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London Tech Week

From startups to unicorns: 10 German tech companies leading the pack

German unicorns

European tech companies have undeniably entered the global stage to compete with tech made in Silicon Valley. While the United States is still home to 4 times the amount of unicorns (companies with over $1 billion valuation), Europe is catching up at speed and breeding unicorns faster than the US ever did.

In Europe, Germany is a breeding ground for tech companies due to several factors, including a robust economy, skilled workforce, research and development, supportive ecosystem, international reach, and market size. The influx of funding is also a major factor and we recently saw German companies, including GetYourGuide, NexWafe, Enpal, etc. raised funding to fuel growth. These factors collectively contribute to Germany’s success in fostering the growth of technology unicorns.

Currently, there are over 50 tech unicorns in Germany. As per reports, it takes seven years for a startup in the country to achieve unicorn status but there are exceptions as the delivery services Gorillas and Flink and e-commerce services Sellerx and Razor Group managed to reach a valuation of $1 billion in the first year of their operation.

While it is no surprise that Berlin and Munich stand out as startup hotspots, the emergence of smaller cities as thriving startup hubs is noticeable. That said, here are some popular German unicorns that are contributing to the thriving unicorns ecosystem in the country.

Delivery Hero

Delivery Hero team
Photo credits: Delivery Hero

Founder/s: Kolja Hebenstreit, Lukasz Gadowski, Markus Fuhrmann, Niklas Ostberg
Founded year: 2011
Total funding: $1.8B
Valuation: $14B

Online food delivery service, Delivery Hero, operates in numerous countries worldwide. The company partners with local restaurants and connects them with customers through its platform, providing convenient and fast food delivery services. Delivery Hero’s platform allows users to order food from a wide range of restaurants and cuisines, with options for delivery or pickup.

The company aims to make food delivery accessible, efficient, and enjoyable for customers while supporting local restaurants and contributing to the gig economy by creating flexible employment opportunities for delivery personnel.

Delivery Hero has built a strong presence in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the US and it operates under various brand names in different regions, such as Foodora, Foodpanda, PedidosYa, Talabat, and many others.

Celonis

Celonis team
Photo credits: Celonis

Founder/s: Alexander Rinke, Bastian Nominacher, Martin Klenk
Founded year: 2011
Total funding: $1.8B
Valuation: $13B

Celonis is a software company that specialises in process mining and process excellence. Its flagship product, the Celonis Execution Management System (EMS), leverages data from various sources within an organisation to provide insights into how business processes are executed. It analyses event logs, such as those generated by enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and visualises the end-to-end process flows.

By applying advanced analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence techniques, Celonis helps organisations uncover inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and deviations within their processes. The platform provides real-time visibility into process performance, allowing businesses to identify areas for improvement, streamline operations, and optimise their overall performance.

In 2022, Celonis received $1 billion in funding from the Qatar Investment Authority. This round is split into $400 million equity raise $600 million from a syndicate of leading global banks.

BioNTech

BioNTech team
Photo credits: BioNTech

Founder/s: Christoph Huber, Ozlem Türeci, Ugur Sahin
Founded year: 2008
Total funding: $1.4B
Valuation: $12.8B

BioNTech is a biotechnology company that develops and manufactures personalised immunotherapies for treating cancer and other diseases. Being a prominent player in mRNA (messenger RNA) technology, BioNTech focuses on utilising mRNA to develop novel therapeutic approaches.

BioNTech leverages this technology to instruct the patient’s own cells to produce specific proteins that can trigger an immune response against cancer cells or infectious agents. One of BioNTech’s most notable achievements came in partnership with Pfizer, when they collaborated to develop the first authorised COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to their work on vaccines, BioNTech also conducts research and development in other therapeutic areas, such as individualised cancer immunotherapy, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases.

Earlier this year, BioNTech agreed to buy UK artificial intelligence startup InstaDeep for up to £562 million.

N26 Group

N26 Group founders
Photo credits: N26 Group

Founder/s: Maximilian Tayenthal, Valentin Stalf
Founded year: 2013
Total funding: $1.7B
Valuation: $9B

N26 is a mobile banking platform that provides users with a range of financial services. It offers a fully digital banking experience, allowing customers to manage their finances conveniently from their smartphones. With N26, one can open an account quickly and easily, without the need to visit a physical bank branch. The platform provides features such as real-time transaction notifications, budgeting tools, and the ability to send and receive money from friends and family instantly. Additionally, N26 offers a Mastercard debit card that can be used for both online and offline purchases.

One of the key benefits of N26 is its focus on user experience and simplicity. The app has a clean and intuitive interface, making it easy to navigate and access various banking services. It also provides customer support through its in-app chat feature, ensuring that users can get assistance whenever needed.

