\The London startups and scaleups to watch in 2021

\The London startups and scaleups to watch in 2021

London is the top startup city in Europe. Which companies should be on your watchlist?

So far this year London startups have raised a record €11.8bn from VC funds, more than the €14.5bn in all of 2020.

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

Our team of experts at Sifted have chosen a list of more than 130 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

Signal AI's logo

Signal AI

Uses artificial intelligence to better curate the news for different business sectors

AI / enterprise software

signal-ai.com

London, UK

2013

€47m

SERIES C

€91-136m

100-500

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

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Citymapper's logo

Citymapper

Transport app for cities

travel; transportation / navigation & mapping

citymapper.com

London, UK

2011

€53m

LATE VC

€145-218m

50-100

Sifted Take

If you’re not from London (or one of 38 other major cities around the world) chances are you might not have heard of the transport and journey planning app Citymapper. But if you’re one of the app’s millions of users, you likely never catch a bus, head for an underground station or jump on a train without consulting it first. (You also, probably, firmly believe that Google Maps is no replacement.)

Citymapper wants to do so much more than tell you the best way to get from A to B. In 2017, it also started running buses and a shared taxi service, with a plan to reinvent not just buses but also how transport systems are run. Citymapper was all set to become the brain of London’s enormously complex transport system (then the world’s).

But it did not really turn out like that. In summer 2019, Citymapper ended its shared taxi service. Instead, it is now focusing on selling a “subscription to mobility” — also known, in non-tech speak, as tickets. But investors are reportedly growing disillusioned with its inability to find a business model that works (and worried about Uber and Google’s moves in this space). It may be a tricky road ahead for Citymapper.

Further reading: What Citymapper did next

Elvie's logo

Elvie

Health and lifestyle technology for women

wellness beauty /

elvie.com

London, UK

2013

€45m

SERIES B

€150-225m

100-500

Sifted Take

First Elvie made a pelvic floor trainer, then it designed a silent breast pump, and it's won awards and accolades from all corners for designing tech which is truly tailored for women.

Harbr Data's logo

Harbr Data

Full stack data exchange platform

enterprise software / deep tech

harbrdata.com

London, UK

2017

€43m

SERIES A

€43.4m

50-100

Hibob's logo

Hibob

Cloud-based HR management software

jobs recruitment; enterprise software /

hibob.com

London, UK

2015

€105m

SERIES B

€255-382m

100-500

SumUp's logo

SumUp

Mobile payments company

fintech / payments

sumup.com

London, UK

2011

€39m

DEBT

€1bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

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, Silicon Valley’s Square and SumUp in the UK.

Of the three BBVA-backed SumUp is the smallest but it is still a big UK fintech. Since it was founded in 2011 SumUp has expanded into more than 30 markets, helped by a merger with Rocket Internet’s Payleven in 2016.

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.

Wayve's logo

Wayve

AI-software for self-driving cars

health; sports /

wayve.ai

London, UK

2015

€36m

SERIES A

€73-109m

50-100

Sifted Take

Wayve's AI-focused technology is an exciting prospect for mobility. It continuously learns from observing human driving and wants to be the first to deploy self-driving tech in 100 cities across Europe.

So far, it's raised $43m across three funding rounds; in 2020 securing backing from the Virgin Group and is part of the Microsoft for Startups Autonomous Driving programme.

Read more: 10 startups working on sustainable alternatives to everyday transportation

Elder's logo

Elder

Platform to match live-in carers with the elderly

health /

elder.org

London, UK

3025

€18m

SERIES B

€38-58m

100-500

Sifted Take

Elder is another addition to the rapidly growing agetech sector, and in 2020 it raised €17.9m.

Related: The secret of investing in the €3.7tn age tech market

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Zilch's logo

Zilch

Buy now, pay later service

fintech / payments

payzilch.com

London, UK

2018

€109m

SERIES B

€109-164m

10-50

Sifted Take

Fintech Zilch is all about Gen Z and millennials, offering them a personalised credit line then paid back in instalments. Clearly it's doing it well, in November 2020 announcing the it had won the coveted consumer credit license from the UK regulator, the FCA — and is growing at an average of 1k new UK signups per day.

Read more: A better Klarna? Meet the fintech launching the “AmEx card for Gen Z”

Trouva's logo

Trouva

Retailer for independents

legal; fintech / investing

trouva.com

London, UK

2016

€33m

LATE VC

€80-120m

50-100

Sifted Take

Trouva helps a select set of high street boutiques sell their wares online, in the UK and in Berlin. Call it a curated Amazon.

