Europe’s startup scene is often overshadowed by Silicon Valley, but the continent is gaining ground with more than 160 tech firms valued at over €1bn.

Here, Sifted’s reporters — in partnership with Dealroom.co — dig into the data, strategy and challenges behind the most important European startups.

Scroll down to find our take on Europe’s biggest fintechs, such as Klarna, Greensill, TransferWise, N26, Monzo, OakNorth, Checkout.com, Revolut, Atom Bank, Deposit Solutions, Pleo, Raisin, Starling Bank, SumUp and GoCardless.

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We also look at some of the most powerful deep tech startups, including UiPath, BenevolentAI, Improbable, Sigfox, Graphcore, Meero, Infarm, Lilium, Ynsect and Darktrace.

The mobility and delivery startups also get a good show with BlaBlaCar, Cabify, Bolt, Auto1, Deliveroo, Glovo, Picnic and Wolt.

Then there is a healthy smattering of startups from the healthcare market — Babylon Health, Doctolib, Docplanner and Kry — and software players such as PayFit and GitLab.

Finally, we look at travel with GetYourGuide, Culture Trip and Omio; while GitLab, Bulb, PayFit and Kahoot! all feature on our list as well.

We have picked companies based on the money they have raised, how quickly they are hiring and how formative they have been to the startup ecosystems around them.

 


Fintech

Klarna
Founded 2005 — Stockholm, Sweden — Unicorn

Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the chief executive and cofounder of the fintech unicorn Klarna.
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the chief executive and cofounder of the fintech unicorn Klarna.

Chief executive Sebastian Siemiatkowski aims to make Klarna one of the world’s top five fintech companies and, at least for now, the Swedish buy-now-pay-later startup is on a roll.

In 2019 it launched a new $460m fundraising round, giving the company a post-money valuation of $5.5bn and making it the highest-valued private fintech company in Europe. That was a 250% increase on its last valuation at the beginning of the year.

And now, after four bumpy years trying to capture the US market, Klarna has finally made inroads and is reportedly growing at approximately half a million customers a month.

It’s managed to entice a new millennial audience who love shopping online and prefers — don’t we all? — to pay later rather than today.

There are some concerns that the ‘pay later with Klarna’ button is being overused by young people, who are getting into trouble with debt as a result, so the company will have to manage their image carefully. They have received some recent criticism from Swedish politicians.

It is also interesting to note that American rapper Calvin Broadus, better known as Snoop Dogg (or Smoooth Dog), is an investor and brand ambassador. One big question is if the company will stay European when it eventually looks for an exit, or follow the route of iZettle and Skype who were bought by US giants.

Further reading: The founder of Klarna shares his secret to success

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Payments
Employees Employee 12m growth
1,000-5,000 19%
Stage Valuation
Growth €5bn

 

Starling Bank
Founded 2014 London, UK Rising Star & Female Led

Anne Boden, founder of UK challenger bank Starling.

Starling started in 2014, around the same time as its UK neobank rival Monzo, with a similar mission to disrupt the traditional high-street banks with a high-quality online-only offering.

Led by Anne Boden, Starling has made a dent in the UK’s thriving fintech ecosystem. As of August 2019 the bank has just shy of 800,000 customers, including around 60,000 business accounts. The company says it’s on track to pass a million this year and already has £1bn in deposits.

These numbers are not quite as impressive as Monzo, which boasts 3m customers, or Germany’s N26 with 3.5m.

But Starling counters that customers deposit £1,450 on average each month into their accounts, which is high for the sector and on par with legacy banks, suggesting they’re using it for day-to-day banking rather than simply as a spending card.

Starling also has a thriving banking services division (making its infrastructure available to third parties) and also a marketplace for third-party financial products.

Further reading: Bookclub with Anne Boden, chief executive and founder of Starling Bank 

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Banking
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 102%
Stage Valuation
Series C €360m

Greensill
Founded 2011 — London, UK — Unicorn

Lex Greensill, CEO of Greensill
Lex Greensill, CEO of Greensill

Greensill is a specialist in supply chain finance, where businesses raise funding backed by supplier payments, with serious establishment backing.

Founder and chief executive Lex Greensill was a director at Morgan Stanley and Citibank before founding the eponymous firm in 2011. He subsequently received a CBE in 2017 for services to the British economy and is rumoured to spend the majority of his time on a corporate private jet shuttling between New York, London and his native Australia.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is an advisor to the firm, which is backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund. In May the company raised a round of $800m from the Vision Fund which valued the company at $3.5bn — firm unicorn territory. In October it raised another $655m in new funding the same fund, bringing its total capital raised since inception to $1.7bn.

Greensill is a brilliant and innovative financier, but some also worry about his high tolerance for risk and use of complicated off-balance-sheet financing structures. There have been several scandals surrounding the company. Most recently a Greensill fund, managed by investment manager GAM, witnessed huge outflows earlier this year following a scandal related to one of its bonds, resulting in the funds’ assets falling from €2.1bn to as low as €391m.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Financial Management Solutions
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 24%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €3.2bn

TransferWise
Founded 2011 — London, UK — Unicorn

TransferWise founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann
TransferWise founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann

London-based TransferWise is notable in the European fintech market for actually being profitable.

The cross-border money transfer company reported an annual post-tax net profit of £10.3m in the fiscal year ending March 2019, up 66% from the previous year. Revenues at the firm rose about 53% to £179m.

The company has a clever model (now replicated by many others) that means it doesn’t actually move money across borders, which would incur fees, instead maintaining separate pots for each currency, which it then disburses funds from.

The company was set up in 2011 by Estonian friends Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann, who saw an opportunity in high bank currency exchange fees. It now works with some banks, for example with France’s Groupe BPCE as well as fintech rivals Monzo and N26, which have integrated TransferWise’s software into their platforms.

Kaarmann, TransferWise’s chief executive, boasts that the company has become one of a “rare breed of unicorns” because it makes money, which is helped by businesses increasingly using their services.

Look out for Brexit-based uncertainty though. TransferWise is a UK financial services provider the company relies on EU passporting rights to operate on the continent, although it is opening an office in Brussels and has applied for a Belgian banking license in order to hedge against a no-deal Brexit.

The company is backed by a number of high-profile investors, including British billionaire Richard Branson, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Valar Ventures, the venture fund cofounded by Peter Thiel.

Further reading: TransferWise has turned employees into millionaires

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Payments
Employees Employee 12m growth
1,000-5,000 31%
Stage Valuation
Secondary €3.2bn

N26 Group
Founded 2013 Berlin, Germany  Unicorn

Photo of Valentin Stalf, CEO and cofounder of N26.
Valentin Stalf, CEO and cofounder of N26.

N26, one of the most prominent of Europe’s millennial-targeting online banks, has had a busy year, raising another $170m from existing investors at a valuation of $3.5bn (increasing its market worth by $800m from the last raise).

