In the business and startup world, the term “unicorn” refers to a privately held startup company that has reached or exceeded a valuation of 1 billion US dollars.
Definition of a unicorn startupThe term “unicorn” was popularized by investor Aileen Lee in 2013 and is meant to signify a true, almost mythical rarity with which these companies should be regarded. The number of such companies worldwide is slightly above 1,000.
Due to their rapid growth, disruptive model, and potential for significant profits, these companies are among the most interesting for investors in the startup ecosystem.
Typically, these companies are from the technology sector (due to easy scalability) and have a global market focus, such as:
- artificial intelligence,
Some of the most well-known unicorns in the world are Canva, Uber, Airbnb, SpaceX, Stripe, and Robinhood. The value of a unicorn startup is determined based on the investment rounds typically led by venture capitalists or private funds. These investors purchase stakes in the company, and each investment round contributes to its valuation. Achieving unicorn status, although a significant milestone, is not a guarantee of success, as many factors can influence the startup’s future. Considering that the number of unicorn companies worldwide is small, it is not surprising that the number of unicorns in the region does not exceed 10.
In Southeast Europe, only Croatia, Greece, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria can boast having such companies. Here’s a list of the Southeast European unicorns:
Payhawk – 1 billion dollars
The only unicorn from Bulgaria is Payhawk. The startup was founded in July 2018 by Boyko Karadzhov, Hristo Borisov, and Konstantin Djengozov. It operates in B2B finance management. Payhawk offers financial departments of companies a unique location from which they can manage their finances throughout the spending cycle, from corporate credit cards to accounts and invoices. In addition to credit cards, Payhawk provides a payment services management system for its clients.
The headquarters of the company have now been relocated to London, but the development team of Payhawk and two-thirds of the company are in Bulgaria. Payhawk has between 250 and 500 employees. In six investment cycles, Payhawk managed to raise $239.1 million. The biggest investors in the company are Eleven Ventures, Earlybird Venture Capital, QED Investors, Greenoaks, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
UiPath Inc. – $37 billion (IPO)
The Romanian company UiPath is the most valuable unicorn in the region. It was founded in Bucharest, Romania, in 2005. The founders of the company are Daniel Dines and Marius Tirca. Since April 2021, UiPath is a public company.
Image courtesy of UiPath / Facebook Today, the company’s headquarters are in New York, and they have between 1,000 and 5,000 employees.
The company focuses on designing and developing software for robotic process automation. The technology they develop enables training robots to automate repetitive tasks that would otherwise be performed by humans. The latest investment cycle for the company concluded in February 2021. The major investors in UiPath are Earlybird Venture Capital, Accel, CapitalG, Sequoia Capital, Coatue, Global Secure Invest, and Alkeon Capital.
MultiversX – $1 billion
The second Romanian unicorn, MultiversX (formerly Elrond), is a blockchain project that aims to bring the metaverse closer to users. The company was founded in May 2018 by Beniamin Mincu, Lucian Mincu, and Lucian Todea.
The company started with the idea of creating a global, transparent, fast, inflation-resistant financial system accessible to all. The result of their work is the Maiar App (now xPortal) and the cryptocurrency eGold (EGLD). The startup works on three interconnected products: xFabric – a fully customizable blockchain module that can be used within minutes; xPortal – a platform for avatars in the metaverse that encompasses all financial and social aspects; xWorld – a network of interoperable metaverses. xPortal is a digital wallet that enables direct money transfers between users, serving as an alternative to PayPal or Google Pay. In two investment cycles, the company raised $1.9 million. The major investor in the company is Binance Labs.
Arguably the most recognizable name on the list is the Croatian hypercar manufacturer Rimac Automobili (now Rimac Group). The company started in 2009 in the garage of Mate Rimac. The company’s headquarters are in Sveta Nedelja, Croatia. Today, Rimac has between 1,000 and 5,000 employees.
The company is known for its hypercars, such as the Concept One and Nevera, but it is a true technological giant when it comes to electric vehicles. Rimac produces components for various manufacturers. Batteries for Aston Martin Valkyrie, Koenigsegg Regera, Jaguar E-type Zero, and SEAT Cupra e-Racer are designed in Croatia. In 2021, the company underwent restructuring. The former Rimac Automobili was divided into Bugatti Rimac and Rimac Technology. Both companies fall under Rimac Group. Bugatti Rimac is 55% owned by Rimac and 45% owned by Porsche. Rimac Technology is 100% owned by Rimac.
The company has 10 investors and has raised a total of $975.8 million so far. Some of the investors in Rimac are Camel Group, Porsche Ventures, Hyundai Motor Company, Kia Motors, Goldman Sachs, and SoftBank Vision Fund.
Another well-known name from Croatia is Infobiphttps://www.infobip.com/. The startup was founded in 2006 by Silvio Kutic and Izabel Jelenic. The Croatian unicorn is based in the town of Vodnjan and currently has more than 3,500 employees in 70 countries worldwide.
The company is a creator of cloud communication services for businesses, organizations, and telecommunication providers worldwide. It all started with the idea of creating a virtual community for the residents of Vodnjan. Besides this, they also work in various other sectors such as robotics. Infobip is a creator of programs that support startups in the region. Since 2022, Infobip has been the owner of Netokracija.
The company has raised $800 million in two investment cycles. The major investors in the company are One Equity Partners, Ares Management, and BlackRock.
PeopleCert – $1.1 billion
Greece got its first unicorn with the startup PeopleCert. The company was founded in 2000 by Byron Nicolaides. Currently, they have between 200 and 500 employees.
PeopleCert’s platform offers assessment and certification for professional skills. They focus on skills such as project management, online security, and business transformation. The company provides tests in 200 countries and territories, in 25 languages.
PeopleCert has made two acquisitions so far, AXELOS and DevOps Institute.
Viva Wallet – $1.5 billion
The second Greek unicorn, Viva Wallet, was founded in 2010 by Harris Karanis, Makis Antipas, and Panos Tsakos. The company is headquartered in Athens and has between 500 and 1000 employees.
Viva Wallet is the first fully-cloud European neo-bank. They have branches in 23 European countries and are a member of Visa and MasterCard for acquiring and issuing services. They provide services for accepting cards for businesses of all sizes through innovative Smart Android terminals and Android Viva.
Last year, the company sold a 49% stake to JP Morgan for $989.5 million, reaching a valuation of $1.5 billion.
You may not recognize the name Outfit7, but you will undoubtedly recognize the talking cat – “Talking Tom.” The company was founded in July 2009 in Ljubljana by Samo and Iza Login. Today, their headquarters are in Île-de-France, and they have between 50 and 100 employees.
Although they started with creating applications, Outfit7 became super successful as a creator of video games for iOS and Android. Their most popular game, “Talking Tom Cat” was created a few months after the founding, following several unsuccessful projects. The game is simple. There’s a cat on the phone screen. The cat repeats what the user says but in a helium-like voice. The Talking Tom and Friends franchise was downloaded 300 million times 19 months after its creation. In 2022, the number of downloads surpassed 18 billion.
In 2017, the United Luck Holdings Consortium acquired the studio for $1 billion. Samo Login became the director of the company, and Iza Login remained an advisor.