\The Nordic startups and scaleups to watch in 2021

\The Nordic startups and scaleups to watch in 2021

Nordic countries received €5bn in venture capital in 2020. Which which are the companies to watch in 2021?

The Nordics are a startup powerhouse.

First there came Spotify and Supercell. Then came names like fintech giant Klarna, oat milk brand Oatly and battery developer Northvolt.

Covid-19 also opened up opportunities for a host of Nordic startups to move into US markets, such as Oura Health — the wellness ring used by Prince Harry and the Silicon Valley elite.

So what’s coming up next for the region, and which startups are going places this year?

Our team of experts at Sifted have selected more than 100 companies we think you need to know about.

(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

Klarna's logo

Klarna

Payment solutions for online stores and 'Buy Now Pay Later' provider

fintech / payments

klarna.com

Stockholm, Sweden

2005

€3,100m

GROWTH EQUITY

€9.6bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

Don't be fooled by Klarna's candy-pink branding, buzzy slogans and glitzy advertising. The fintech recently secured a $10.65bn valuation and is eyeing a public listing in the next couple of years.

Klarna offers “buy now pay later” loans at selected retailers, giving consumers instant credit at checkout, which they then pay back over in installments. It now operates across most of Europe, as well as Australia and the US.

Founded in 2005 in Sweden, the company makes most of its money from retailers, who give Klarna a chunk of the transaction price each time. Consumer late fees and interest make up an undisclosed part of its revenue, but the company was profitable for 10 years up until 2019.

Nonetheless, Klarna has come under fire in recent years for failing to flag the dangers of debt to consumers, with pressure groups lobbying for clearer advertising standards.

Read more: Pablo Escobar’s brother is suing Klarna for millions

Is Klarna worth $11bn?

Northvolt's logo

Northvolt

Lithium-ion batteries

energy / energy storage

northvolt.com

Stockholm, Sweden

2016

€4,000m

GROWTH EQUITY

€3bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

When green energy startup Northvolt raised $1bn in 2019, it came as quite a surprise.

Based in northern Sweden and founded by a former Tesla employee, Northvolt is building a lithium-ion battery cell factory to supply the world's growing fleet of electric cars — and, perhaps, other forms of transport too.

It hit the headlines again in 2020, when Spotify founder Daniel Ek announced that he was participating in a new $600m funding round into Northvolt; the first investment from his €1bn 'moonshot' fund.

Read more: This Swedish startup just raised $1bn to build a battery farm to rival Tesla’s “gigafactory”

Spotify founder backs gigafactory as first deeptech investment

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Oda (previously Kolonial)'s logo

Oda (previously Kolonial)

Offers same-day or next-day delivery of food, meal kits and home essentials

food logistics & delivery / marketplace & ecommerce

oda.com/no

Oslo, Norway

2013

€338m

LATE VC

€750m

100-500

Sifted Take

Norwegian online grocery startup Oda (formerly called Kolonial) has just raised €223m from SoftBank and Prosus (formerly Naspers) at a €750m post-money valuation. That’s one of the biggest funding rounds ever for a Norwegian startup — but it’s not the only thing it has to boast about.

In 2020, Oda grew 100% and hit close to €200m in revenue. It now accounts for 70% of all online grocery orders in Norway — and so far this year, it’s turning a profit.

But on top of that, cofounder and CEO Karl Munthe-Kaas reckons Oda has also developed the world’s most operationally efficient warehouse system. It now has a UPH (average units processed per labour hour) of more than 212, which is streaks ahead of the competition. (Even the UK’s Ocado, considered a leader in grocery technology, had a UPH of 168 in 2019.)

Read more: Online grocer Kolonial raises €223m from SoftBank and Prosus to take on Europe — and rebrands as Oda.

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

Tink is one of Europe’s most interesting fintechs — having rolled out giants like MasterCard and Paypal who have expressed an interest in acquiring the Swedish fintech.

But they’re not budging just yet. “This is far too much fun to be acquired,” Tink cofounder Fredrik Hedberg told Sifted.

The fintech started off as a consumer app in 2012, helping customers keep track of their personal finances, but later pivoted to providing banks and other fintech players with its aggregation software. Now it’s one of Europe’s largest open-banking companies, boasting the highest number of regional clients, and is now valued at €680m after an €85m round in December 2020 which included PayPal and Opera Tech Ventures.