The company, which says it does not see profitability as a “core metric”, is pushing big-time for growth, splashing cash to launch a huge advertising campaign to build on its 3.5m subscriber base.

Its slogan is “Banking. But without the bullshit.” Led by founder Valentin Stalf, last year the bank rolled out a #nobullshit advertising campaign in some of the 24 markets it is active in around Europe, with slogans such as “Nicht die Bank deines Opas” (“Not your grandad’s bank”) and “F¥€K Fees”.

It is also joining rivals such as Revolut in making a play for the US market, which is going to be no easy feat (other neobanks in the US have had limited success).

It’s been a tough year for N26 in Germany though, with the company coming under scrutiny from BaFin, the German financial authority, for falling behind on anti-money laundering processes.

Rivals, most notably Revolut, have also come under similar scrutiny. N26 is competing with the likes of Monzo and Revolut, but they all share a core long-term challenge: persuading customers to switch to them as their main bank.

Further reading: N26 hits a $3.5bn valuation, but can it break into the US?

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Banking
Employees Employee 12m growth
1000-5000 72%
Stage Valuation
Series D €3.2bn

Monzo
Founded 2015 London, UK  Unicorn

Tom Blomfield, Monzo CEO and Cofounder
Tom Blomfield, Monzo CEO and Cofounder

Millennial-friendly UK-based neobank Monzo is the darling of the fintech world.

Tom Blomfield, the chief executive, is hugely admired by other founders. Monzo has done a good job of removing the hassle from managing finances while also crafting an image as “ethical”, with features like an optional gambling block (used by 140,000 people) and customer-centric service —for example allowing users to get their salary a day in advance of being paid.

Despite its fans and unicorn valuation, however, the bank is renowned for its “disrupt-now-and-make-money-later” approach. Monzo’s losses climbed to £47.2m in the fiscal year ending February 2019 (compared to Revolut, for example, which reported a £14.8m loss for 2017).

The widening losses are driven largely by a near-tripling in personnel costs as the company increased headcount from 300 to 713. Blomfield says losses will likely rise further this year thanks to a £20m marketing drive.

But, while critics abound, there are some positive financial signs as well. Monzo says it has stopped burning cash on new customers because people are increasingly starting to use the app-based bank as their main provider (crucial for any neobank).

Monzo’s latest annual report said the proportion of customers depositing salaries reached 30% by the end of February 2019, up from 12% a year earlier. Total customer deposits rose more than sixfold to £461.8m, while customer numbers almost trebled to 1.6m.

The company’s “per-user contribution margin” — basically money made or lost on each customer — reached £2 by the end of February, from -£30 a year earlier. Earlier this week Monzo announced a £113m investment that valued the bank at just over £2bn.

Further reading: Monzo: what’s so special about the digital bank?

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Banking
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 54%
Stage Valuation
Series F €2.4bn

OakNorth Bank
Founded 2013 Manchester, UK Unicorn

Rishi Khosla, cofounder and chief executive of OakNorth
Rishi Khosla, cofounder and chief executive of OakNorth

OakNorth is less well known in the fintech world than companies like Monzo or Revolut, in part because it deals largely with smaller businesses rather than consumers.

But what it lacks in fame it really makes up for in profits. It’s one of only a handful of money-making fintech companies in Europe, with profits up 220% to £33.9m in 2018.

Led by Rishi Khosla, OakNorth offers loans of £0.5m to £40m for fast-growth businesses, targeting a market that has been largely underserved by traditional banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis. So far it says it’s had no defaults.

At the same time the company has a white-label business to business software platform and a data and technology platform, OakNorth Analytical Intelligence, which it licences to banks as a money-spinner.

On the back of all this, it secured an investment of $440m from SoftBank’s Vision Fund earlier this year — the largest investment of any fintech in European history.

OakNorth’s chief financial officer Cristina Alba-Ochoa tells Sifted that in Europe there are a whole lot of “clueless fintech people” building businesses that are likely to become big losers and that their failure is “more likely than people want to believe”.

Further reading: OakNorth calls out “clueless fintech people”

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Banking, Mortgages & Lending
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 26%
Stage Valuation
Late VC €2.2bn

Checkout.com
Founded 2012 London, UK Unicorn

Guillaume Pousaz, founder and CEO of Checkout.com

This little-known fintech was founded in 2009 as Opus Payments before evolving into Checkout.com around 2012.

It allows companies to process and accept cross-border payments from credit and debit cards, online banking, Klarna, Apple Pay and others, all with a single integration.

It’s a direct rival to Dutch payment firm Adyen, which listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange last June and has since seen its stock soar.

Checkout.com provides online payment solutions for a number of fast-growing businesses, including other companies featured on this list like Deliveroo and TransferWise.

Chief executive Guillaume Pousaz is on record as saying “we’re the next Adyen”.

The startup reported $46.8m in total revenues in 2017 according to Companies House filings, a 56% increase on the previous year. Profits rose 61% compared with the year before to $23.9m, with a gross profit margin of 51% (which is huge).

The company has increased revenue by 50% a year for the past five years and Guillaume Pousaz says he wants to keep this going for another five. 

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Payments
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 22%
Stage Valuation
Series A €1.8bn

Revolut
Founded 2015 London, UK Unicorn

Nikolay Storonsky, Revolut CEO
Nikolay Storonsky, Revolut CEO

Revolut — a digital finance platform offering banking, currency exchange, cryptocurrency and stockbroking services — has had a remarkable year in terms of growth.

Led by Nikolay Storonsky, the company has around 6m customers, up from 1.5m a year ago, and is adding around 16,000 accounts a day. It has around 1,200 employees compared to 400 a year ago.

The last fundraise, in April 2018, valued the company at $1.7bn but the company is expected to target a valuation of around $5bn to $10bn for its next funding round, which could be as much as $1.5bn ($500m in new equity and a $1bn convertible loan).

There are even reports that Japanese investment giant SoftBank might invest, although Storonsky refused to comment when asked by Sifted: “We speak with many big investors.”

However, amid this fast growth Revolut has also been stung by a series of negative articles pointing to teething problems at the bank and an allegedly toxic corporate culture. Tech publication Wired described a workplace where turnover and bad behaviour is rife, while The Telegraph newspaper in the UK said that the company turned off a system designed to prevent money laundering for three months in 2018, something that Revolut denies.

Still, public perception of the bank is improving and the growth numbers are nothing short of exceptional. One next big move for the company is formally launching a retail product in the US in the latter part of 2019. But further acceleration would come if the company bags a $1.5bn investment. 

Further reading: Europe is beating the US in fintech innovation, says Revolut

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Banking
Employees Employee 12m growth
1001-5000 60%
Stage Valuation
Series C €1.5bn

SumUp
Founded in 2011 London, UK Unicorn

SumUp Reader
SumUp Reader

Chunky card machines in cafes and restaurants are a tool of the past. Instead businesses are adopting to contactless card readers which process payments with a smartphone or tablet through point-of-sale (POS) apps.

