European tech startups and scaleups to watch in 2021

Europe’s startup scene is often overshadowed by Silicon Valley, but the continent is gaining ground with more than 70 tech startups valued at over $1bn.

Europe’s startup scene is often overshadowed by Silicon Valley, but the continent is gaining ground with more than 70 tech startups valued at over $1bn.

Here, Sifted’s reporters dig into the data, strategy and challenges behind the most important European startups and scaleups. We ask which companies are making waves and which are the ones to watch in 2021?

Keep reading below and stay informed about Europe’s new economy!

For in-depth analysis of the French tech ecosystem, dive into our recent report here.

(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

Mirakl's logo

Mirakl

Best online marketplace platform and dropship solution

marketing / enterprise software

mirakl.fr

Paris, France

2011

€357m

LATE VC

€1.4bn

100-500

Sifted Take

One of many companies on this list benefiting from the rise and rise of ecommerce is Mirakl, which helps online businesses manage marketplaces on their websites. Customers include Carrefour and Office Depot.

CMR Surgical's logo

CMR Surgical

Robotic system for minimal access surgery

robotics / medical devices

cmrsurgical.com

Impington, UK

2014

€896m

SERIES C

€909m

100-500

Sifted Take

Medical devices company CMR Surgical has created a 'next-generation' surgical robot, designed to help surgeons work with greater precision and control.

Lilium's logo

Lilium

Fully electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet

transportation / vehicle production

lilium.com

Weßling, Germany

2015

€751m

SERIES C

€909m

500-1000

Sifted Take

It sounds like sci-fi, but it's not: Lilium has actually built — and flown — a flying taxi.

The Bavarian company's electric aircraft takes off vertically, and a prototype first took to the skies in 2019. It is promising to get services up and running by 2025, from airports in Dusseldorf, Cologne and Florida.

Read more: Lilium finds its first flying taxi hubs

Lilium vs Volocopter: battle of the air taxis

Collibra's logo

Collibra

A cloud-based platform that connects IT and the business to build a data-driven culture for the digital enterprise

enterprise software /

collibra.com

Brussel, Belgium

2008

€320m

SERIES F

€2.1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

Belgian university spin-out Collibra helps companies — including Adobe, AXA and Verizon — manage data in a secure (and legal) way.

Investors include Iconiq, Index and Dawn Capital.

ContentSquare's logo

ContentSquare

Optimise your web and mobile UX

marketing / enterprise software

contentsquare.com

Paris, France

2012

€757m

SERIES D

€909m

500-1000

Sifted Take

An impressive list of clients — American Express, Dell, Ikea, Salesforce and Toyota — use ContentSquare's platform to analyse their customers' behaviour via anonymous web, mobile and app interactions. The big sell is that ContentSquare can tell them where — and why — they are losing customers along the way, and suggest ways to improve their digital user experience.

Now, more than ever, that's pretty darn important.

Karma Kitchen's logo

Karma Kitchen

Transforms industrial spaces into commercial kitchens, co-working and storage

London, UK

2018

€302m

SERIES A

€1.2-1.8bn

10-50

Sifted Take

Sisters Eccie and Gini Newton didn't exactly set out to build a prep kitchen empire. They started making healthy lunches to deliver to Londoners, which led them to open a shared kitchen space for other food delivery businesses, virtual restaurant brands and street food vendors.

Then along came Vengrove Real Estate Management, a real estate investment firm, which led a £252m Series A round into the company to help it build out a network of kitchen sites across Europe.

Read more: How rental kitchen startup Karma Kitchen raised £252m when it set out to raise £3m

Karma Kitchen: A dark kitchen startup to watch

Picnic's logo

Picnic

Online supermarket, that delivers groceries for the lowest price to people’s home, without delivery costs

food / logistics & delivery

picnic.nl

Amsterdam, Netherlands

2015

€300m

DEBT

€800m

1000-5000

Sifted Take

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.

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

Tink's logo

Tink

Tink Technology enables banks to create next-generation banking services, including account aggregation, payment initiation and PFM

fintech / banking

tink.com

Stockholm, Sweden

2012

€285m

LATE VC

€680m

100-500

Sifted Take

In one of the biggest fintech rounds of 2020, Swedish fintech Tink raised €90m in January and €85m in December. The startup allows banks, fintechs and other startups to use data to develop personalised financial services.

In April, it held talks with Mastercard about a possible investment (though nothing seems to have emerged as a result) and in September it acquired OpenWrks, a UK-based provider of open banking applications.

Read more: How Tink raised capital from banks but kept its independence

Mastercard held deal talks with Sweden’s Tink

Voi Technology's logo

Voi Technology

Sharing service for electric vehicles

transportation / vehicle production

voiapp.io

Stockholm, Sweden

2018

€278m

SERIES C

€388—581m

100-500

Kahoot!'s logo

Kahoot!

Inspiring educational games for skills training and professional development

gaming; education / console & pc gaming

getkahoot.com

Oslo, Norway

2012

€274m

PRIVATE PLACEMENT

€2.2bn

100-500

Sifted Take

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

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! has around 1.5bn players a year.

The startup has seen strong growth particularly in the last couple of years thanks to rapid user expansion in the US, which appeared to have prompted companies such as Disney, Microsoft, Northzone, and Creandum to invest. In October 2020, Softbank made a $215m investment which is likely to fuel more growth and aquisitions.

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

Meero's logo

Meero

Matches professional photographers with top notch clients to produce beautiful images in a snap

media / content production

meero.com/en

Paris, France

2016

€269m

SERIES C

€909m

1000-5000

Sifted Take

Take thousands of freelance photographers, big clients hungry for lots of high-quality images and smart photo-editing software and you get Meero.

The French company works with the likes of Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Airbnb, and claims to deliver one photoshoot every 25 seconds.

