Meet the UK’s 26 fintech unicorns

By Amelia Isaacs on Monday 15 August 2022

Editor's PickFeaturesAlternative LendingDigital BankingSavings and Investment

With the UK ranking fourth in the world for most unicorns, those in fintech are making up a large proportion. Once a rarity, $1bn startups are becoming almost common in the UK.

Meet the UK’s 26 fintech unicorns
Image source: Lendable/Revolut/Marshmallow/SaltPay.

In recent years, the number of fintech unicorns – startups valued at $1bn or more – has grown dramatically. In fact, 15 of the 26 active unicorns on this list reached their $1bn valuation in 2021, suggesting a real surge in fintech startups following covid lockdowns. 

This proves promising for the future of UK-based startups in the fintech world, and hopefully means there are many more to come in the future.

In this article, AltFi brings you the complete list of UK based fintech unicorns.

Think we missed someone? Let us know Editorial@AltFi.com

 

Active: 

Blockchain.com

Launched: August 2011

Date of $1bn valuation: February 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $5.2bn

Founded by: Nicolas Cary, Benjamin Reeves and Peter Smith

Cryptocurrency financial services company Blockchain.com began as the first Bitcoin blockchain exporter in 2011. It later created a cryptocurrency wallet that accounted for 28 per cent of bitcoin transactions between 2012 and 2020. Led by one of the co-founders, Peter Smith, as CEO, the company currently has over 81 million users after two years of significant growth. Blockchain.com raised $30.5m in its first external fundraising round in October 2014, and after its most recent $300m fundraising round the company was valued at $5.2bn.

 

BGL Group

Launched: 1992

Date of $1bn valuation: November 2017

Head office: Peterborough 

Latest valuation: $3.2bn

Founded by: Douw Steyn

Specialising in vehicle and home insurance, BGL Group has branched off in a number of ways since Douw Steyn founded the company in 1992, including setting up comparethemarket.com in 2005 and Beagle Street in 2015. Led by Mark Bailie, it has also acquired a number of other companies, including French price comparison sites LesFurets.com and CreditMieux.com in 2010 and Dutch site Verzekeringssite.nl in 2012. After 25 years in the business, BGL Group’s valuation hit $1bn and the company reached unicorn status. 

 

Bought By Many

Launched: 2012

Date of $1bn valuation: June 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $2.35bn

Founded by: Steven Mendel and Guy Farley

Pet insurance provider Bought By Many received £78.4m in Series C funding in 2020 ahead of reaching unicorn status in June 2021. Their latest Series D funding round was $350m, which brought their value up to $2bn. Founded by Steven Mendel and Guy Farley, the company has doubled its revues annually for the last four years, with “more ambitious growth still to come”.

 

Checkout.com 

Launched: 2012

Date of $1bn valuation: May 2019

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $40bn

Founded by: Guillaume Pousaz

At $40bn, Checkout.com is the highest valued fintech unicorn in the UK, and topped only by Klarna for highest valued in Europe. One of just three decacorns (unicorns valued over $10bn), the company was founded by Swiss billionaire and Europe’s richest tech entrepreneur Guillaume Pousaz. The London based ‘connected’ payments provider doubled its valuation this year after its Series D funding round in January 2022.

Copper 

Launched: 2018

Date of $1bn valuation: Unknown

Head office: London

Latest valuation: Unknown

Founded by: Dmitry Tokarev

 

Though it has not been 100 per cent confirmed that Copper has reached unicorn status, it seems worthy of inclusion on this list. Back in September 2021, the crypto firm was looking for up to $500m that would value it at well over $1bn, and it is set to close its delayed funding round soon. The company has ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond on board as a senior adviser and has already publicly raised $75m through an extended Series B round with investment from Dawn Capital and Target Global.

Global Switch

Launched: 1998

Date of $1bn valuation: December 2016

Latest valuation: $11.1bn

Founded by: David Reuben and Simon Reuben

Valued at $11.1bn, Global Switch is another of the UK’s three decacorns. The data centre business based in London was founded by British billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben in 1998. It has been run by Chief Executive Officer John Corcoran since 2014. With a net worth of more than £21bn, the Sunday Times Rich List named the Reubens the second richest people in the UK in 2021. The two sold nearly half of the company to a Shagang-led consortium in 2016, which took a majority share in 2018.

 

GoCardless 

Launched: 2011

Date of $1bn valuation: February 2022

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $2.1bn

Founded by: Tom Blomfield, Matt Robinson and Hiroki Takeuchi

After securing a $312m funding round just last month, GoCardless, one of London’s first fintech success stories reached unicorn status with a valuation of $2.1bn. The Series G funding round was led by investment firm Permira, which previously backed ‘buy now pay later’ (BNPL) provider Klarna. Processing more than $25bn in transactions a year, the fintech says it has ambitions to become “the world’s leading network for direct bank payments”.  