The fintech companies that provide the payment hardware and software can make a cut on each transaction and generally win pretty sticky customers, so competition is fierce in this lucrative market.

Three of the market leaders are Sweden’s iZettle, which was bought by PayPal last year, Silicon Valley’s Square and SumUp in the UK.

Of the three BBVA-backed SumUp has the lowest valuation ($1bn compared to $26bn for the listed Square and $2.2bn for iZettle at the time of acquisition) but it is still a big UK fintech.

Since it was founded in 2011 SumUp has successfully expanded into 31 markets and has over 1m customers, helped by a merger with Rocket Internet’s Payleven in 2016.

SumUp claims more than $200m of annual revenue and has recently made several acquisitions, including Danish company Debitoor and “multi-channel” e-commerce platform Shoplo.

SumUp now also does invoicing, bookkeeping, third-party integrations of payments and more. The big question is how long it can remain independent and if it can keep fighting with the bigger rivals.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Payments
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 34%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €1bn

Atom Bank
Founded 2014 Durham, UK – Future Unicorn

Mark Mullen - Atom Bank
Mark Mullen, chief executive of Atom Bank

Atom Bank is another UK challenger lender making a play for the millennial market with a mobile-first savings accounts.

Led by Mark Mullen, it’s not quite the same scale (yet) as Revolut, Monzo or N26 but raised a further £50m in funding in July 2019 in a round led by Spanish lender BBVA (which also led its last round of £149m in 2018).

Just as Nordic fintech Klarna is backed by Calvin Broadus (better known as Snoop Dogg, or Smoooth Dogg), the American rapper, Atom bank is backed by US musician will.i.am, the lead singer in the Black Eyed Peas.

Will.i.am is a strategic advisor and, apparently, provides “an external perspective on culture, philanthropy and technology”.

The company also does consumer loans and mortgages. In July it said that its total consumer and business lending was up by 76% to £2.4bn year on year, supported by growth in deposits from £1.4bn to £1.8bn. Atom says it gets applications of up to £20m in business loans and £10m in residential mortgages each week.

In 2018 Atom announced that it would partner with fintech startup Thought Machine to migrate all of its banking technology to a platform called Vault. The big question is if the bank can grow to join the ranks of the other fintech unicorns or if it will remain a second-order player.

Further reading: £425m handed out to fintechs to improve SME banking

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Banking
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 10%
Stage Valuation
Late VC €0.55bn

Deposit Solutions
Founded 2011 Hamburg, Germany Future Unicorn

Tim Sievers, Deposit Solutions
Tim Sievers, Deposit Solutions

Open-banking start-up Deposit Solutions is not a household name (yet), but the Hamburg-based company became Germany’s second most highly valued fintech in September 2019 after Deutsche Bank paid €50m for a 4.9% stake.

It’s testament to the fact that Deposit Solutions is well on its way to becoming a central player in Europe’s financial landscape. Its software allows banks to collect deposits from people across Europe who are not their direct customers.

Already the software links 100 banks in 18 European countries. The startup has 200,000 customers who have used its platform to transmit more than €14bn since it was founded, including €5bn in the past 12 months.

Deposit Solutions’ valuation more than doubled since its last financing round in August 2018 when it raised $100m. The next step is to take on America’s $12,000bn domestic deposit market.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Open Banking-Platform
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 15%
Stage Valuation
Series D €454m

Pleo
Founded 2015 Denmark, Copenhagen Future Unicorn

Jeppe Rindom and Niccolo Perra are the founders of Danish fintech Pleo.

Pleo is part of a group of European startups tackling the issue of corporate expenses, although it is one of the fastest-growing.

The company issues company cards with accompanying software, which allows both employees and managers to automatically match receipts and track all company spending in real-time.

With company cards all connected to the same Pleo account employees don’t need to charge expenses to their own credit cards and then claim back from the company.

Led by Jeppe Rindom, the company raised a $56m in a Series B round in May 2019 and has backers that include Swedish investors Kinnevik and Creandum as well as the American private equity firm Stripes.

With the money the company is set to increase its speed of growth in Europe, more than doubling its headcount, and add on other services such as credit, invoices, a vendor marketplace and open up for reclaiming VAT.

It does not really see itself as a fintech, saying it has more in common with communication tools such as Slack, Asana and Trello than with fintech companies such as Tink or Klarna.

Further reading: Pleo: “We don’t see ourselves as a fintech company”

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Financial Management Solutions
Employees Employee 12m growth
51-200 79%
Stage Valuation
Series B €450m

Raisin
Founded 2012 Berlin, Germany Future Unicorn

Michael Stephan, Tamaz Georgadze and Frank Freund
The Raisin leadership team: Michael Stephan, Tamaz Georgadze and Frank Freund

The Berlin-based company officially lunched in 2013, offering savers the chance to deposit money into accounts with the best rates across Europe. Now it is so much more, thanks in part to an acquisition-heavy strategy that has seen it expand into a wider range of financial products.

In 2018 the company expanded into longer-term investments with a partnership with Vanguard and in 2019 it bought pension specialist Fairr. Raisin says it considered building its own pensions product but concluded it would take two to three years to do. Fairr, founded in 2013, has already developed a dashboard to make the complex German pensions system easier for customers to understand.

Fairr was the second acquisition for Raisin in 2019, following the acquisition of MHP-Bank in March.

The company, which is led by Tamaz Georgadze, is feeling pretty plump with cash after raising €25m from Goldman Sachs in August 2019 on top of a €100m Series D round three months before. Business-wise, Raisin now has 84 partner banks from 24 countries and eight platforms covering all of Europe and the UK.

Frank Freund, cofounder and chief financial officer, told Sifted earlier in the year that the company was eyeing up the retirement market for potential businesses to buy next. One of the big questions for the company is how well it can execute on its acquisition strategy. The company’s US platform launch is also planned for 2020. 

Further reading: 

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Investing
Employees Employee 12m growth
300 12%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €400m

GoCardless
Founded 2011 London, UK Rising Star

Hiroki Takeuchi, CEO at GoCardless
Hiroki Takeuchi, CEO at GoCardless

GoCardless is not one of the glamorous fintechs that grabs headlines.

Companies pay GoCardless to collect direct debits from customers on their behalf. It then takes a fee of up to 1% from those transactions and in return also provides data to help businesses retain their customers for longer.

The company is processing $10bn in payments annually for more than 50,000 organisations in the UK, Europe and Australia (for example enterprise software company Sage, travel site TripAdvisor and fitness company Les Mills).

GoCardless’s cofounder and chief executive Hiroki Takeuchi is hugely respected in the London startup world, not least because of his return to the business following a life-threatening bike accident in 2016, which left him paralysed from the chest down.

