The Berlin startups startups and scaleups to watch in 2021

Startups such as GetYourGuide, N26 and Raisin are at the forefront of the continent’s new economy.

So far this year Berlin startups have raised a record €5.1bn from VC funds, more than the €2.2bn in all of 2020.

But which are the most exciting startups and scaleups? Which are the ones to watch in 2021?

Our team of experts at Sifted have chosen a list of exciting companies we think you need to know about, with an added ‘Sifted take’ on some to provide an extra layer of insight.

It’s a mixture of the big and the small, the well known and the under the radar. But all are making waves. Keep reading below and stay informed about Europe’s new economy!

(P.S The data is from European Startups, with valuation estimates from Dealroom. If there is anyone missing from this list, or anything is wrong, please let us know by email at [email protected]).

Key

Year founded

Amount raised

Last funding round

Valuation

Employees

N26 Group's logo

N26 Group

Bank account that can be managed entirely from a smartphone

fintech / banking

n26.com

Berlin, Germany

2013

€744m

SERIES D

€3.18bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

N26 is one of the most prominent of Europe’s millennial-targeting online banks, having raised €711m and secured a €3.2bn valuation.

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.

Led by founder Valentin Stalf, the bank in 2018 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 less plain sailing for N26 in Germany though, with the company coming under recent 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.

Raisin's logo

Raisin

A pan-European marketplace for savings

fintech / investing

raisin.com

Berlin, Germany

2013

€205m

GROWTH EQUITY

€400-600m

100-500

Sifted Take

The Berlin-based startup Raisin officially launched in 2013, offering savers the chance to deposit money into accounts with the best interest 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 thanks to 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 more than 84 partner banks from 24 countries and eight platforms covering all of Europe and the UK.

Pitch's logo

Pitch

Platform for working together on presentations

enterprise software /

pitch.com

Berlin, Germany

2018

€124m

SERIES B

€109-164m

100-500

Sifted Take

Pitch launched its product in 2020, a presentation platform that plans to make Microsoft PowerPoint obsolete in the same way Slack is making email a thing of the past.

The Berlin-based startup was founded by the same eight people who brought us Wunderlist, the popular task management app Microsoft acquired in 2015. So, it’s fair to say that the team behind Pitch know a thing or two about changing the way we work.

Pitch has already raised a total of €47m, having just recently closed a Series A round from backers like Thrive Capital in 2020.

While it will have various custom options and contemporary templates, Pitch’s main selling points appear to be enhancing how teams collaborate on their presentations and providing easier ways to connect to other tech tools. Pitch is already being used by companies like Intercom, Superhuman, DashDash and Notion.

Inkitt's logo

Inkitt

Publisher which uses crowdsourced feedback to predict bestsellers

publishing /

inkitt.com

Berlin, Germany

2013

€17m

SERIES A

€58-87m

50-100

Sifted Take

Set up in 2013, Inkitt is solving what it sees is the publishing industry’s biggest problem — fair and objective talent discovery. The publisher encourages authors to share their work with readers and receive feedback before being published, while analysing reader behaviour to identify potential bestsellers. The Berlin-based business raised $16M in its 2019 Series A round raise, led by Kleiner Perkins, with $21m in total.

Comtravo's logo

Comtravo

Utilises AI and natural language processing to manage booking and travel information for business

travel / business travel

comtravo.com

Berlin, Germany

2015

€38m

SERIES B

€36-54m

100-500

Sifted Take

Comtravo is a Berlin-based company revolutionising the time-intensive and tedious ways businessmen and women book travel. Mixing artificial intelligence and machine learning with the occasional human travel agent, Comtravo hopes to automate the business travel booking process. Founded in 2015, the company has already automated 60% of the process. Next year, the company has its eyes set on automating another 20%. Essentially, with Comtravo, users can send an email with their ideal travel itinerary and the technology behind the platform will translate it into a booking. Comtravo also has an online booking tool. In 2019, the company got a €21m boost in Series B funding from backers like Deutsche Bank and Endeit Capital. With this money, the company hopes to continue its growth and automate more of the booking processes. In 2020, the company secured a further €9m.

Coachhub's logo

Coachhub

The Digital Coaching Platform‎

education; jobs recruitment /

coachhub.io

Berlin, Germany

2018

€49m

SERIES B

€113-169m

100-500

Sifted Take

CoachHub defines itself as a “mobile coaching cloud.” In other words, it's an on-the-go career coach.

Via video conferences over the web or smartphone app, employees can speak with one of CoachHub’s professional career coaches about topics ranging from time management to leadership goals. Traditionally, these types of services have only been offered to business executives. With CoachHub, organizations provide employees at any level with personalized professional advice.

In addition to changing the way professional development is traditionally relayed, CoachHub wants its services to also boost overall productivity and engagement. It has a global network of over 500 professional coaches available for coaching sessions in 32 languages.