Kheiron Medical's logo

Kheiron Medical

Healthtech focused on breast cancer research

health / education

kheironmed.com

London, UK

2016

€32m

SERIES A

€80-120m

50-100

Sifted Take

With a focus on breast cancer, a leading cause of death for women under 50, Kheiron Medical uses data and machine learning to help improve the accuracy of radiology screenings. It's a recipient of the NHS's £50m innovation fund, but alone it's raised an additional £16.1m in funding rounds, including from Atomico and Hoxton Ventures.

Beamery's logo

Beamery

Recruitment software that makes hiring quicker and more efficient

jobs recruitment /

beamery.com

London, UK

2014

€157m

SERIES C

€102-153m

100-500

Sifted Take

Recruitment startup Beamery has built what it calls a 'talent operating system' that’s designed to help companies manage candidate relationships and streamline the hiring process.

The company’s software is being used by a number of big tech firms in the US that are willing to spend big in order to help them win the talent wars. Other customers include Coca-Cola, Grab and Balfour Beaty.

Related: European startups are moving to the US later. Why?

Farewill's logo

Farewill

Online wills, probate and funeral platform

legal / legal documents management

farewill.com

London, UK

2015

€32m

LATE VC

€88-133m

100-500

Sifted Take

Writing a will isn't pleasant, but this 'deathtech' startup wants to make it a bit less difficult. Founded in 2015, it allows users to create a legally binding will without a solicitor.

In July 2020, it raised €22m, almost certainly in response to the need for digitised platforms during the pandemic, where demand for its services increased fourfold.

Read more: Death at a distance: can tech help us grieve remotely?

Goodlord's logo

Goodlord

Processes payments and electronic contracts for landlords and tenants

commission / legal

goodlord.co

London, UK

2015

€31m

SERIES B

€48-72m

100-500

Impala's logo

Impala

API service for the hotel industry

enterprise software / API

getimpala.com

London, UK

2016

€30m

SERIES B

€73-109m

50-100

Sifted Take

Impala plans to do for the hotel industry what Plaid did for the financial industry: open up its data to shake up management. In Feb 2020, it raised $20m in a Series B round led by Lakestar after raising $11m in October 2019.

Their system will allow disabled travellers to check exactly what features a room has, or choosy customers to pick, for instance, a room away from a noisy street. Pretty smart.

Read more: Travel tech startup Impala raises $20m just four months after raising $11m

Freetrade's logo

Freetrade

Stock market investment app

fintech / investing

freetrade.io

London, UK

2015

€70m

SERIES B

€300m

100-500

Sifted Take

The digital share broker is tapping into a new wave of trading that has emerged during lockdown — especially during the significant dip in March 2020. It is currently zero commission — will it be lucrative enough to monetise? It's make or break.

The Plum Guide's logo

The Plum Guide

Home rental service vacation rentals in a city

travel / accommodation

plumguide.com

London, UK

2015

€26m

SERIES B

€67-101m

100-500

Sifted Take

2020 wasn't a great year for Plum by any means. The luxury competitor to Airbnb was planning a Series C raise in the summer, but instead it had to furlough half of its team.

Luckily, in October it announced it had secured £13m in backing from the UK Government's Future Fund and existing investors including Octopus Ventures.

Europe's Airbnb competitor was on track for unicorn status. Then Covid-19 struck.

Cognism's logo

Cognism

AI tools for extracting sales and recruitment leads from big data

marketing /

cognism.com

London, UK

2015

€37m

LATE VC

€44-65m

100-500

Sifted Take

Cognism's moving onwards and upwards. In 2020, it not only raised $12m in a round led by AXA Venture Partners, but acquired Ricochet, a UK startup behind a Google Chrome extension for sales professionals and recruiters, in an all-cash transaction, and Mailtastic in a seven-figure deal. It intends to use its funds to expand across Europe and develop its localised regulatory expertise after the introduction of GDPR law, after opening an office in New York.

Bloom & Wild's logo

Bloom & Wild

Flower delivery startup

home living /

bloomandwild.com

London, UK

2013

€116m

SERIES D

€72-108m

100-500

Sifted Take

Bloom and Wild boomed in 2020 with 4m deliveries of flowers and a 160% increase in revenue. But 2021 has started extremely well for the floral delivery service, with a £75m Series D round led by General Catalyst. Interflora and FTD remain leaders in the market, but Bloom and Wild's postbox-sized service could put it at an advantage in the long run. Interestingly, it plans to sell no red roses for Valentine's Day in response to a survey, which found that 79% of customers wanted a more unique gift over the traditional choice.

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