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The unicorns of SEE that are making the ecosystem stronger

SEE unicorn founders
Image credit: From left up to right: Daniel Dines, Beniamin Mincu, Byron Nicolaides, Silvio Kutic, Hristo Borisov, Haris Karonis

Since UiPath’s unicorn milestone in 2018, the tech ecosystem in Southeast Europe keeps getting stronger every year. To become a unicorn company in the region used to mean beating the odds. In the current climate, with already 6 Southeast Europe unicorns with local teams, the fading of geographic boundaries, and over 13 European VC funds that will be investing in regional innovation, becoming a unicorn in the region is not a faraway dream anymore.

It may be that 2022 will be the year with the most SEE unicorns to date. Already, by March 2022, there have been two unicorn sightings in SEE, Greece’s Viva Wallet and Bulgaria’s Payhawk, both from the financial services industry. SEE also has unicorns in the deep tech space, logistics and delivery, telecommunications, and education management. The earliest funding stage at which a company became a unicorn in the region is seed, after Elrond’s valuation in 2021. 

A timeline of unicorn company sighting in Southeast Europe

Infographic SEE Unicorns

UiPath, Romania

Industry: Enterprise software, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics

Founders: Daniel Dines, Marius Tirca, Prabhdeep Singh

Back in 2018, UiPath was the first startup in Romania to reach a unicorn valuation. UiPath had a long road to success, yet as a firm believer in the potential of robots to improve and scale business operations, it eventually became the largest robotic process automation (RPA) technology company in the world. In April 2021, UiPath made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, reaching over $37 billion at the end of the first round. Based in New York City, UiPath is now present in 40 offices around the world, while keeping a strong culture.

Infobip, Croatia

Industry: Enterprise software, Mobile & Telecommunications

Founders: Izabel Jelenic, Roberto Kutic, Silvio Kutic

Infobip became Croatia’s first unicorn in 2020. The company was founded in 2006, from the idea of building a virtual community in the city of Vodnjan. Today, Infobip is one of the biggest customer communication software companies from SEE, with more than 3,500 employees and 70 offices worldwide, and headquartered in London. To date, the company had four acquisitions in areas such as robotics, as well as launched a startup support program in the region.

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Elrond, Romania

Industry: Blockchain, Financial services

Founders: Beniamin Mincu, Lucian Mincu, Lucian Todea

Three years after the success of UiPath, Elrond walked on their footsteps, becoming the second unicorn in Romania. Through its range of solutions, the Elrond Network is looking to power the future of autonomous banking. From Sibiu, the Elrond founders built the eponymous blockchain platform, the eGold (EGLD) cryptocurrency, and a mobile wallet and global payments app alternative to the likes of Paypal and Google Pay, called Maiar. The company is headquartered in Malta.

PeopleCert, Greece

Industry: Education management

Founders: Byron Nicolaides 

Last year, Greece got its first unicorn when PeopleCert reached an estimated $1.1 billion market valuation. The company offers assessment and certification of professional skills, in areas such as project management, cybersecurity, and business transformation. Its portfolio also includes two acquisitions in the market, which brought a global clientele such as Amazon and the United States army. Overall, PeopleCert works with 50K companies and 800 governments around the world.

Viva Wallet, Greece

Industry: Financial services

Founders: Haris Karonis, Makis Antypas, Panos Tsakos

At the beginning of the year, Viva Wallet sold 49% of its stakes  to JP Morgan, reaching a $1.5 billion valuation, according to estimates. Founded 21 years ago, the company is the first cloud-based neobank in Europe to provide localized payment and credit services to SMEs, and is currently building on the momentum in the global challenger bank market. So far, Viva Wallet offers its infrastructure across 23 EU countries, tailoring services to specific local payment methods in each country.

Payhawk, Bulgaria

Industry: Financial services

Founders: Boyko Karadzhov, Hristo Borisov, Konstantin Dzhengozov

The newest unicorn in Southeast Europe, fintech startup Payhawk, reached a $1B valuation milestone. This comes four years after launch and three months after their historic series B round, which saw Payhawk become the fastest CEE company to reach Series B and pass $100M in VC funding. Payhawk helps companies integrate credit cards, payments, expenses, cash management, and pre-accounting into one experience. Currently, the solutions are available in 27 countries across Europe.

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Antoanela is a Sustainability Communications Specialist and Deputy Editor at The Recursive media. From these roles, she is helping organizations communicate their latest sustainability goals, strategies, and technologies. She writes about climate tech, ESG, impact investment, sustainability regulation, and related topics.