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10 best industrial tech startups that hit unicorn status in 2021

European unicorns

Europe’s unicorn herd has flourished amidst the pandemic crisis and has outgrown China’s following a heavy inflow of VC investments.

Undoubtedly, European Industrial Tech is now a significant ecosystem with a combined enterprise value of these startups having grown 2.2x in one year. As per a new report by Dealroom and Speedinvest, Europe has produced 72 new unicorns this year while China is only a meagre 22. Also, Europe has received high VC investments as compared to the US and Asia in 2021.

Apparently, this is the first time Europe is ahead of China in terms of the number of unicorns created or the $1 billion valuation, which is a sign that there is enormous momentum in the European tech space. The report notes that European tech has hit the purple patch this year. While there is a tech boom, here is a list of 10 European $1 billion industrial tech startups that TFN has compiled, based on the report. Do give it a read!

Agile Robots
Image credits: Agile Robots

​​Agile Robots (Germany)

Founder/s: Zhaopeng Chen, Peter Meusel
Founded year: 2018
Total funding: $230M

Headquartered in Munich, Germany and Beijing, China, Agile Robots is a leading intelligent robotics company and is currently the single unicorn in the intelligent robotics field by a valuation exceeding $1 billion worldwide.

In September 2021, the company completed its Series C funding round raising $220 million and joined the unicorn club. It is a SoftBank Vision Fund 2 backed firm and has strategic investors like Foxconn, Xiaomi and more.

Some of its products include Agile Robots, an extremely disruptive “robotic worker” who works as a smart assistant to workers and professionals from different fields to take over mundane or dangerous tasks.

Image credits: InPost

InPost (Poland)

Founder/s: Rafał Brzoska
Founded year: 2006
Total funding: NA

Polish logistics and e-commerce delivery company InPost which recently entered into a partnership with Tesco Plc, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has also exceeded the $1 billion valuation.

In January 2021, InPost raised €2.8 billion (nearly $3.2 billion) in the biggest European IPO since 2018 at a valuation of almost $6.5bn. Also, the company was listed on Euronext Amsterdam. With this, Advent International, Templeton Strategic Emerging Markets Fund and PZU Fundusz became the stockholders of the company.

InPost manufactures and operates automated parcel lockers for e-commerce logistics. It is touted to be a one-of-its-kind company, which revolutionised e-commerce delivery with a convenient way to send and return parcels via a network of easy to use terminals.

Image credits: Celonis

Celonis (Germany)

Founder/s: Alexander Rinke, Bastian Nominacher, Martin Klenk
Founded year: 2011
Total funding: $1.4B

Based in Munich, Celonis is all about big data analytics and process mining and it hit the unicorn club recently in June 2021.

It was when Celonis bagged $1 billion in a Series D funding round. The investment came from Franklin Templeton Investments, Splunk Ventures, T. Rowe Price Associates, and Durable Capital Partners.

Celonis basically utilises software to recognise how work flows through an organisation and recommends more effective methods of procreating the same job done, also known as process mining.

Image credits: Forto

Forto (Germany)

Founder/s: Ferry Heilemann, Erik Muttersbach, Michael Wax, Fabian Heilemann
Founded year: 2016
Total funding: $366M

Headquartered in Berlin, a provider of digitised freight forwarding and supply chain solutions, Forto was founded under the name FreightHub and also hit a $1.26 billion valuation in June 2021.

The German startup grabbed $240 million in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and participation from Citi Ventures, G Squared, and Northzone.

Forto is commencing a new age of disruptive logistics firms via its digital platform to simplify communications, eliminate process friction, and enhance supply chain visibility and transparency, empowering customers with more useful insights to make smarter choices.

Image credits: DarkTrace

DarkTrace (UK)

Founder/s: Poppy Gustafsson
Founded year: 2013
Total funding: $230M

Cambridge-based cybersecurity startup DarkTrace practices software to control computer networks using AI. In fact, Darktrace is the first organisation to implement AI to the challenge of cyber security and it was founded by mathematicians and cyber experts from government intelligence backgrounds.

In April this year, as a part of its IPO filing, DarkTrace raised £165.1 million.

With its Immune System platform, the female-founded company radically modified the understanding of businesses to protect their most significant assets in the face of soaring cyber-threat.

Image credits: sennder

Sennder (Germany)

Founder/s: David Nothacker, Julius Köhler, Nicolaus Schefenacke
Founded year: 2015
Tota funding: $311M

A digital freight forwarder from Berlin, sennder, focuses on moving cargo around Europe by linking large commercial shippers and small freight carriers.

In May 2021, sennder raised $80 million as an extension to the Series D funding of $160 million that it secured in January and tipped a valuation of $1.2bn. The investment came from Hedosophia, Accel, Lakestar, HV Capital, Project A and Scania. With this, sennder became one of the most freight forwarders to be funded well.

Image credits: AutoStore

AutoStore (Norway)

CEO: Karl Johan Lier
Founded year: 1995
Total funding: $2.8B

Norwegian warehouse robot technology company AutoStore focuses on both software and hardware to create the future of warehousing, and it also became a unicorn this year and has a valuation of almost $8bn.

In April, the robotics and software firm secured $2.8 billion from SoftBank.

AutoStore has come up with an automated storage and retrieval system, which harnesses the power of warehouse robots for 24/7 order fulfillment.

Image credits: Arqit


Founder/s: David Williams, David Bestwick
Founded year: 2017
Total funding: NA

The leading British quantum technology encryption startup Arqit has been in news for backing the development and launch of two satellites in 2023 to shield from increasing hacking threats.

In May this year, it reached a valuation of $1.4B after picking $400 million from Sumitomo Corporation and Virgin Orbit — and with this Arqit became the first space unicorn company.

Based in the Cayman Islands and registered on the Nasdaq stock exchange, the UK startup has secured funding from the British government when it was under stealth mode.

Image credits: Secunet

Secunet (Germany)

CEO: Rainer Baumgart
Founded year: 1997
Total funding: NA

A leading cybersecurity company from Germany, secunet specialises in areas with unique security requirements including eGovernment, cloud, IoT, and eHealth. The startup’sIts security solutions lets companies maintain the highest security standards in and advance their digital transformation.

Also, secunet is an IT security partner to the Federal Republic of Germany and a German Alliance for Cyber Security’s partner as well.

Image credits: ivalua

Ivalua (France)

Founder/s: David Khuat-Duy
Founded year: 2000
Total funding: $133M

French procurement empowerment platform, Ivalua’s Source-to-Pay suite is leveraged by more than 300 leading global companies to manage over $500 billion spend indirect spend.

The platform is easy to use, flexible and ensures high employee and supplier adoption. It is equipped to meet the evolving and unique requirements of users. Back in 2019, Ivalua raised $60 million in growth equity funding from Tiger Global Management, Ardian Growth, KKR, and Ardian Growth.

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