Founded in 2018 by entrepreneurial brothers Yannis and Matti Niebelschuetz, the talent development platform is still relatively new to the Berlin scene.

INFARM's logo

INFARM

Urban farming services company

food / agritech

infarm.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

€248m

SERIES C

€309-464m

100-500

Sifted Take

Berlin-based startup Infarm makes modular vertical farms which can be put in places such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping centres and schools. Led by Erez Galonska, the idea is that consumers can actually pick fresh produce such as tomatoes or lettuce themselves, which has proved popular. The company closed a $100m series B in 2019 led by London VC Atomico with Balderton Capital, Astanor Ventures and Cherry Ventures also in the round. In 2020, it closed a further $170m. bringing total funding to $300m. It 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 and the US and beyond. The bigger picture here, says the company, is that eco-conscious consumers are increasingly going to want to get their fresh produce locally — and nothing is more local than having the actual farm itself in your nearest supermarket. Find out more: https://sifted.eu/articles/vertical-farming-startups/

GetYourGuide's logo

GetYourGuide

A booking platform for travel experiences

travel: event tech / online travel agency

getyourguide.com

Berlin, Germany

2009

€728m

CONVERTIBLE

€1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

Berlin-based GetYourGuide sells trips and tours to tourists. 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 space. 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 2019 the company won a $484m investment lead by “king-making” investor SoftBank, and the company is now making a play to get everyone to know about it and become a central part of the global travel industry akin to Airbnb or Skyscanner. In 2020, it secured another $133m. GetYourGuide may be big, but it’s still barely scratched the surface of “experiences”: there’s room 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 for many travellers Airbnb is now the first stop for accommodation? Further reading: Why has SoftBank invested in GetYourGuide?

AUTO1 Group's logo

AUTO1 Group

A leading digital car-selling platform

transportation / search, buy & rent

auto1-group.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

1Bm

CONVERTIBLE

€3bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

Berlin-based Auto1 is a pan-European online marketplace for used cars. It values and buys used cars from individuals, dealerships, and manufacturers — then sells them for a profit to dealerships. It's worth an estimated $3bn.

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 in €1bn from Japanese conglomerate Softbank amongst others, 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, because there are rivals. Cazoo, the brainchild of Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman, raised €60m pre-launch to sell second-hand cars direct to consumers in 2019. It’s a slightly different model, as it’s selling to consumers not dealers, but still a potential threat as market dynamics in this space 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, in a recession big-ticket items like cars are often the first purchases consumers will put off taking.

Omio's logo

Omio

A multi-mode travel search tool

travel / booking & search

omio.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

€360m

CONVERTIBLE

€909m

100-500

Sifted Take

Omio is a travel search engine which allows 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 2018, it raised $150m in investment, one of Germany’s biggest investment rounds.

In 2019 the company changed its name to Omio (it had been GoEuro) and said it was planning expansion into new markets including South America, Asia and the US. In 2020, the company secured a further $100m in investment.

Blinkist's logo

Blinkist

Enables users to read the most important insights from non-fiction books in 15 minutes

education /

blinkist.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

€31m

SERIES C

€68-103m

100-500

SellerX's logo

SellerX

Buys and builds Amazon businesses.

ecommerce / retail

sellerx.com

Berlin , Germany

2020

€46m

SEED

€80-120m

100-500

Sifted Take

SellerX is a Berlin based startup that is building a diversified portfolio of Amazon sellers. Launched in 2020, it aims to buy and scale Amazon-native brands by taking a personalised approach to working with sellers.

It operates globally, across continents, and has experience working with sellers from over 10 countries. Particularly, SellerX likes to approach businesses that have reached a specific size threshold (≥1M revenue) and are growing quickly (≥30% year-over-year) with strong margin profiles (≥20% contribution margins).

In March 2021, the company secured a €26m investment from a seed funding round, leaving it with a total culmination of €46m in funding, and a valuation of €104-156m. Read more: Amazon aggregators: the European competitors, compared

Planetly's logo

Planetly

Analyses, reduces and offsets companies' carbon emissions based on data

saas / climate tech

planetly.org

Berlin , Germany

2019

€5m

SEED

€21-31m

10-50

Gorillas's logo

Gorillas

On-demand grocery delivery service

marketplace and ecommerce / food

gorillas.io

Berlin , Germany

2020

€305m

SERIES B

€182m

50-100

Sifted Take

Gorillas is an on-demand grocery delivery startup based in Berlin, which delivers groceries and other household items to customers within 10 minutes of placing an order. It uses dark stores to store and supply groceries to customers, based on its foundational belief that grocery shopping has to be made more efficient and convenient. It deviates from the gig-economy model used by Deliveroo and Uber, by employing its delivery drivers. As of May 2021, it has been operating in over 25 cities, across four countries. The company was founded in May 2020, and by December 2020, had raised $44 million in Series A funding, with a $290 million in Series B funding boost in March 2021. Following its latest investment round, Gorillas has reached unicorn status – becoming the fastest startup to do so in Germany. It plans to use the funding to expand into over 50 cities, including Paris and New York City. Read more: Gorillas eyes $1bn round with $6bn valuation, including a secondary share sale

Urban Sports Club's logo

Urban Sports Club

One membership gives you access to the largest and most flexible sports offer in your city

sports / sport league & club

urbansportsclub.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

€91m

LATE VC

€227m

100-500

Sifted Take

Urban Sports Club launched in 2012, to offer customers a more flexible range of sports and gym membership packages. Following its launch, it has expanded in venues across Europe, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and now provides its customers with access to over 50 types of activities, from yoga to team sports.