A few days back, N26 was in the news as it announced the appointment of international regulatory compliance and governance expert Déborah Carlson-Burkart to its Group Supervisory Board.

Zalando

Zalando team
Photo credits: Zalando

Founder/s: David Schneider, Robert Gentz
Founded year: 2008
Total funding: $154M
Valuation: $8.9B

An e-commerce company specialising in fashion and lifestyle products, Zalando operates as an online marketplace, connecting customers with a wide range of clothing, footwear, accessories, and beauty products from various brands. The company offers a convenient and user-friendly online shopping experience, allowing customers to browse and purchase products from different retailers all in one place.

Zalando also provides services such as free shipping and returns, multiple payment options, and personalised recommendations based on customer preferences. In addition to its marketplace, it has expanded its operations by offering its own private-label fashion brands and collaborating with designers for exclusive collections. It has over 1.500 brands and over 150.000 product choices for nearly 17 million customers in 15 countries.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh team
Photo credits: HelloFresh

Founder/s: Alexander Samwer, Marc Samwer, Oliver Samwer
Founded year: 2011
Total funding: $393M
Valuation: $3.6B

A German meal kit delivery service, HelloFresh provides customers with pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to prepare meals at home. They offer a convenient solution for people who want to cook at home but don’t have the time or the desire to go grocery shopping.

With HelloFresh, one can choose from a variety of meal options each week, and they deliver the ingredients straight to your doorstep. The recipes are typically easy to follow, and the ingredients are fresh and high-quality. It’s a popular service for those looking for a convenient and enjoyable cooking experience.

Personio

Personio team
Photo credits: Personio

Founder/s: Arseniy Vershinin, Hanno Renner, Roman Schumacher
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: $744M
Valuation: $6.3B

Personio is an all-in-one HR software for small- and medium-sized businesses. It helps customers make their HR and payroll processes more efficient and resilient while delighting employees and employers alike. It offers SMEs recruiting, HR management, and payroll support through its all-in-one HR software.

The company’s mission is to make HR processes as transparent and efficient as possible so HR can focus on what matters most: people. It does the same by offering an all-in-one HR software that includes human resources management, recruiting and payroll, enabling HR to go beyond HR.

Last year, Personio announced a $200 million extension to its Series E round led by Existing investor Greenoaks that backed StarkWare and Linktree.

Trade Republic

Trade Republic team
Photo credits: Trade Republic

Founder/s: Christian Hecker, Marco Cancellieri, Thomas Pischke
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: $1.1B
Valuation: $5.5B

The fintech unicorn Trade Republic offers a mobile-based investment platform. It provides a mobile app that allows users to invest in various asset classes, including stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and derivatives. The platform offers a simplified and user-friendly interface, making it accessible to both experienced and novice investors. It also emphasises low fees and cost transparency, making it an attractive option for those seeking affordable investment solutions.

One of the key features of Trade Republic is its commission-free trading model. The platform allows users to trade stocks and ETFs without paying any commission fees, although there may still be some external charges, such as exchange fees. In 2022, Trade Republic snapped €250 million in a Series C extension led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board.

Scout24 Holding

Scout24 Holding team
Photo credits: Scout24 Holding

Founder/s: Nick Carbonari, Nikola Deskovic
Founded year: 1998
Total funding: Not Available
Valuation: $5.1B

Scout24 Holding is a German digital marketplace operating in the real estate and automotive sectors. It offers ImmobilienScout24 – an online real estate marketplace in Germany that lets users search for properties, including apartments, houses, and commercial real estate, for sale or rent. The platform provides comprehensive property listings, along with features such as search filters, maps, and contact options to connect buyers, sellers, landlords, and tenants.

AutoScout24, on the other hand, is a popular online marketplace for buying and selling cars across Europe. Users can search for new and used cars, compare prices, and connect with sellers. The platform covers a wide range of vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles, and commercial vehicles.

wefox

wefox team
Photo credits: wefox

Founder/s: Julian Teicke, Fabian Wesemann, Dario Fazlic
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: $1.4B
Valuation: $4.5B

The wefox platform provides a range of services to insurance brokers, enabling them to manage their client relationships, access insurance products, and streamline their operations. It offers a digital workspace where brokers can communicate with their clients, access policy information, and handle administrative tasks.

The platform also provides data analytics and insights to help brokers better understand their business and optimise their operations. The digital insurance company differentiates itself by selling third-party products through human agents rather than direct channels.

Recently, the German insurtech has now raised a total of $110 million in funding to develop a platform that will enable other insurers to access its advanced technology.

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