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

LabGenius's logo

LabGenius

AI-driven drug discovery platform

health / biotech

labgeni.us

London, UK

2012

€26m

SERIES A

€55-82m

10-50

Sifted Take

In 2020, the biotech raised a further $15m extension of its Series A round — which totalled $25m. It was led by Atomico. It also appeared on our list of best London startups to work at in 2021.

Habito's logo

Habito

Digital mortgage broker

fintech; real estate / mortgages & lending

habito.com

London, UK

2015

€78m

SERIES C

€168-252m

100-500

Sifted Take

Digital mortgage broker Habito conducts those crucial chats over live chat or telephone. Competitors include Trussle and Mojo, but Habito is the only venturing into a new battleground for fintechs: influencer marketing.

Related: The "fin-influencer" boom: why Instagram and TikTok are the new battlegrounds for digital banks

Azimo's logo

Azimo

International money transfer services

fintech /

azimo.com

London, UK

2012

€60m

DEBT

€73-109m

100-500

Sifted Take

Reaching profitability in 2019, Azimo received $88m from Rakuten, eVentures and Frog Capital. It's currently preparing for the fallout of Brexit, and in April 2019 it secured a license in the Netherlands to operate and opened up an office in the Netherlands. They've also got an office in Krakow. But they're doing well, with a 70% increase in new customers since the pandemic.

Bulb's logo

Bulb

100% renewable electricity and gas provider

energy /

bulb.co.uk

London, UK

2014

€72m

GROWTH EQUITY

€378m

500-1000

Sifted Take

Bulb is a London-based startup which supplies renewable electricity and gas to homes. The four-year-old business was the UK’s fastest-growing startup in 2018; it has over 1.3m customers, has passed £1.3bn in revenue and 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 — and 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 has been 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. It has launched for “friends and family” in each of these markets. 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

Winnow's logo

Winnow

Food waste management

London, UK

2013

€22m

DEBT

€44-65m

100-500

Sifted Take

Ever thought of taking snaps of your...bin?! Well, that's Winnow's business model. Its AI tool captures pictures of food thrown away in hotels, restaurants and even IKEA to tackle the huge problem of food waste.

Monese's logo

Monese

Online banking platform

fintech / banking

monese.com

London, UK

2013

€70m

SERIES B

€218-327m

100-500

Sifted Take

In an market saturated with fintechs, Monese has been smart to focus on providing services for expats. It's had over 2m downloads. But it's grown slower than any of its peers when adjusting for time, and it's £5.5m revenue in 2018 paled in comparison to Revolut's £58.2m, which launched at around the same time.

Read more: Revolut-rival Monese set to make 30 employees into millionaires as it eyes unicorn status

HealthHero's logo

HealthHero

Virtual healthcare provider

London, UK

2019

€70m

LATE VC

10-50

Sifted Take

As you might imagine, 2020 was a huge year for HealthHero — and it now claims to be the largest telemedicine provider in Europe after acquiring the heavyweight champion Doctorlink. It's just over a year old but now claims to cover 20m people as a result. But even before the pandemic, telemedicine was predicted to be an emerging force for the long-term. While 1% of consultations were done digitally prior to Covid-19, there's capacity for 70-80% of consultations to be remote. There seems to be a very secure and successful future for the startup. Read more: HealthHero: the new healthtech startup buying its way to the top

GoCardless's logo

GoCardless

Simple and cheap way to take payments online: no merchant account, no credit card fees, no hassle

fintech / payments

gocardless.com

London, UK

2011

€1,500m

SERIES F

€882m

100-500

Sifted Take

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 processes about $15bn in payments annually for nearly 60k organisations in the UK, Europe, US and Australia (for example SaaS company DocuSign, 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.

Like many other fintechs, GoCardless benefited from the rise in digital payments during the pandemic in 2020. But after expanding into the US and launching its global direct debit network in 2019, the big question is how these international moves transpire for the company in the first real post-Brexit year.

Further reading: Brunch with Hiroki Takeuchi, founder of GoCardless (https://sifted.eu/articles/hiroki-takeuchi-gocardless-interview/)

Soldo's logo

Soldo

Company spending app

fintech / payments; financial management solutions

soldo.com

London, UK

2014

€70m

SERIES B

€216-324m

100-500

Sifted Take

Soldo is one of Europe's fastest-growing fintechs. Despite being founded in 2015, in 2019 it secured the largest round of funding ever by a spend management startup in an impressive $61m Series B round led by Battery Ventures and Dawn Capital. Its services are used by over 60k businesses. In July 2020, Soldo announced it was extending its partnership with Mastercard to become a principal member of the company.

Cambridge Quantum Computing's logo

Cambridge Quantum Computing

Independent quantum computing company

enterprise software /

cambridgequantum.com

London, UK

2014

€321m

LATE VC

€164-245m

50-100

Sifted Take

Last year, CQC made waves in the quantum community after announcing a cloud-based random number generating service and “meaning-aware” natural language processing — both of which are expected to push it into the very top of the worldwide market. It's certainly one to watch as viable and genuine quantum computing emerges.