 

Lendable

Launched: 2014

Date of $1bn valuation: March 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $4.59bn

Founded by: Martin Kissinger and Victoria van Lennep

After a £210m funding boost this month, lending provider Lendable hit a valuation of over £3.5bn ($4.59bn). The round was led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan via its Teachers Innovation Platform and helped the company jump from its $1bn valuation that saw it hit unicorn status last year in its last capital raise. Founded by Martin Kissinger and Victoria van Lennep in 2014, Lendable aims to use technology to make consumer finance better for its millions of customers by using AI and automation.

 

Marshmallow

Launched: 2016

Date of $1bn valuation: September 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1.25 bn

Founded by: Oliver Kent-Braham, Alexander Kent-Braham and David Goaté

Only the second UK start-up created by Black founders to reach unicorn status (WorldRemit, now Zepz, pipped it to the post by a few months), Marshmallow is led by twins Alexander and Oliver Kent-Braham and their friend David Goaté. The insurtech company is a licensed insurance carrier and has a mobile app that allows digital claims. Having started as four team members in a Virgin Active, the company now has more than 100,000 users and 170 staff. It raised $85m in a Series B funding round in September 2021 valuing it at $1.25bn. The funding round included investors Monzo-backer Passion Capital, Investec, French reinsurer Scor and other undisclosed backers.

 

Monzo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launched: 2015

Date of $1bn valuation: October 2018

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $4.5bn

Founded by: Tom Blomfield, Jonas Huckestein, Jason Bates, Paul Rippon and Gary Dolman

Now valued at $4.5bn, digital bank Monzo reached unicorn status back in 2018 after an £85m fundraising round. After a rocky 2020 that saw the departure of then-CEO Tom Blomfield, TS Anil has taken the reins and the company’s first female CEO Carol Nelson is heading up US operations. This is despite the company withdrawing its US banking licence application in October last year after it was told it was unlikely to be approved. Monzo still continues to grow, however, with over 5m users around the world, and a new BNPL product launched late last year, Monzo Flex.

 

OakNorth Bank

Launched: 2013

Date of $1bn valuation: October 2017

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $5bn

Founded by: Rishi Khosla and Joel Perlman

A challenger bank focused on lending to high growth businesses and property developers, OakNorth raised £154m to push its valuation to $1.3bn in 2017. Now valued at $5bn, the Financial Times ranked the company number one on its list FT 1000: Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies 2020. 

 

Paddle

Launched: 2012

Date of $1bn valuation: May 2022

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1.4bn

Founded by: Philipp Bock, Philipp Nieland and Tobias Schreyer

 

After raising $200m in a Series D funding round, payments provider Paddle hit a valuation of $1.4bn. Founded by CEO Christian Owens and chief strategy officer Harrison Rose in 2012 on the same day Owens picked up his A-level results from school, the company now has more than 3,000 customers and $293m in investor funding. It is used in 245 countries and territories, and its services include payment routing, tax collection, compliance, invoicing, subscription management, renewals, reporting and fraud protection. 

 

PPRO

Launched: 2006

Date of $1bn valuation: January 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: Philipp Bock, Philipp Nieland and Tobias Schreyer

PPRO, a leading provider of digital payments infrastructure, hit a $1bn valuation after raising $180m in January 2021. This came just six months after the company raised $50m from Sprints Capital, Citi Ventures and HPE Growth. The company recently acquired Alpha Fintech, a next-generation payments technology company, in its latest move to expand its product range and its presence in the Asian Pacific region.

 

Radius Payment Solutions 

Launched: 1990

Date of $1bn valuation: November 2017

Head office: Cheshire

Latest valuation: $1.07bn

Founded by: Bill Holmes

Payment and fleet services company Radius Payment Solutions is one of few UK-based fintechs not to be headquartered in London. Instead, led by founder and CEO Bill Holmes, the company functions out of Crewe, Cheshire. The company hit a valuation of $1bn 27 years after it first launched. 

 

Revolut

Launched: July 2015

Date of $1bn valuation: April 2018

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $33bn

Founded by: Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko

Valued at a huge $33bn, Revolut is the UK’s second-biggest fintech decacorn. Headed by founders CEO Nicolay Stroronsky and CTO Vlad Yatsenko, the banking services provider became a unicorn in just a few years. It has had huge growth since then, launching in the US, Japan in 2020 and another 10 European countries at the start of this year, including Denmark, Germany and Spain. The company hit its high value of $33bn after an $800m funding round in July 2021, which meant it was the most valuable UK tech startup at the time.