In October 2020, it also partnered with French fintech Lydia to help improve its open banking features.

Nuff said — we’re on the edge of our seats.

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

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).

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

LATE VC

€1.9-2.9bn

1000-5000

Sifted Take

Wolt nicely abolished Delivery Hero and Takeaway.com’s duopolies on the food delivery market in Europe, when it announced a €7.5m investment from Delivery Hero cofounder Lukasz Gadowski in October 2020. Don’t be fooled by the low number. In January 2021, it raised a whopping $530m in a round led by ICONIQ Growth.

The company now has operations in 23 countries and 129 cities, focused on the Nordics and Eastern Europe; and it recently branched out into groceries, pharmacies, pet stores, florists, home decor and utility retailers.

“Companies like us give brick-and-mortar retailers a way to compete with Amazon,” CEO Kuusi told Sifted. “Our preferred model is to work with partners,” he said four months later. “Partners can provide as good an experience and efficiency as dark stores.” Wolt now has 1,500 retail partners, big and small, including Spar in Poland, Carrefour in Georgia and ICA in Sweden.

Kuusi is also toying with the idea of licensing Wolt’s technology as another way to grow the company.

Keep an eye on Wolt — it’s preparing for an IPO too, taking ample advice from existing investors 83North, Highland Europe, Goldman Sachs Growth Equity, EQT Ventures and Vintage Investment Partners; and new ones too — ICONIQ Growth, Tiger Global, DST, KKR, Prosus, EQT Growth and Coatue.

Sifted members can read more here.

Lendify's logo

Lendify

A digital bank challenger that gives borrowers fair conditions with lower interest rates and savers higher returns

fintech / mortgages & lending

lendify.se

Stockholm, Sweden

2014

€256m

LENDING CAPITAL

€182m

50-100

Kry's logo

Kry

Consult a doctor online

health / health platform

kry.se

Stockholm, Sweden

2014

€511m

SERIES D

€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

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Vivino's logo

Vivino

Online wine marketplace

marketplace & ecommerce / food

vivino.com

Copenhagen, Denmark

2010

€192m

SERIES D

€636m

100-500

Sifted Take

Wine lovers will know Vivino — the startup considered ‘Netflix for wine’ that has seen a huge 1.5bn wine labels scanned by 50m users. It allows users to identify, rate and review wines.

In February 2021, the company announced a $155m raise led by Swedish investment firm Kinnevik. It intends to expand in its key markets — Germany, Italy, the UK, Portugal and the US, where it is now headquartered in San Francisco.

Vivino has seen huge growth in the past year — with a 103% increase, year over year, in wine sales between 2019 and 2020. Online sales currently account for 3% of the $380bn global wine industry, but Vivino is confident the proportion will continue to grow.

Mathem's logo

Mathem

Online grocery shopping site in Sweden

food logistics & delivery / marketplace & ecommerce

mathem.se

Stockholm, Sweden

2009

€164m

DEBT

€266m

500-1000

Aiven's logo

Aiven

Fully-managed open source data infrastructure immediately deployable in public clouds

enterprise software / B2B

aiven.io

Helsinki, Finland

2016

€136m

SERIES C

€800m

100-500

Iceye's logo

Iceye

Develops micro-satellites used to capture images from space; the Aalto University spin-off

robotics / AI

iceye.com

Espoo, Finland

2015

€123m

SERIES C

€296-444m

100-500

Sifted Take

The Finnish space startup is expected to have a stellar 2021 with the acquisition of eight new spacecraft. It’s unique in its SAR microsatellites imaging capabilities, launching the first in 2018, but has failed to garner interest from European governments — instead focusing on North and South American governments for whom its collected imagery after natural and anthropogenic disasters, like oil spills.

A spin off from Aalto University, Newspace Capital, Seraphim Capital, Draper Associates and Space Angels are amongst its key investors. In September 2020, for instance, it raised €74m in its Series C — welcoming new investors like the Luxembourg Future Fund, NewSpace Capital and the European Investment Fund.

Read more: Iceye raises €74m to lead in communication from space

Lunar's logo

Lunar

Digital banking for the millennial generation

banking / mobile app

lunar.app/en

Aarhus, Denmark

2015

€108m

SERIES C

€160-240m

100-500

Sifted Take

Lunar (formerly Lunar Way) is going all out to show millennials they can have a productive relationship with their bank.