The big question for the company is how its move outside the UK into international markets, notably in the US, will go over the coming year. 

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Payments
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 20%
Stage Valuation
Series E €272m


 

Deeptech

 

UiPath
Founded 2005  — Bucharest, Romania — Unicorn

Daniel Dines, CEO & Founder, UiPath.
UiPath Conference, London.

Designing and developing software robots to automate repetitive business tasks, UiPath has experienced explosive growth over the last few years.

Its valuation has jumped 6000% in two years to $7bn as investors bet it will become a global champion. The wider robotic process automation (RPA) sector is growing over 60% a year, positioning market leader UiPath to benefit from the trend.

Of course companies are waking up to the fact that RPA is not just a magic bullet that can fix all their problems (indeed it can create a fair few) but it’s still powerful if used correctly.

In 2019 UIPath closed a Series D round of funding, raising $568m to become one of the highest-valued RPA companies in the world at $7bn. This was up from a valuation of $110m just two years earlier.

The big question for cofounder Daniel Dines is if it’s going to be a big global RPA company or the big global RPA company. Rivals include Blue Prism in the UK and Automation Anywhere in the US.

Further reading: The Romanian unicorn automating your job

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Enterprise Software Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Employees Employee 12m growth
1000-5000 31%
Stage Valuation
Series D €6.3bn

 

BenevolentAI
Founded 2013 Babraham, UK Unicorn & Female in founding team

Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI
Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI

BenevolentAI wants to use artificial intelligence to transform the way medicines are discovered and brought to market.

It has built a platform that is designed to sift through large volumes of medical data, for example clinical trials and academic papers, and make it faster to develop new drugs.

The slight snag is that nobody really knows how well it is going to work and the company has recently seen its valuation slashed in half.

In 2018 the company, which is backed by troubled UK stockpicker Neil Woodford, was valued at $2bn after it raised $115m. But in 2019 it announced an investment from Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek and a valuation of just $1bn.

On the bright side the company won a partnership with British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to discover potential new drugs for chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis giving a corporate stamp of approval to the technology. 

Discover more stories on European health tech from Sifted.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Health Biotechnology
Employees Employee 12m growth
51-200 7%
Stage Valuation
Late VC €1.9bn

Improbable
Founded 2012 London, UK Unicorn

Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable
Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable

Improbable, the $2bn UK gaming software company, is having a bit of a rocky time.

Improbable’s main product is a cloud-based operating system called SpatialOS, which is used by game developers to design super-detailed virtual worlds (think The Matrix).

The company got a shot in the arm last year when Chinese company Netease, one of the world’s largest developers, agreed to build games on SpatialOS. The deal doubled Improbable’s valuation to $2bn little more than a year after SoftBank paid $502m for a significant minority stake.

But in 2019 Improbable took a blow when it became embroiled in a public spat with one of its major partners Unity, which makes one of the world’s most popular graphics engines.

There is also concern that the cost of their system is too high for small games developers, leading to worries about the startup’s overall business model. SpatialOS has a free tier for testing and prototyping purposes, so developers are able to build prototypes and familiarise themselves with the platform without paying hosting costs.

According to Companies House filings 2018 losses increased ten-fold and revenues fell to £579,859 from £7.8m in 2017, which is not ideal.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Enterprise Software Gaming
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 6%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €1.8bn

Graphcore
Founded 2016 Bristol, UK Unicorn

Nigel Toon, CEO of Graphcore
Nigel Toon, CEO of Graphcore

Graphcore is a UK unicorn with vast ambitions, wanting to create the next generation of silicon chips for the age of artificial intelligence.

Its pitch is that existing graphics processing units (GPUs) used in regular computers and phones aren’t designed for the immense workloads required for machine learning and deep learning.

So something new is needed, which they call an intelligence processing units (IPUs).

Their ambition is to become the Arm or Intel of the new generation of AI chips — i.e. providing the design architecture and being part of every chip made.

Initially laughed at when they started proposing the idea back in 2015, the company raised $200m in December 2018 from investors including Microsoft and BMW, giving it a valuation of $1.7bn.

It has reached that valuation in just five years and now employs more than 200 people. The one caveat to all the excitement is that the IPU is yet to be commercially available, although as interest in AI increases around the world it remains promising.

Further reading: Insider view: Bristol’s deep chip expertise

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Electronics Robotics & Semiconductors
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 28%
Stage Valuation
Series D €1.5bn

Darktrace
Founded 2013 Cambridge, UK Unicorn & Female led

Poppy Gustafsson, co-CEO of Darktrace
Poppy Gustafsson, co-CEO of Darktrace

Darktrace is a UK cybersecurity company useing artificial intelligence to detect viruses and cyber threats inside a computer network.

According to the company their system is “modelled on the human immune system” and uses “self-learning cyber AI technology that detects novel attacks and insider threats at an early stage”.

What this really means is that it ships computer servers to businesses containing its software, which then can be plugged into the company network to detect abnormal behaviour.

The company has had some all-star backers and a great deal of hype. Mike Lynch, who sold his enterprise software company Autonomy to HP for $11.1bn, played a key role in Darktrace as a board director until he stepped down last November after being charged in the US with 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud over the Autonomy sale (he rejects all the charges).

Clients include parts of the National Health Service, Gatwick airport and Drax, the UK’s biggest power station. The company reported annual revenues up from £30.8m to £59.5m in the year ended June 2018, but losses widened by 36% to £39m because of investment in research and an increase in staff.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Security Cloud & Infrastructure
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 15%
Stage Valuation
Series E €1.5bn

Meero
Founded 2016 Paris, France Unicorn

Thomas Rebaud, CEO of Meero
Thomas Rebaud, CEO of Meero

At its core Meero is a global marketplace for photographers, which companies can use to get professional photos done quickly — for example of commercial property for rent or clothes for sale.

It handles paperwork and payment and takes a cut. The company has also developed automatic photo-editing algorithms to improve shots and give images a consistent look; for example, so all Airbnb shots can be standardised.

The wacky thing about the company is not so much the idea but the amount of the money it has raised, taking in another $230m in investment in June 2019. Who knew there was so much money in photos?

The next step for the company is to open up to the consumer market. So one day you may be able to get your wedding photographer through Meero. Also worth watching is the progress of its artificial intelligence editing technology — the tech team expanded from 80 to 300 people according to the company.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Media Imagery
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 47%
Stage Valuation
Series C €0.9bn

Sigfox
Founded 2010 Labège, France Future Unicorn

Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of Sigfox
Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of Sigfox

French Internet of Things (IoT) startup Sigfox is the big success story of the Toulouse ecosystem. Sigfox builds sensors and wireless networks to connect low-power objects like electricity meters and smartwatches (which need to be continuously on and sending out small amounts of data).

Led by Ludovic Le Moan it has raised nearly €300m since it was founded in 2010 and has some notable backers, such as French gas giant Total and the entrepreneur Henri Seydoux.

