Analysis

May 31, 2024

The 10 fastest-growing startups in France

Deeptechs and climate techs are emerging as France’s most active recruiters

Like most other European early-stage companies, many French startups have prioritised cost-cutting over hiring in the past year. 

From €14.7bn in 2022, fundraising by French startups dipped significantly to €8.5bn in 2023, according to data from advisory firm Avolta — meaning many cash-strapped businesses found themselves reducing the size of their team, rather than increasing headcount.

That is, except in deeptech and climate tech.

France’s top three mega rounds last year included battery manufacturer Verkor’s record €850m equity round, AI darling Mistral’s €385m Series A and a €160m raise from insect farming scaleup Ÿnsect.

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Flush with cash, many deeptechs and climate techs are hiring at pace — and almost all of France’s fastest-expanding teams at the moment are working in either, or both, of these sectors.

Sifted compiled the 10 companies that have seen their workforce grow the most over the last 12 months, using data from Dealroom. To avoid results being skewed by early-stage startups making lots of hires while growing quickly, businesses need to have raised at least $30m and have at least 50 employees to be considered. Total funding and headcount figures are taken from Dealroom.

Mistral AI 

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2023

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 477% to 52 employees

One of France’s most prominent startups at the moment, Mistral was founded by former Meta and Deepmind employees just one year ago with the promise of creating a European AI champion that could compete against US tech giants like Google, Meta or OpenAI. The company builds generative AI models — the same technology that powers ChatGPT — and has garnered plenty of VC attention, raising just under €500m in less than a year. Mistral is rumoured to be raising another $600m round at a $6bn valuation, which would make it one of France’s best-funded private tech companies.

Jimmy Energy

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2020

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 204% to 75 employees

Jimmy Energy builds micro-reactors (SMRs) that produce decarbonised heat based on nuclear fission technology, which the company says can directly plug into existing industrial facilities. It raised a total €20m from VCs before receiving a €32m grant from the French government last year, to support the startup as it navigates supply-chain challenges in the manufacturing of the reactors. Jimmy Energy plans to demo the technology in an industrial setting by 2026. 

Inocel 

HQ city: Saint-Egrève

Founded: 2022

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 134% to 80 employees

The idea behind Inocel was conceived by professional explorer Mike Horn who, wanting to compete in the Dakar Rally with a hydrogen car, put the pitch to Grenoble-based alternative energy research centre CEA. The fuel cell technology that emerged from the collaboration eventually grew into its own company. Earlier this year, Inocel raised a €32m equity round on top of €32m in debt and subsidies. The company says its fuel cell systems could be used to decarbonise sectors ranging from heavy-duty mobility — such as lorries — to maritime transport.

Animaj 

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2022

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 129% to 55 employees

Although flying largely under the radar, Animaj is making waves in the creator economy. The startup identifies kids' content on YouTube with high growth potential, acquires the IP and scales distribution, internationalisation, licensing and merchandising operations to create a franchise. Using AI, the company also multiplies the content produced by the brand. 

Animaj recently revealed that it has raised €100m in both debt and equity since it launched in 2022. 

Photoroom  

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2019

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 100% to 80 employees 

Y Combinator alum and Balderton-backed Photoroom has built a generative AI-powered photo editing tool that can remove and replace photo backgrounds. The technology — which is mostly used by businesses to create visuals for marketing campaigns — has proven popular among customers small and large, with users including Netflix and Warner Brothers. The company says it is already profitable, with subscriptions generating €50m in annual recurring revenue.

Earlier this year, Photoroom raised a $43m Series B at a $500m valuation.

Ascendance Flight Technologies 

HQ city: Toulouse

Founded: 2018

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 100% to 100 employees

Toulouse-based Ascendance Flight Technologies builds a five-seat hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) plane for more sustainable air travel. Last year it raised a €21m Series A, which the company says will fund its first test flights in 2024 and a possible appearance at the Paris Olympic Games this summer. 

Jow 

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2018

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 97% to 116 employees

One of the rare online grocery shopping apps to have managed to secure funding this year, Jow closed a $13m extension to its Series A last February, led by UK investor Northzone and bringing total funds raised by the company to $40m. The startup, which is also backed by Headline and DST Global Partners, offers personalised recipes and online food shops through partnerships with big French supermarkets — and is planning to use the fresh injection of cash to take on the US market.  

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Latitude 

HQ city: Reims

Founded: 2019

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 85% to 140 employees

Latitude has designed and produced a light space launcher — a 19 metre-long rocket dubbed Zephyr that is intended to enable the launch of small satellites into space. With a recent $30m Series B, which brings total funding for the company to over $40m, Latitude is planning to carry out its launcher’s first flight in 2025.

Upway 

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2019

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 82% to 149 employees

Sequoia-backed Upway buys second-hand electric bikes from retailers, manufacturers and users and refurbishes them in its warehouses before selling them to consumers. Despite a tough climate for the micromobility sector, the startup raised a $30m Series B at the end of last year. Upwayyhas warehouses operating in Paris, Berlin and New York, and is planning to double down on its activities in the US with the opening of a second location in Los Angeles.

HarfangLab

HQ city: Paris

Founded: 2018

Headcount growth over the last 12 months: 55% to 108 employees

Cybersecurity startup HarfangLab offers AI-powered tools for businesses to automatically detect and respond to cyber threats like malware and ransomware. Last year, it raised a €25m Series A to expand across Europe.

Update: This article was amended on 5 June to include HarfangLab. 

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a reporter for Sifted based in Paris and covering French tech. You can find her on X and LinkedIn