 

SaltPay

Launched: 2019

Date of $1bn valuation: April 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $9bn

Founded by: Eduardo Pontes and Ali Mazanderani

SaltPay, a payment service and software provider, became a unicorn just two years after launching in 2019. With a very low public profile, the company quietly raised $700m in a Series C funding round in April and later reached the $1bn mark in an extension round in November 2021. It has raised a total of $1.1bn in capital across three rounds. Led by Brazilian founder and CEO Eduardo Pontes, the company has grown quickly, serving more than 100,000 merchants and with more than 1000 employees in 14 offices across 10 countries.

 

Starling Bank 

Launched: 2014

Date of $1bn valuation: March 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: £2.55bn

Founded by: Anne Boden

Headed up by Anne Boden, Starling Bank is the only female-founded unicorn in the UK. The digital challenger bank reached unicorn status in 2021 after a successful period during the pandemic and a £272m Series D funding round. The company has nearly 3 million users through its app and online banking platform and markets itself as a “fairer, smarter and more human alternative” to more traditional banks. Starling won the Best British Bank award in the British Bank Awards for four consecutive years from 2018 to 2021.

 

SumUp

Launched: 2011

Date of $1bn valuation: July 2019

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: Marc-Alexander Christ, Jan Deepen, Stefan Jeschonnek, Daniel Klein and Petter Made 

Founded in 2012, SumUp is best known for its mobile credit card readers that allow small businesses to accept payments. The company also allows merchants to set up their own online stores. It currently has more than 3m merchants across Europe, the US and Latin America. In October 2021, SumUp acquired US marketing startup Fivestars for $317m and is currently looking to launch a fundraising round that would value the company at about $22bn. 

 

The Bank of London

Launched: November 2021

Date of $1bn valuation: November 2021 

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1.1bn

Founded by: Anthony Watson

The Bank of London said it entered the market with a $1.1bn valuation in November 2021, making it the first pre-revenue bank in history to attain unicorn status on its debut. Founded by Barclays’ former chief information officer for Europe, Anthony Watson, it is only the second new bank to open in the UK in 250 years. The company describes itself as ‘the world's first purpose-built global clearing, agency and transaction bank’, disrupting the four big UK banks that have dominated the clearing market in London since the 1960s.

 

Thought Machine 

Launched: 2014

Date of $1bn valuation: November 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: Paul Taylor

After a $200m Series C funding round in 2021, Though Machine reached a valuation of $1bn. Founded in 2014 by former Google engineer Paul Taylor, the company believes it provides a solution to what it says is one of the banking industry’s primary problems by not relying on “outdated” IT infrastructure. Its solution is ‘Vault’, a “complete retail banking platform”.

 

Tractable

Launched: 2014

Date of $1bn valuation: June 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: Adrien Cohen, Alex Dalyac and Razvan Ranca

Tractable became the world’s first computer vision unicorn after a $60m Series D round of funding in 2021 saw the company’s value hit $1bn. The company uses Artificial Intelligence to assess damage to property and vehicles and then appraise it digitally. This speeds up what could typically be a days-long process. The company has experienced record expansion, recording 600 per cent revenue growth in the two years leading up to becoming a unicorn. 

 

TrueLayer

Launched: 2016

Date of $1bn valuation: September 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: Francesco Simoneschi

Responsible for more than half of all open banking traffic in the UK, TrueLayer reached unicorn status in September 2021 after a ‘mega round’ funding raise of $130m. In 2021, TrueLayer processed billions in payments, experienced 400 per cent growth in monthly payment volume and 800 per cent growth in monthly payment value. It also doubled its customer base, which it says is now in the millions.

 

Zego

Launched: 2016

Date of $1bn valuation: March 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1.1bn

Founded by: Harry Franks and Sten Saar

The insurtech Zego secured $150m in a Series C round of funding led by venture capital group DST Global about a year ago to reach unicorn status. The company provides pay-as-you-go courier and food delivery insurance for drivers, with the thought that traditionally expensive and confusing insurance holds businesses back. Zego was the first UK insurtech to reach unicorn status.

 

Zepz

Launched: 2009

Date of $1bn valuation: August 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $5bn

Founded by: Ismail Ahmed

Zepz, the name of the rebranded WorldRemit group last August, and is the first UK start-up created by Black founders to reach unicorn status. It raised $292m in Series E funding, jumping to a valuation of $5bn. Since acquiring African payment giants SendWave in 2020 for $500m, the company operates across 5,000 money transfer corridors and its 11m customers make 4.5m monthly transactions.

 

Zilch

Launched: 2018

Date of $1bn valuation: November 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $2bn

Founded by: Philip Belamant and Sean O’Connor

BNPL Zilch became the fastest ever unicorn in November 2021 after a $110m Series C funding round saw its valuation hit more than $2bn. The round was led by Ventura Capital and Gauss Ventures and was closed in just 3.5 weeks from its launch. The business grew more than 800 per cent between March and November last year and has big plans in the US market, having secured a lending licence in California and launched there in May.