It’s a tough business though, with a number of competing technologies still jockeying for position and a more subdued growth in IoT than many had hoped.

The past year has seen reports of missed revenue and fundraising targets, a repeatedly delayed initial public offering, turmoil in top management and a lower-than-hoped number of connections on Sigfox networks.

The company is now working to get back on the front foot once again. Watch this space for developments.

Further reading: Insider view: Toulouse’s IoT and transport startups 

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Telecoms Internet of Things (IoT)
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 -3%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €545m

Ynsect
Founded 2011 Évry, France Future Unicorn

Antoine Hubert, cofounder and CEO of Ynsect
Antoine Hubert, cofounder and CEO of Ynsect at brunch with Sifted

There are a dozen or so edible insect companies in Europe trying hard to move the idea of chomping down of bugs out of the novelty fringe and into the mainstream. They are getting some consumer traction — at the end of last year, for example, Sainsbury’s became the first UK supermarket chain to start stocking edible insect snack-packs in its stores after agreeing to a supply deal with UK-based Eat Grub.

French startup Ÿnsect is one of the leaders in the market but, for now, it has its sights set on the more prosaic $500bn animal feed market.

Ÿnsect won $125m in funding in February 2019, which will go towards scaling up a highly-automated facility in France that will produce mealworms using techniques similar to those seen in indoor vertical farming (with the mealworms rotated around various optimised growing environments before meeting their end by being steamed, much like shrimp).

Led by Antoine Hubert, the company has around 25 patents covering all aspects of its production techniques.

The challenge for Ÿnsect is regulation (weirdly the rules on what animals are allowed to eat are even stricter than the ones for humans) but the economics is also proving difficult, as it is still reasonably expensive as a protein source.

Ÿnsect’s market is mainly hypoallergenic dog food at the moment because pampered pets are an area where the cost of the product is less of a consideration.

Further reading:

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Food Agritech
Employees Employee 12m growth
51-200 7%
Stage Valuation
Grant €500m

Infarm
Founded 2012 Berlin, Germany Rising Star & Female Led

Erez Galonska, CEO of Infarm
Erez Galonska, CEO of Infarm

Berlin-based startup Infarm makes modular vertical farms that can be placed in grocery stores, restaurants, shopping centres and schools.

Led by Erez Galonska, the idea is that consumers can actually pick fresh produce like tomatoes or lettuce themselves. And it is has proved popular.

In June 2019 the company closed a $100m Series B round led by London venture capital fund Atomico alongside Balderton Capital, Astanor Ventures and Cherry Ventures.

Infarm has already won deals with big supermarkets such as Casino, Intermarche and Auchan, as well as Amazon fresh in Germany, Switzerland and France. Now it’s looking for more in the UK, the US and beyond.

The bigger picture here, says Infarm, is that eco-conscious consumers are increasingly going to want to get their fresh produce locally — and nothing is more local than having the farm itself in your nearest supermarket.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Enterprise Software Foodtech
Employees Employee 12m growth
51-200 11%
Stage Valuation
Series B €363m

Lilium
Founded 2014 Weßling, Germany – Rising Star

Lilium Jet

In six years we will be travelling across town by flying taxi almost as easily as we now get an Uber. And not too long after that these taxis will be flying us autonomously, without pilots.

This at least is the vision of Lilium, the Munich-based startup making one of the world’s first all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jets.

The company is taking the kind of ‘jump jet’ technology that the military has used for some time but making it cheaper, quieter and more eco-friendly by using electric engines. 

Cofounder Daniel Wiegand has a huge vision; not building toys for rich people but creating a global flying taxi service that is accessible for everyone — a kind of ‘Uber of the skies’.

It has some big backers, including London-based venture capital fund Atomico, and after a $90m Series B funding round in 2017 it has raised total capital of $100m (making it one of the best-capitalised companies in this market). There are allso rumours that it is looking to raise $500m in a new funding round.

But, while money is coming in, turning a profit is still a long way off. Lilium is planning to be operational in several cities by 2025, although trial services will start earlier than this in several locations.

And the company’s ambitious plans to build not just a flying car but a flying taxi service will need huge amounts of capital. This is quite apart from the even bigger question of what the regulators are going to say.

Further reading:

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Transportation Vehicle Manufacturing
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 100%
Stage Valuation
Series B €327m


 

Mobility & food delivery

Cabify
Founded 2011 Madrid, Spain Unicorn

Juan de Antonio, CEO of Cabify
Juan de Antonio, chief executive of Cabify

Cabify, a Madrid-based ride-hailing company competing with Uber and 99 in Latin America, is one of the most successful tech startups in Spanish history, having reached the coveted ‘unicorn’ status reserved for those companies worth more than $1bn.

Maxi Mobility, the parent company of Cabify, raised $160m in 2018 from investors including Japan’s Rakuten to achieve a valuation of $1.4bn. In 2016 it was valued at just $320m.

Founder Juan de Antonio, an engineer by trade who is mildly famous in Spain for living a frugal life in a modest part of northern Madrid, has focused on global expansion and going into other areas of ‘mobility’.

The company has a business that allows people to rent electric scooters via their mobile phone.

Cabify has, like other ride-hailing startups, come into frequent conflict with established taxi companies (notably in Barcelona in 2019). One big worry for the group is its modest size compared to global behemoth Uber.

More on Cabify

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Transportation Mobility
Employees Employee 12m growth
1001-5000 -4%
Stage Valuation
Series E €1.2bn

Deliveroo
Founded 2012 London, UK Unicorn

Deliveroo helicopterThere is a tough road ahead for Deliveroo, one of Europe’s leading companies in the on-demand food delivery sector.

Firstly, it’s in an insanely competitive market, with low margins and not much to distinguish it from its rivals (aside from price).

With too many players the last 12 months has seen a round of consolidation with rival Delivery Hero selling its German business to Netherlands-based Takeaway.com, which also agreed a merger with UK-based Just Eat to create a £9bn behemoth.

That leaves €1.8bn-valued Deliveroo looking a little, well, small.

This year the company was also forced to pull out of Germany; at the same time as Uber Eats made a big push for this market.

Still, it’s not all bad news. In May Deliveroo, led by Will Shu, raised $575m (including money from Amazon), taking total investment into the loss-making six-year-old business to $1.5bn.

The company is also looking beyond delivery, betting on dark kitchens — overflow food preparation spaces to rent out to restaurants which need extra kitchen capacity.

Deliveroo has 16 “Editions” (as its kitchen sites are known) in the UK, one site in the Netherlands, two sites in France and two sites in Spain. In total 140 restaurants use these 21 sites.

In a bid to bring on board even more restaurants Deliveroo recently formed a “Restaurant Rescue Team”, which will offer struggling businesses space at its kitchen sites.