Read more: Could Meero’s founder be the next Emmanuel Macron?

Wolt's logo

Wolt

A food delivery platform that connects hungry customers with great restaurants and eager couriers

food logistics & delivery /

wolt.com/en

Helsinki, Finland

2014

€748m

ANGEL

€491m

1000-5000

Sifted Take

Finnish food delivery player Wolt has been around for longer than most of its competitors, but that doesn't seem to be slowing it down. In 2020, it launched in Germany (a notoriously hard market to crack) and also Japan. It is also experimenting with delivery-only grocery stores in Helsinki — and making noises about an IPO in the not-too-distant future.

Read more: Food delivery company Wolt receives backing from Delivery Hero's founder

Railsbank's logo

Railsbank

Banking as a service platform

fintech /

railsbank.com

London, UK

2016

€47m

GROWTH EQUITY

€36-55m

100-500

Sifted Take

If reputation is acquired through acquisitions, maybe Railsbank can distinguish itself from much of the fintech crowd. In August 2020, the payments provider bought Wirecard's UK division, in a situation that its founder Nigel Verdon called "Enron for the fintech industry". Exclusive: Wirecard UK to be bought by Railsbank after downfall of parent company

wefox's logo

wefox

Service platform for insurance brokers, insurers and end-customers

fintech / insurance

wefox.de/en

Berlin, Germany

2015

€837m

SERIES B

€1.5bn

100-500

Sifted Take

Insurtech giant wefox doesn't like capital letters or complicated insurance policies. Its platform aims to make managing insurance easier for customers by bringing it online and making the whole thing more visbile.

Read more: Digitising insurance – the risks and the rewards

Gymshark's logo

Gymshark

Fitness apparel and accessories brand

fashion / fitness

gymshark.com

Solihull, UK

2012

€240m

GROWTH EQUITY

€1.2bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

An inspiration for bootstrapping founders everywhere: Gymshark founder Ben Francis waited eight years before taking external investment — and still owns 70% of the company.

His fitness retail business took off thanks to social media influencers and the close attention the team paid to their core customers.

Next up: Gymshark wants to take on the US.

Read more: The power of community: how Gymshark is killing it in the gym

OVO Energy's logo

OVO Energy

Energy technology company and supplier

energy / energy providers

ovoenergy.com

Bristol, UK

2008

€240m

GROWTH EQUITY

€1.2bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

In just over a decade, Bristol-based Ovo Energy has become one of the UK's largest domestic energy suppliers, serving both household and business customers.

In 2019, Mitsubishi Corporation bought a 20% stake in the scaleup.

MessageBird's logo

MessageBird

Connects enterprises to global customers through SMS, Voice and Chat APIs

telecom / enterprise software

messagebird.com

Amsterdam, Netherlands

2011

€1,000m

SERIES C

€2.7bn

100-500

Sifted Take

Cloud communications company MessageBird wasn't always heading down the venture capital route: it was bootstrapped for six years, although now has some of the biggest names in VC, including Accel, Atomico and Y Combinator, on its cap table.

Read more: MessageBird raises $200m at unicorn valuation for fresh acquisition spree

Vinted's logo

Vinted

We’re the world’s biggest preloved fashion marketplace

fashion / apparel

vinted.com

Vilnius, Lithuania

2008

€482m

SERIES E

€1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

Lithuanian startup Vinted tapped into the secondhand clothing market early on in 2008. It’s still growing steadily, with a 50% increase in its team and an additional 11m users across 12 markets in one year. We think it’s got a promising 2021 ahead, especially after acquiring Dutch competitor United Wardrobe in late 2020.

Related: 14 startups making European fashion sustainable

Kry's logo

Kry

Consult a doctor online

health / health platform

kry.se

Stockholm, Sweden

2014

€511m

SERIES C

€560-840m

500-1000

Sifted Take

In the rapidly-growing market for digital health, Kry is one of the leaders. The company, which facilitates video calls to doctors or psychologists, has seen rapid growth since launch in 2015 and even more so during the coronavirus pandemic.

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 has already completed more than 1.6m patient meetings.

The big question for the company, which operates in Sweden, Norway and Germany under its own name and in the United Kingdom and France under the name Livi, is whether or not it can really nail its European expansion.

It already has tough competition in this new space from the likes of Babylon Health (UK), Push Doctor (UK), Min Doktor (Sweden) and ViviDoctor (Belgium). There are also ongoing challenges of companies such as Kry working to disrupt such a sensitive and heavily-regulated sector such as healthcare. Many incumbent players are rapidly developing their own telehealth technologies. How much room will be left for Kry?

Further reading: The ‘femtech’ doctor on demand will see you now Why telemedicine startups might not be such a smart investment after all Europe’s doctor apps, compared

Vestiaire Collective's logo

Vestiaire Collective

Circular fashion platform

ecommerce / fashion

vestiairecollective.com

Paris, France

2009

€397m

LATE VC

€1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

Vestiaire Collective is now a hallmark in the European sustainable and ‘circular fashion’ subsector. Based in Paris, the company has received backing from Balderton Capital, Bpifrance and Condé Nast, the fashion-focused media company.

The company became a unicorn in March 2021 after raising €178m from Tiger Global Management, Bpifrance, Eurazeo and Kering.

Vestiaire Collective told Sifted that despite an initial dip in sales during the first Covid-19 lockdown, sales surpassed those before the pandemic. In April it experienced its biggest sales day since launching in 2009, and its Series G round in the same month raised €59m.

Though it now boasts over 9m users in 90 countries, it’s still competing against Lithuania’s Vinted and the UK’s Depop. It also dropped from La French Tech’s Next40 list (2020) to the FT120 in this year’s rankings.

For more, read our report on the French tech revolution.

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