Top 10 European unicorns born in the first quarter of 2021

By Kate Birch
Now worth more than US$1 billion, each of these European-born startups achieved unicorn status in the first quarter of 2021. We rank them by value...

Dominated by Germany and the UK but with contributions from Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, these 10 startups became unicorns in the first quarter of 2021, between January 1 and March 31, all reaching values greater than US$1bn. 

While the industries of fintech and software enterprise reign list supreme, ecommerce also gets a look-in.

Here are the top 10 unicorns born in Q1 2021, ranked by valuation. 

10: Zego – US$1.1 billion

Country: UK
Value: US$1.1bn

London-born insurtech Zego achieved a US$1.1bn valuation and therefore unicorn status in March following a Series C funding round where it raised US$150m from backers including DST Global and General Catalyst, which means Zego has now raised a total of US$200m since its launch in 2016. Starting out with motorbike insurance for gig economy workers, Zego expanded to include a range of tech-enabled commercial motor insurance products, and currently has 270+ employees, which it plans to double this year. 

09: BitPanda – US$1.2 billion

Country: Austria
Value: US$1.2bn

Propelled to unicorn status by the rise of bitcoin, crypto currency broker startup BitPanda secured US$170m in a Series B funding round in March led by Valar Ventures, taking it to a US$1.2bn valuation, making it Austria’s first unicorn. This follows the landing of US$52m in Series A funding just six months prior. The digital brokering/exchange platform, which makes it easy for people to invest and trade in digital assets such as cryptocurrencies and precious metals, unveiled a Visa debit card in January allowing customers to switch among multiple assets to fund payments. 

Born in Vienna in 2014, Bitpanda entered France, Turkey, Spain, Poland and Italy in 2020 and is planning to establish a presence in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin and London. 

08: Fastned – US$1.32 billion

Country: The Netherlands
Value: US$1.32bn

In February, Dutch renewable infrastructure company Fastned raised US$209m via an accelerated bookbuild offering leading to unicorn status. This follows capital of US$21.6m raised in November 2020. With its mission to build a network of 1000 fast-charging electric vehicle stations on prime locations throughout Europe, Fastned has so far built and operates more than 130 including Germany, the UK, Belgium and Switzerland, since its founding in 2012. 

With this significant funding, the Amsterdam-based company is looking to accelerate its expansion plans, enlarging its footprint in key locations with an eye on France and Germany in particular. 

07: Starling Bank – US$1.53 billion

Country: UK
Value: US$1.53bn

Following a hugely successful 2020, London-based Starling Bank became a fintech unicorn in March following a Series D funding round that brought in US$378 million, which was led by US investor Fidelity Investments and included financial input from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Not only was this the UK challenger bank’s largest capital to date, but it was oversubscribed, and led to a valuation of US$1.53bn and unicorn status. 

One of the UK’s fastest-growing banks having opened over 2 million accounts since its founding in 2017, and with net income now exceeding US$2m per month, Starling is looking to expand into Europe and to mergers and acquisitions. 

06: Personio – US$1.7 billion

Country: Germany
Value: US$1.7bn

German startup Personio, an all-in-one HR platform that targets small and medium-sized businesses picked up US$125m in Series D funding at the beginning of the year in a round led by Index Ventures, and also saw participation from Accel, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Northzone, Global Founders Capital, and Picus. This funding led to a US$1.7bn valuation, a big jump from the company’s US$500m valuation just a year prior, not surprising considering the Munich-based company, founded in 2015, has doubled its revenues during the pandemic as more SMEs realised the value of having a modern, integrated HR platform. 

Personio offers a completely integrated platform covering recruiting, onboatding, payroll, absence tracking and other functions and has some 3000 SMEs in Europe as clients. With the latest funding it will be expanding its footprint across Europe. 

05: Moonpig – US$1.95 billion

Country: UK
Value: US$1.95bn  

British-born online greeting card and gift retailer Moonpig, which was acquired by photo printing giant Photobox back in 2011 for US$167m, but split from it in 2019, are now owned by Exponent Private Equity. And in Feburary 2021, following a rise in revenue, Moonpig floated on the London Stock Exchange, resulting in a valuation of US$1.95bn and leading to unicorn status. Not surprising considering Moonpig’s unprecedented rise in revenue during the pandemic, with sales surging 135% between April – October 2020. 

Starting life as a personalised photo greeting cards company two decades ago, Moonpig now has some 12m customers and send around 45 million cards each year. 

04: Unit4 – US$2 billion

Country: The Netherlands
Value: US$2bn

Having been acquired by Advent International in 2014, Dutch enterprise software company Unit4 has now been acquired by private equity firm TA Associates in a deal that was valued at more than US$2bn. This partnership is expected to fast-track the firm’s vision of a ‘people-centric ERP’ targeting the mid-market enterprise organisation sector in particular. 

Founded in 1980 and listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in 1998, Unit4 designs and delivers enterprise software and ERP applications and related professional services education, public services and not-for-profit sectors. It’s best known for its ‘people experience’ suite. The company has 25+ offices in EMEA, North America and APAC. 

03: Mambu – US$2.5 billion

Country: Germany
Value: US$2.5bn

Credited with becoming the first German unicorn born in 2021, Berlin-based SaaS banking platform startup Mambu managed to secure US$132 in funding in January in a round led by TCV with participation from Tiger Global, Arena Holdings and others. Founded in 2011, it was one of the first-ever companies to leverage the opportunity to move banking software into the cloud. 

Mambu sells its software products to banks, fintech startups, non-profits and other businesses who want to develop their own digital banking platforms, thus helping them to power their financial products and services, with clients including Santander, ABN Amro, Orange and N26. With its recent unicorn status and fresh funding, Mambu plans to grow its footprint in the 50+ countries it operates. In March too, the startup reached nearly 100% YOY growth. 

02: Itiviti – US$2.5 billion

Country: Sweden
Value: US$2.5bn

Little surprise to see a unicorn here from Stockholm, considering that the city has bred more tech unicorns per capita than any other region in the world save for Silicon Valley. A trading technology and service provider to financial institutions worldwide, Itiviti focuses on front-office trade order and execution management systems and serves 24 of the 25 top investment banks. Built on a modular, open architecture, its award-winning sell-side OMS, trading and connectivity solutions enable financial insitutions to seize opportunities in global markets while providing reliable, efficient support to their trading operations. 

Over the past three years, it has heavily invested in its trading tech and partnered with various fintech experts to offer value-added functionality. Owned by private equity firm Nordic Capital since 2012 it was sold in March this year, it was acquired by Broadridge Financial Solutions in a deal valued at US$2.57bn. The startup is fast-growing and has more than 2,000 customers worldwide and over US$240m in revenues with some 1000 employees. 

01: Mytheresa – US$3 billion

Country: Germany
Value: US$3bn

Luxury ecommerce company Mytheresa, which specialises in women’s clothing and accessories and carries more than 250 brands including exclusives from brands such as Bottega Veneta and Prada, and has customers in more than 140 countries, saw a valuation surge to US$3bn following its IPO on the NYSE earlier this year in January. 

The company is based in Munich began as a luxury boutique in Munich three decades ago but was acquired in 2014 by US retailer Neiman Marcus, which subsequently went bankrupt, with Mytheresa managing to emerge in Autumn 2020. It has since boomed during the pandemic. The company reported net income of US$7.7m for fiscal year 2020 and is aiming for revenue growth of 25% each year with expansion in the US and China. 


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