Further reading: Deliveroo pulls out of Germany

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Food Logistics & Delivery
Employees Employee 12m growth
1001-5000 -1%
Stage Valuation
Series G €2bn

Glovo
Founded 2015 Barcelona, Spain Future Unicorn

Glovo founder Oscar Pierre sitting on a set of stairs next to a Glovo delivery bag.
Glovo founder Oscar Pierre.

Spanish delivery startup sensation Glovo has set itself apart from the likes of UK-based Deliveroo and US-based UberEats by offering a much wider range of products to customers than couriers who just pick up restaurant food.

Glovo’s couriers can also buy you a particular dress in a size 12 from Zara, or grab some painkillers from a pharmacy or a tin of baked beans from a supermarket.

Oscar Pierre, the 20-something founder, now says he wants to go even further, ferrying laundry, cash, packed lunches, tickets and even people to wherever customers want them to go.

The four-year-old startup raised €150m this year, nine months after its last $134m round. It operates in 124 cities across 21 markets (18 of which launched in 2018).

It has also recently opened seven “dark kitchens” in Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Lima, Milan and Kiev. Local restaurant partners, which have reached peak capacity in their own kitchens, can rent these “Cook Rooms” to produce even more takeaway grub for Glovo’s couriers to carry to customers who are hungry for more.

And they want even more money from investors. “To be honest we just closed the round, but next week I’m going to start working on the next one,” Pierre told Sifted earlier this year.

Further reading: 

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Food & Transportation Logistics & Delivery
Employees Employee 12m growth
1001-5000 14%
Stage Valuation
Series D €0.6bn

BlaBlaCar
Founded 2006 Paris, France Unicorn

Carpooling with BlaBlaCarBlaBlaCar has been around since 2006 and is one of France’s first unicorns (valued at over $1bn).

The service connects drivers travelling from one city to another with travellers headed the same way, operating across Europe and markets like Russia and Mexico.

Drivers can’t really profit much as the price for a passenger is only supposed to cover petrol and general wear and tear, so the company has not faced the same regulatory scrutiny as ride-hailing companies such as Uber.

The carpooling app, valued at €1.6bn, is expanding into long-distance bus journeys where it faces stiff competition from fellow European FlixBus, among others.

The company has already acquired Ouibus, a bus operator traveling between big cities, and Busfor, an eastern European bus booking platform. It’s also making interesting moves in the shared commuting space with a new(ish) service in France called BlaBlaLines.

Further reading: Blablacar’s big plan for long-distance buses

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Travel & Transportation Mobility
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 2%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €1.6bn

Bolt
Founded 2013 Estonia, Tallinn Unicorn

Photo of Dmitri Luchin, who is leading expansion into food delivery in eastern Europe for Bolt.
Dmitri Luchin, who is leading expansion into food delivery in eastern Europe for Bolt.

Ride-hailing company Bolt from Tallinn, Estonia, is a cheaper Uber rival which has rolled out aggressively across Europe and Africa. Known as Taxify until earlier this year, it is now in 40 cities and 25 countries.

Bolt was a sub-brand of Taxify that focused on e-scooters in Paris, but the company said it had “started to outgrow” the Taxify brand and wanted to highlight that it is not all about cars but about transport more generally.

The name change has been a questionable strategy, at least where their Google search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings are concerned, with legendary Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt now starting own scooter company, Bolt Mobility.

In the land of taxis the big focus for the company is its recent launch in London, where it is trying to take on Uber. It has a clear selling point: it promises to pay drivers more and charge customers less.

But it will not be easy. Uber accounts for more than two-thirds of all ride-hailing journeys in the capital and is integrated into Google Maps and Citymapper. Can Bolt really make a dent? And how much money can it burn winning some market share?

Bolt is also getting into food delivery, with Bolt Food launches planned in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and South Africa. Its main competitor close to home is similarly-named Wolt, a Helsinki-based food delivery firm founded in 2014 which operates in 15 northern and eastern European countries, including Estonia.

Further reading: Why Uber competitor Bolt is moving into food delivery too

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Transportation Mobility
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 0%
Stage Valuation
Series C €1bn

Auto1 Group
Founded 2012 Berlin, Germany Unicorn

Auto1Berlin-based Auto1 is a pan-European online marketplace for used cars. It values and buys cars from individuals, dealerships and manufacturers before selling them for a profit to dealerships.

Used cars are a huge market, with around 39m cars sold every year in Europe (compared to 17m new). Within the market Auto1 is a giant. The company has taken €460m from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and since launching in 2012 has expanded into more than 30 countries. It says it is now trading with more than 35,000 professional partners and selling more than 40,000 cars per month.

But watch out for its rivals. Cazoo, brainchild of Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman, has raised €60m pre-launch later this year to sell second-hand cars direct to consumers. It’s a slightly different model, as it’s selling to consumers not dealers, but still a potential threat as market dynamics in this area evolve swiftly.

Other rivals to Auto1 include Emil Frey and AVAG Holding. There is a torrid history of other used car platforms coming crashing down — notably Beepi. Watch out as well for business cycle vulnerability, as in a recession big-ticket items like cars are often the first purchases consumers will delay.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Transportation Search, Buy & Rent
Employees Employee 12m growth
1000-5000 6%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €3bn

Wolt
Founded 2014 Helsinki, Finland Future Unicorn

Miki Kuusi, CEO of Wolt
Miki Kuusi, CEO of Wolt

Wolt Enterprises is a food delivery startup based in Helsinki that operates in 60 cities across 19 European countries.

Its strategy so far has been a clever one: staying out of the way of the bigger deliver startups such as Deliveroo (which has raised $1.5bn compared to Wolt’s €160m) and focusing on smaller cities and less developed markets.

It’s concentrated largely in the corridor running south from Helsinki through Estonia to the Czech Republic, Greece and Israel. Wolt is happy to enter a smaller city of 30,000 to 40,000 people, where many delivery companies are focused on those with more than 1m residents, saying that they can still make the economics work.

The company has some big backers such as Iconiq Capital in the US and the Swedish venture capital fund EQT Ventures.

The nagging worry though is what the impact will be of the larger delivery companies pushing into smaller cities (as Deliveroo are already starting to do in the UK). Wolt could easily find itself an acquisition target for a bigger rival wanting to scale up in a whole new type of market. 

Further reading: Europe’s food delivery wars are just beginning

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Food Logistics & Delivery
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 34%
Stage Valuation
Series C €472m

Picnic
Founded 2015 Amsterdam, Netherlands Future Unicorn

Michiel Muller, CEO of Picnic
Michiel Muller, CEO of Picnic

Back in 2017 Online supermarket Picnic raised what can only be described as an enormous Series B round, taking in €100m from investors such as NPM Capital, De Hoge Dennen, Hoyberg and Finci.

The startup, which targets middle-income shoppers and is the first to offer free delivery in the Netherlands, has since taken more than 10% of the online shopping market and is hiring aggressively and expanding into new markets.