 

Zopa

Launched: 2004

Date of $1bn valuation: October 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: James Alexander, Giles Andrews, Richard Duvall, David Nicholson and Tim Parlett

Having closed its peer-to-peer lending after 16 years to focus on its bank, Zopa hit a valuation of $1bn in October 2021. It raised over $300m in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with contributions from existing investors Silverstripe, Northzone and Augmentum. The digital bank has already attracted more than £250m in deposits and is a top 10 credit card issuer in the UK in terms of new customers, putting the company in a strong financial position. 

 

Exited: 

 

Currencycloud

Launched: 2012

Date of $1bn valuation: December 2021

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $1bn

Founded by: Richard Arundel and Stephen Lemon

Status: Exited

 

Global cross-border payments platform Currency was catapulted into the unicorn sphere last December when it was acquired by Visa for £700m. Led by CEO Mike Laven, the company has processed more than $100bn to more than 180 countries, and has worked with banks, fintechs and financial institutions around the world including Starling, Revolut, Penta and Lunar. As part of the takeover deal, the company still operates from its London headquarters with its own management team, and it now also has offices in New York, Amsterdam, Cardiff and Singapore.

Farfetch

Launched: 2007

Date of $1bn valuation: 2015

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $4.38bn

Founded by: José Neves

Status: Exited

After reaching unicorn status in 2015, founder and CEO José Neves took Farfetch public in 2018. This came a year after JD.com Inc. bought a minority stake in the luxury fashion retail platform for $397m. It was the Chinese e-commerce company’s largest overseas investment. In September 2018, after the initial public offering (IPO) of Farfetch on the New York Stock Exchange, Neves’s stake in the company was valued at $1.4bn.

 

Funding Circle

Launched: 2010

Date of $1bn valuation: 2017

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $312m

Founded by: Samir Desai, James Meekings and Andrew Mullinger

Status: Exited

Commercial lender Funding Circle was listed on London Stock Exchange (LSE) in September 2018 with an initial valuation of £1.5bn, after reaching unicorn status in 2017. Funding Circle raised around £300m in the IPO, which accounted for 29.3 per cent of the company shares. The shares fell 24 per cent from the float price of 440p on the first day of trading. Led by CEO Lisa Jacobs, the company has facilitated over £13.7 billion in loans to small and medium-sized firms as of March 2022. The company announced earlier this year that it is exiting the peer to peer market to concentrate on commercial loans.

 

The Hut Group

Launched: 2004

Date of $1bn valuation: 2016

Head office: Manchester

Latest valuation: $1.33bn

Founded by: Matthew Moulding 

Status: Exited

Manchester-based e-commerce retailer The Hut Group was valued at more than £2.5bn in 2017, making it one of the UK’s highest-valued unicorns at the time. It then floated LSE in October 2020 in the largest IPO since 2013. By early October 2021, THG’s share price had fallen by more than 60 per cent since the start of the year. After a city shareholder meeting later that month, a further £1.8bn was knocked off the company’s value in a single day.

 

Wise (Formerly TransferWise)

Launched: 2010

Date of $1bn valuation: 2016

Head office: London

Latest valuation: $6.48bn

Founded by: Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann

Status: Exited

In the first-ever direct listing of a tech company on LSE, Wise went public in July 2021 to a valuation of $11bn. It was London’s largest-ever tech listing and saw shares of the company 10 per cent up on the first day. Led and co-founded by Kristo Käärmann, the company went public using a direct listing, which does not involve raising new capital or bringing in new investors as in a formal IPO process. Instead, there was a three-hour open auction. 

 

Greensill Capital

Launched: 2012

Date of $1bn valuation: July 2018

Head office: London

Latest valuation: N/A

Founded by: Lex Greensill

Status: Dead

In April 2021, Greensill Capital had a dramatic and swift fall from grace. Set up by Australian financiar Lex Greensill, the firm specialising in supply-chain finance filed for bankruptcy in March last year. Former Prime Minister David Cameron got involved in 2016 as an adviser and received share options reportedly worth tens of millions of pounds. It then emerged that the government’s then-chief commercial officer Bill Crothers was also an adviser from 2015 while still in the civil service. Texts between Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak revealed Cameron had attempted to access government-backed loans for the company through the Covid corporate financing facility. The chancellor said he “pushed the team” to find a way for Greensill to access the loans. Meanwhile Liberty, the UK’s third-largest steelmaker, was forced to pause production at some plants as a result of Greensill’s collapse. Several investigations were launched into the company in April 2021 though it is unclear what has happened since.

All public valuations are correct as of 16/03/22.

Think we missed someone? Let us know Editorial@AltFi.com

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