Its largest funding round was in June 2021, in which it received €80m in the late VC stage – bringing its total funding up to €91m. As of June 2021, Urban Sports Club is estimated to have a valuation of €320—480m, and has nearly 300 employees.

Read more: Full stream ahead: fitness businesses are turning to video to serve customers on lockdown

Sennder 's logo

Sennder

Digital road freight forwarding

mobility / logistics and delivery

sennder.com

Berlin, Germany

2015

€283m

SERIES D

€1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

The Berlin-based freight forwarder is Europe's latest unicorn after a round led by Accel, Lakestar, HV Capital, Project A and Scania. It’s among others like Zencargo and FreightHub in that it’s trying to digitise a wildly outdated logistics system, which is currently worth $427bn in Europe alone. For the last two years, the company’s been developing a shared platform to connect truckers and customers. The company has offices in seven countries and has 800 employees. Find out more here.

Flink's logo

Flink

High quality and organic groceries, delivered to your door in 10 minutes

food / food logistics & delivery

goflink.com/

Berlin, Germany

2020

€275m

SERIES A

€10bn

100-500

Sifted Take

Flink is an on-demand grocery delivery startup based in Berlin. Through its online platform, it aims to offers a wide selection of convenience items, from fruits, bread, essentials, and home supplies, among others, which allow people to get deliveries to their door within minutes — whilst also saving transportation costs.

Following its launch in December 2020, Flink has had a steep valuation of €873m—1.3bn. Its Series A funding round alone, led by Prosus, Bond and Mubadala Capital Ventures, raised $240m in June 2021, bringing its total funding to €275m. Although the company has not yet disclosed its valuation, it appears to be approaching unicorn status.

Read more: The on-demand grocery battle is getting bloody — here’s the state of play

Coachhub's logo

Coachhub

The Digital Coaching Platform‎

education; jobs recruitment /

coachhub.io

Berlin, Germany

2018

€49m

SERIES B

€113-169m

100-500

Sifted Take

CoachHub defines itself as a “mobile coaching cloud.” In other words, it's an on-the-go career coach. Via video conferences over the web or smartphone app, employees can speak with one of CoachHub’s professional career coaches about topics ranging from time management to leadership goals. Traditionally, these types of services have only been offered to business executives. With CoachHub, organizations provide employees at any level with personalized professional advice. In addition to changing the way professional development is traditionally relayed, CoachHub wants its services to also boost overall productivity and engagement. It has a global network of over 500 professional coaches available for coaching sessions in 32 languages. Founded in 2018 by entrepreneurial brothers Yannis and Matti Niebelschuetz, the talent development platform is still relatively new to the Berlin scene.

INFARM's logo

INFARM

Urban farming services company

food / agritech

infarm.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

€248m

SERIES C

€309-464m

100-500

Sifted Take

Berlin-based startup Infarm makes modular vertical farms which can be put in places such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping centres and schools. Led by Erez Galonska, the idea is that consumers can actually pick fresh produce such as tomatoes or lettuce themselves, which has proved popular. The company closed a $100m series B in 2019 led by London VC Atomico with Balderton Capital, Astanor Ventures and Cherry Ventures also in the round. In 2020, it closed a further $170m. bringing total funding to $300m. It 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 and the US and beyond. The bigger picture here, says the company, is that eco-conscious consumers are increasingly going to want to get their fresh produce locally — and nothing is more local than having the actual farm itself in your nearest supermarket. Find out more: https://sifted.eu/articles/vertical-farming-startups/

GetYourGuide's logo

GetYourGuide

A booking platform for travel experiences

travel: event tech / online travel agency

getyourguide.com

Berlin, Germany

2009

€728m

CONVERTIBLE

€1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

Berlin-based GetYourGuide sells trips and tours to tourists. 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 space. 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 2019 the company won a $484m investment lead by “king-making” investor SoftBank, and the company is now making a play to get everyone to know about it and become a central part of the global travel industry akin to Airbnb or Skyscanner. In 2020, it secured another $133m.

GetYourGuide may be big, but it’s still barely scratched the surface of “experiences”: there’s room 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 for many travellers Airbnb is now the first stop for accommodation?

Further reading: Why has SoftBank invested in GetYourGuide?

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