Earlier this year the company said spending on growth had meant that its losses had blown out from €5.8m in 2016 to €45.5m a year later. Turnover, however, had doubled to €200m. The big question is where the company goes next and if it can roll out across other European markets.

Further reading: Amsterdam tech companies create more jobs than any other sector

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Food Logistics & Delivery
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 2%
Stage Valuation
Series B €400m


 

Healthtech

Babylon Health
Founded 2013 London, UK Unicorn

Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon Health Health
Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon Health Health

Babylon Health is a much-talked-about mobile app allowing for 24-hour on-demand online consultations with a general practitioner. It also offers as chatbot diagnostics using artificial intelligence and is a pioneer in the world of European healthtech.

Its “GP at Hand” service in the UK has proved hugely popular, particularly with the young, who see it as a better and more convenient alternative to traipsing to a doctor at inconvenient times of the day. Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, has praised the company as one of the “biggest names in AI”.

In August 2019 the company closed a $550m round of funding at a valuation of more than $2bn, the largest-ever fundraise in Europe or the US for a digital health delivery startup.

But Babylon is also controversial in the UK, its biggest market. This is because its flagship GP at Hand service officially operates its own clinic within England’s state-funded National Health Service. More than 40,000 people have left other clinics to join, in effect sucking money from other parts of the country.

The people who have joined are also generally healthier tech-savvy patients, according to critics, leaving other clinics to pick up the tab for the more expensive half of the population. There have also been questions raised about the quality of its care, something the company has always claimed is top-notch.

Babylon was founded in 2013 by Ali Parsa, a former banker at Goldman Sachs who previously co-founded Circle Healthcare, which was the first private company to run an NHS hospital but fell into financial crisis in 2012.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Healthtech Health platform
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 111%
Stage Valuation
Series C €1.8bn

Doctolib
Founded 2013 Paris, France Unicorn

Photo of French doctor booking platform Doctolib's founders: from left, Ivan Schneider, Jessy Bernal and Stanislas Niox-Chateau.
French doctor booking platform Doctolib’s founders: from left, Ivan Schneider, Jessy Bernal and Stanislas Niox-Chateau.

Doctolib is an online platform where customers can book medical appointments with healthcare professionals who pay a monthly subscription fee to be hosted on the site.

Launched in Paris five years ago, it has been a runaway success in a crowded market and currently employing 750 people across 40 offices in France and Germany. It receives 30m online visits from patients each month.

The company is the continent’s best-funded healthcare booking app, having raised a total of €237m — including a €150m round in 2019 which took the company to ‘unicorn’ status with a valuation of more than €1bn.

In 2018 Doctorlib made its big ambitions clear when it bought French rival MonDocteur, with Doctorlib chief executive Stanislas Niox-Chateau saying they were looking across Europe to expand.

The company is set to run into its biggest rival Docplanner, the Polish medical booking platform, which raised €80m in a Series E funding round this year as well. Doctoblib could be looking to take out some more smaller players with its war chest.

Further reading: Doctoplanner and Doctolib are heading for a face-off

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Health Health platform
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 16%
Stage Valuation
Late VC €1bn

Kry
Founded 2014 Sweden, Stockholm Rising Star

Johannes Schildt, founder of Swedish doctor on demand app Kry.
Johannes Schildt, cofounder of Swedish doctor on-demand app Kry.

In the rapidly-growing market for digital health Kry is one of the Nordic leaders with ambitions to take on the rest of Europe.

Last year the Swedish startup, which facilitates video calls to doctors or psychologists, raised €53m in a round was led by Index Ventures with Accel, Creandum and Project A.

The idea is that the service saves everyone time: users put in their symptoms and then organise a call rather than going to the GP every time there is a problem. The company already facilitates nearly 2% of all GP visits in Sweden.

The big question is how the European expansion will go. It already has tough competition from the likes of Babylon Health (UK), Push Doctor (UK), Min Doktor (Sweden) and ViviDoctor (Belgium).

There are also ongoing challenges for companies like Kry who are looking to disrupt in a sensitive and heavily-regulated sector such as healthcare.

Further reading: The ‘femtech’ doctor on demand will see you now

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Health Health Platform
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 10%
Stage Valuation
Series B €240m

 

Docplanner
Founded 2010 Poland, Warsaw Rising Star

Mariusz Gralewski, CEO of DocplannerThe rivalry between Europe’s two biggest healthcare startups intensified in 2019 as Docplanner, the Polish medical booking platform, raised €80m in a Series E funding round, putting it in a position to challenge heavily-funded rival Doctolib.

France’s Doctolib still remains the continent’s best-funded healthcare booking app, having raised a total of €237m — including a €150m round in 2019 which took the company to ‘unicorn’ status with a valuation of more than €1bn.

Docplanner’s funding round, which brings its overall funding to more than €130m, does not yet make it a unicorn but the Warsaw-based company is rapidly catching up with its French rival.

“Doctolib may have raised more but we are happy with our round,” Peter Bialo, chief financial officer of Docplanner, tells Sifted. “Many of the countries we are in are much more affordable to work in [than Europe]. This will be adequate for us for two to three years.”

Docplanner has operations in Poland, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Brazil and has focused on rapid growth in Latin American markets over the last few years. It employs more than 1,000 people.

Meanwhile Doctolib has 750 employees and has focused mainly on the French and, more recently, German markets. Bialo says that a period of consolidation is coming for healthcare booking apps: “At some point this will become a face-off.”

For investors it will be key to see who wins this battle.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Health Health Platform
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 29%
Stage Valuation
Series E €320m


 

Travel

Omio
Founded 2012 Berlin, Germany Unicorn

Naren Shaam, CEO of Omio

Omio is a travel search engine allowing users to compare the price and journey time of air, rail and bus travel options in a single search. So if you want to know how to get from Paris to Tallinn it will tell you and give you options for booking different types of transport to get there.

Founded by the charismatic Naren Shaam, the startup has been a hit, winning more than 27m monthly users and 800 partners. In October 2018 it raised $150m in investment, one of Germany’s biggest investment rounds.

Earlier this year the company changed its name to Omio (it had previously been GoEuro) and said it was planning expansion into new markets including South America, Asia and the US. But each one of these would be a risky undertaking. The company now has some expertise in integrating with transport providers, but will this be enough?

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Travel Booking & Search
Employees Employee 12m growth
51-200 59%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €0.9bn

GetYourGuide
Founded 2009 Berlin, Germany Unicorn

Johannes Reck, CEO and founder of GetYourGuide
Johannes Reck, CEO and founder of GetYourGuide

Berlin-based GetYourGuide sells trips and tours to tourists — 30m of them so far. Guided bike rides in Amsterdam, skip-the-queue tickets in Paris, walking tours in New York, the company does it all.

It’s a giant in the travel market. There are more than 56,000 experiences on the site, half of which are in Europe. One investor told Sifted that GetYourGuide is like the kraken. It’s big and its tentacles reach far — yet you might not know it’s there until you stumble across it.

