most recent valuation: $4.5bn
The consumer lending platform made a pre-tax profit of £19.7m in the year to the end of 2021, up slightly from £19.2m in 2020.