2021 sees first tech unicorns in Austria

06 Sep 2021

The first tech unicorns have emerged this year in Austria – businesses valued over $1 billion – along with other substantial fundraisings.

Venture capital funding for start-ups has soared in Austria in recent years. In 2020 alone, €234 million in investments was reported in the country, according to Florian Kandler, editor-in-chief of Startup Report Austria, nearly three times the amount from 2016.

Vienna-based crypto trading platform Bitpanda revealed it had raised $263 million in Series C funding, at a $4.1 billion valuation; refurbished electronics company Refurbed announced $54 million in Series B funding; Storebox, the logistics platform raised €52 million in July; and online education platform GoStudent raised €205 million, at a valuation of €1.4 billion, reports the Financial Times.

“We have been waiting for our first unicorns to come out, and this year we’ve had two, with Bitpanda and GoStudent,” said Oliver Holle, co-founder and managing partner at Vienna-based venture capital fund Speedinvest.

“With these two, I think we have now arrived, and we have a handful of significant scale-ups that really create a fertile ground for everything to follow. We have five to 10 in Vienna that all have a couple of hundred people in their organisations.”

That said, the start-up ecosystem in Austria continues to trail other European countries. The majority of capital being introduced into Austrian start-ups comes from elsewhere. Indeed, 90% of venture capital funding invested in Austria over the last six months came from international investors and funds, said Nina Wöss, chair of the Austrian Private Equity and Venture Capital Organisation (AVCO).

She added that some 15 years ago, Austria was home to a comparatively active venture capital and private equity scene, yet this all changed following the 2008 financial crisis: “At one point, there were no venture funds left that were active and trusted by the community,” she said.

However, the coronavirus crisis has helped to make contact between start-ups and venture capital funds more straightforward due to most communication being online. Yet Holle added that the majority of the capital has been allocated to more established start-up ecosystems, “which makes it more difficult for fringe ecosystems like Vienna.”