In May 2019 the company won $484m in investment in a round led by “king-making” investor SoftBank. Now the company is trying to boost its public profile and become a central part of the global travel industry, akin to Airbnb or Skyscanner.

GetYourGuide may be big but it’s still barely scratched the surface of ‘experiences’. There’s room for it to grow in Asia and North America, outside of capital cities — like Yukon, Canada — and into food, sports, events and music.

There are also thousands of smaller operators out there all over the world. GetYourGuide has its work cut out if it wants to become the place where people find what to do at their destination.

Its chunky investment from SoftBank will certainly help with that — but can it ever become the go-to place for experiences in the way that Airbnb is now the first stop for accommodation for many travellers?

Further reading: Why has SoftBank invested in GetYourGuide?

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Travel Online Travel Agency
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 19%
Stage Valuation
Series E €1bn

Culture Trip
Founded 2011 London, UK Rising Star

British entrepreneur Kris Naudts decided to ditch his job as a psychiatrist in 2011 and founded the online travel publication Culture Trip, which has been a runaway success  — raising $100m and gaining 15m visitors each month.

It appears to have tapped into a millennial audience hungry for travel advice written by locals on the ground, while its listicle-heavy format (e.g. 11 German Fairytale Villages You Need to Visit At Least Once) works well in the online-era.

The company has had a see-sawing of strategy over the past year, however, which combined with some poorly-handled staff lay-offs has won it some bad press.

The big business question is how the company will fare as it tries to diversify its sources of revenues beyond the standard fare of advertising, affiliate deals and partnerships by creating an online travel agent.

Another question is whether it can maintain that level of traffic in a world where one Google or Facebook algorithm change can make a huge difference to reader numbers.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Travel & Media Travel Analytics & Software
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 -2%
Stage Valuation
Series B €290m


 

Software

GitLab
Founded 2014 Ukraine Unicorn

GitLab, Ukraine’s first unicorn, was conceived in 2011 in the house of GitLab’s chief technical officer Dmitriy Zaporozhets. At the time the house had no running water but Zaporozhets thought that an absence of collaboration tools for developers was a bigger problem than his trip to the communal well.

GitLab is essentially a way for software developers to better work together on bits of code, much of which is open-sourced. It had humble beginnings, taking years to take off before going through Y Combinator in the US in 2015.

It has long been in competition with GitHub, which was bought by Microsoft last year, and Bitbucket but says that now it’s outgrown those comparisons as it competes in a wider range of products.

Chief executive Sid Sijbrandij says the company now competes with an array of different companies, such as VersionOne, Jira, Jenkins, Artifactory, Electric Cloud, Puppet, New Relic and BlackDuck.

The really big question for the company going forward is its initial public offering, planned for 2020 and, crucially, if it will be acquired before it gets there.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Saad Enterprise Software
Employees Employee 12m growth
501-1000 135%
Stage Valuation
Series E $2.8bn

PayFit
Founded 2015 Paris, France Rising Star

PayFit’s founders

Ask around Paris for hot startups and everyone will mention Payfit.

It’s not glamorous. It’s a HR software company focused on simplifying payroll management, expense reports, as well as absences and leave of your employees. But it is the real deal.

The company started with founders Firmin Zocchetto, Ghislain de Fontenay and Florian Fournier translating the ultra-complex French Labour Code into plain computer code and evolved from there.

The company now has more than 3,000 customers in France, Germany, Spain and the UK and is growing fast. In June 2019 it raised a further €70m from Eurazeo and Bpifrance and plans to double its workforce by 2020.

The big challenge for the company is that every move to a new European geography is hugely complex, having to understand a whole other labour code. But if they can do it in France maybe they can do it anywhere?

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Fintech Enterprise Software
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 32%
Stage Valuation
Series B €280


 

Energy

Bulb
Founded 2014 London, UK Rising Star

Photo of Bulb founders, Hayden Wood and Amit Gudka, in their leafy old office space.
Bulb founders, Hayden Wood and Amit Gudka, in their leafy old office space.

Bulb is a London-based startup that supplies renewable electricity and gas to homes. The four-year-old business is the UK’s fastest-growing startup; it has over 1.3m customers, has passed £1.3bn in revenue and has has raised over £60m in venture capital.

It’s also gearing up to play a far more central role in its customers’ lives once we’re all driving electric vehicles, generating energy at home with our solar panels and using smart meters — when we need someone to help us manage that (more complicated) future.

There is competition from other players in this market; in the UK there’s Ovo Energy (founded in 2009), in Spain Holaluz (founded in 2010).

But Bulb is growing far faster and has more customers. The next big (and potentially dangerous) move for the company is international expansion into France, Spain and Texas.

Towards the end of 2019 it will launch with “friends and family” in each of these markets. A full launch is planned in 2020. But can Bulb put a dent in the dominance of the incumbents in those markets as it has in the UK?

Further reading: Bulb Energy: the fastest growing startup in the UK

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Energy Green Energy
Employees Employee 12m growth
201-500 49%
Stage Valuation
Growth Equity €378m


 

Edtech

Kahoot!
Founded 2012 Oslo, Norway  Rising Star

Kahoot! is a Norwegian startup with a platform that allows users to create, share and play educational games.

Åsmund Furuseth, CEO and co-founder of Kahoo!
Åsmund Furuseth, CEO and co-founder of Kahoo!

So, for example, a teacher can make a simple quiz about rivers South America for a geography class. What’s startling about the company is not the technology but the numbers: Kahoot! had 1.1bn players in more than 200 countries in 2018.

The startup has seen strong growth particularly in the last couple of years thanks to rapid user expansion in the US, which appears to have prompted entertainment giant Disney to take a 4% stake in the startup at a $376m valuation. Other investors include Microsoft, Nordic investor Northzone and Creandum.

One big question for the company is what will happen with the Disney relationship: will there be more Disney content on the platform, for instance?

Another question is how the two main business lines — games for students and games for business users — will develop, and how sales of its “premium” paid offerings will grow (particularly for businesses, where margins are potentially much higher).

The second quarter of 2019 saw a 300% increase in revenues from invoices to $2.3m, suggesting monetisation plans are heading in the right general direction. Kahoot! was listed for electronic trading of stock on Oslo Stock Exchange’s Merkur Market in October this year.

Key Facts

Sector Sub-sector
Gaming Education
Employees Employee 12m growth
51-200 7%
Stage Valuation
Series C $500M

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Peter James
Peter James

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if you dropped the ‘unicorn’ nonsense and started judging companies on revenue, and god forbid profits! The majority of these companies are heavily loss making and won’t be around in a few years’ time. Stop being a cheerleader for this sort of thing. I thought Sifted was trying to be a serious publication…

arthrurL
arthrurL

You’re missing some interesting players such as Younited Credit