Its app offers the target group bank accounts, credit cards and smaller loans, alongside stock trading and mortgages — and hopes to be the next Monzo. In 2020 the fintech announced it’s interested in the buy now pay later market too — so it’s got Klarna in its sights. Indeed, it seems Lunar isn’t afraid of a moonshot.

By starting up in the Nordics, it’s benefited from focused but consistently strong growth, attracting tens of thousands of committed customers every month — with a total user base of over 200k across Sweden, Denmark and Norway. A launch in Finland is expected to come in the coming months.

It’s received consistent funding from Seed Capital Denmark, Nykredit Realkredit, Greyhound Capital and Socii Capital — amongst others — raising €40m in its October 2020 Series C, which brought its total funds to €108m.

But can it match the hot competition elsewhere?

Labster's logo

Labster

Revolutionising life science education with virtual reality and virtual laboratories

media / VR

labster.com

Copenhagen, Denmark

2011

€95m

SERIES C

€218-327m

100-500

Instabox's logo

Instabox

Parcel delivery service with smart locker

logistics and delivery / transportation

instabox.se

Stockholm, Sweden

2015

€94m

SERIES B

€327-491m

100-500

Sifted Take

The last-mile logistics startup, founded in 2015, claims to be growing 300% year-on-year. So what makes it different? Instead of delivering direct to doorstep, it delivers to smart lockers — citing sustainability as one of the core reasons.

“The shipping industry consists of ancient postal companies using fossil fuels and fossil tech,” Priftis says. Parcels are delivered by diesel or petrol-filled vans, which often stack up more miles on the road than necessary due to inefficient routing systems. On February 14 last year, the startup switched all its Swedish logistics to fossil-free fuels.

In February 2021, it raised €75m in a Series B round led by EQT Ventures — at the time telling Sifted it’s “on track to enter two substantial European markets”.

NA KD's logo

NA KD

Focusing on providing a unique ecommerce experience like no other for women across the globe

fashion / marketplace & ecommerce

na-kd.com

Gothenburg, Sweden

2015

€132m

LATE VC

€220m

100-500

Truecaller's logo

Truecaller

Mobile app that allows the user to see the identity of the caller and block spam calls

telecom / mobile app

truecaller.com

Stockholm, Sweden

2009

€91m

LATE VC

€22-33m

100-500

Varjo's logo

Varjo

Bionic display technology that allows users to see VR in human-eye resolution

VR / manufacturing

varjo.com

Helsingfors, Finland

2016

€84m

SERIES C

€184-275m

100-500

Sifted Take

While the VR hype seems to have died down since 2018, CEO Timo Toikkanen told Sifted there is a strong interest in business applications. Some of Varjo’s biggest clients are in the automotive sector, with carmakers using the headsets to allow designers to completely redesign the interiors of the car virtually before going to the expense of actually doing it. Medical research and astronaut training are two other use cases.

It seems to be a valid hypothesis. In August 2020, it announced a €46m raise in a Series C round just 18 months after the launch of its first virtual and mixed reality headset — bringing its total funding to €84m. The round included Atomico, Lifeline Ventures, EQT Ventures, Tesi, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Swisscanto Invest and Nordic Ninja VC.

Budbee's logo

Budbee

Helps transportation companies keep track of their deliveries

logistics and delivery / ecommerce solutions

budbee.com

Stockholm, Sweden

2015

€76m

LATE VC

€297m

100-500

Sifted Take

Budbee’s one of the startups leading Europe’s last-mile delivery and ecommerce boom. And indeed, 2020 was a great year for the company. In June, the company reported having reached revenues of €15m for the first half of 2020, the equivalent of the annual revenues of 2019. In December, the startup increased its revenue by 200%.

Budbee’s positioning itself as the sustainable option, and told Sifted it aims to to carry out 100% of its deliveries fossil-free — already the case for its operations in Sweden. It’s available in Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands too.

Budbee, founded in 2015 by Fredrik Hamilton, has early on managed to attract investors such as CO:LAB, the investment leg of H&M, and Kinnevik, a large Swedish investor that invested €10m in the company as late as spring 2019.

In January 2021, Budbee raised €52m in a new funding round led by one of the leading pension plan companies in Sweden, AMF, bringing its total funding to €76.1m.

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