Multiverse's logo

Multiverse

Networking platform and support for apprentices

marketplace & ecommerce / recruitment

multiverse.io

London, UK

2016

€58m

SERIES B

€160-240m

100-500

Sifted Take

Multiverse, formerly known as WhiteHat, secured the UK's biggest ever edtech raise in January 2021. The $44m round was led by General Catalyst but also included Google Ventures. With a new round of young adults about to finish secondary school and enter into an overwhelmed job market, its services in connecting apprentices with companies and providing training means this is likely the beginning of a strong year for the startup. Read more: Tony Blair's son secures UK's biggest ever edtech raise

Streetbees's logo

Streetbees

Connects you with real people on the ground to gather real time insights

enterprise software /

streetbees.com

London, UK

2015

€58m

LATE VC

€182m

100-500

Sifted Take

Streetbees are in the business of documenting consumer thought — then using AI to determine general consumer psychology. Clearly there's a market for it, as its 100-strong team has earned it a market almost everywhere, from Kenya to France, and India to the UK. They claim to gather about 1m 'stories' from consumers a month in 150 countries for brands like the giant Unilever, to IKEA and Sony Pictures. What's next? Well in October 2020 it raised $40m in its Series B round led by Lakestar. We're watching to see what they do with it. Streetbees raises $40m — but what's in it for the bees?

Moneybox's logo

Moneybox

Investment app

fintech / investing

moneyboxapp.com

London, UK

2015

€57m

GROWTH EQUITY

€144-216m

100-500

Sifted Take

The pandemic didn't touch Moneybox. In fact, in March of 2020 it closed a Series C with a valuation of $132m, and accelerated hiring towards the end of July. Related: UK trading apps up to 20x cheaper than incumbents

Heroes's logo

Heroes

Ecommerce company that acquires and scales up Amazon businesses

marketplace & ecommerce /

makeheroes.co

London, UK

2020

€55m

SEED

Sifted Take

Heroes had the biggest seed round of any European in 2020.

Eigen Technologies's logo

Eigen Technologies

Provides machine learning, qualitative analysis tool for businesses

legal / enterprise software

eigentech.com

London, UK

2014

€55m

SERIES B

€18-27m

100-500

Sifted Take

The financial services industry goes through a lot of documents, so of course its interested in natural language processing capabilities — and Eigen Technologies is a startup that does just that. Founded in 2014, their clients include Blackrock, Allen & Overy, and one-third of all G-SIBs. In 2020, its Series B round raised $42m, led by Goldman Sachs and ING. Read more: How AI is changing the game for banks

Form3's logo

Form3

Cloud-based platform for complete end-to-end processing of payments

fintech / payments

form3.tech

London, UK

2016

€52m

SERIES C

€120-180m

100-500

Sifted Take

Form3 helps banks and fintechs make super-fast payments using its cloud-based platform. In its latest Series C funding round, it raised $33m from investors including Nationwide and Lloyds — part of the deal involves the two banks implementing the technology for their customers. Their plan is to build a global transaction platform for SMEs real-time services, to roll out to at least 690k small firms by the end of 2023. Such a big target has got to mean they're one to watch.

Cleo's logo

Cleo

An intelligent assistant for your money

fintech / AI

meetcleo.com

London, UK

2016

€52m

SERIES B

€160-240m

50-100

Sifted Take

Cleo leads in the financial wellness niche, although it doesn't quite offer the whole nine yards, lacking tailored saving advice or hacks for users. Read more: The best London startups to work at in 2021

Duffel's logo

Duffel

API-based travel agency platform

marketplace & ecommerce / travel

duffel.com

London, UK

2017

€51m

SERIES B

€109-164m

10-50

Sifted Take

Duffel may be set back by Covid-19, but prior to the pandemic it was set to transform the travel sector by integrating customisable flight add-on services in its business-to-business service. American Airlines and British Airways are just two of its clients.

Read more: Startup travel disrupter Duffel raises another $30m and finally comes out to stealth

Tractable.AI's logo

Tractable.AI

Insurtech using AI to evaluate costs

fintech; enterprise software / insurance

tractable.ai

London, UK

2014

€104m

SERIES D

€91-136m

100-500

Sifted Take

The startup uses AI to predict the cost behind car accidents and natural disaster repairs. In February 2020, it raised $25m in a round led by Georgian Partners. It plans to expand across Europe, parts of Asia and North America. Related: How to stop the looming “AI winter”

Wagestream's logo

Wagestream

App for employees to access earned wages before payday

fintech / financial management solutions

wagestream.co.uk

London, UK

2018

€47m

SERIES B

€96-144m

50-100

Sifted Take

Wagestream is one of the most innovative of the 'buy now, pay later' startups. It allows users to draw down a percentage of their earned wages before payday without any interest at all, at a flat fee of £1.75 — in an attempt to prevent the public entering into cycles of debt and payday loans. It's clearly working: with over 300k customers and a £20m Series B round in July 2020. But it's also clearly necessary, as according to its CEO Briffett, 55% of UK households don't have £250 in savings to access in an emergency. Let's see how it fares against other 'salary-on-demand' fintechs like Hastee, also based in the UK. Read more: The rise of an ethical alternative to payday lenders?

Logos provided by Clearbit