One of my hobbies is identifying interesting opportunities and fast-growing companies. I even keep a list of the major industries and some interesting companies to invest in. But I’m usually interested in early stage deals. I don’t think late stage investing is as interesting, or that I have an edge for that matter.
But last week, Pietro Invernizzi tweeted about billion-dollar startups. I don’t personally know Pietro outside of a couple of Twitter interactions, but I’ve been following him and The Family for a while now, so his tweet caught my attention:
As if I had nothing to do (disclaimer: I did have), I jumped to respond. That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a good answer. Like any respectable Twitter user, I was going to reply anyway then defend my poorly made choice with tooth and nails.
But a thought stopped me: instead of tweeting a poorly-thought answer to 2,500 followers, I could write a semi-poorly-though answer and blast it to 4 times as many people.
So here we are.
“What 3 companies in Europe (any stage) do you think will surpass €10 billion in valuation in the next 10 years?”
- Based in Europe. US companies with HQs in Europe is cheating.
- Worth less than ~€1 billion. Revolut, which was just valued at €5+ billions, is cheating.
- Different industries. If you pick all the players on a big enough industry, you are bound to get a €10 billion company. That's boring, and cheating.
- Different geographies. Just to make it fun.
It is, indeed, harder than I thought. But I think I have 3 decent options. The result is an eclectic mix of healthcare, the sharing economy and marketplaces.
Let’s dive in.
Disclaimer: for obvious reasons, I’m not mentioning/including any companies I work with.
- Location: Paris, France
- Investors: Partech, Index Ventures, Kima Global, Xavier Niel
- Valuation: €800 million (Dealroom estimates)
- Revenue: €50 million ARR (last reported 2019)My story with Alan is a bit funny.
A then-reader-now-friend used to work there and introduced me to the company in early 2019. I’ve heard about it before, I just didn’t pay much attention.
But as I walked through their very cramped offices in the Paris city center (they have new ones now and look amazing), I realized Alan was going places.
Founded in 2016, Alan is a digital health insurance platform, offering transparent pricing and policies to make healthcare more accessible to everyone in France.
Alan has quickly grown its user base from 66,000 total members from 25,000 the previous year, a 162% increase.
Their revenue grew 2.5x from €20.1m ARR in 2018 to €50.5m ARR in 2019, and that’s with a not-so-smooth sales operations, according to Jean-Charles Samuelian, the CEO.
In just a year, they managed to go up-market (8x growth on companies over 200 employees), scale the sales team from 8 to 26 people and successfully launch a completely new segment (Hotel and Restaurants).
But here’s the deal with Alan.
Alan is dead set on becoming the default health provider across Europe, and they are well on their way. They have a firm grip on France, and one of their 2020 goals is to go live in Spain and Belgium.
Here’s Jean-Charles again in their annual letter to shareholders:
“In 5 years, we want to have radically improved and simplified how our members access care in most countries in Europe.”
Thinking about the future, I believe Alan is perfectly positioned to replace the European safety net – healthcare is just the start.
The health insurance (+ safety net) market is more than enough to support a multi-billion dollar business, but that’s not all.
That same infrastructure they are building to provide user-friendly health insurance in France, Belgium and Spain could be used to provide the safety net layer for remote companies across the world.
Distributed work is growing at an unprecedented rate, but there’s a tremendous gap to fill when it comes to the legalities. Since there isn’t a good solution, most remote workers end up being contractors, so paying taxes, funding retirement, getting health insurance and more is extremely complex if not almost impossible.
- Location: Tallinn, Estonia
- Investors: Daimler, Didi Chuxing, Creandum, NordicNinja, European Investment Bank
- Valuation: €1 billion
- Revenue: €79.8 million (last reported 2018)Bolt is, to me, a fascinating company. It’s one of the more efficient and smart mobility companies out there.
At the beginning, they decided to go to seemingly unimportant markets where no one (particularly Uber) was going to, and doing things by the book. Now they are fighting for London, and running one of the leanest ride hailing operations, with 30 million users in 150 cities and is profitable in two-thirds of its markets.
Their last round of funding (an equity loan by the European Investment Bank) is aimed at achieving profitability. Markus Villig, the CEO, says that achieving company-wide profitability “mainly comes down to the question of how quickly we want to expand.”
But that’s not the reason why I picked Bolt, or at least not the only one. I picked Bolt because it also plays in some of the fastest-growing markets out there: food delivery and micromobility.
On top of ride hailing, which could be a $260 billion market by 2024, Bolt started dipping its toes in food delivery. In August 2019 they launched Bolt Food in Tallinn, with the goal to expand in Latvia, Lithuania and South Africa, some of its biggest markets.
Their plan is the a ruthless copy of their ride hailing playbook: offer lower prices to customers but to offer lower delivery prices than competitors pay higher earnings for carriers.
I wrote about why I think food delivery (and cloud kitchens) could be the future by changing the default path for food. Here's a quote from Oscar Pierre (Glovo's CEO) that I pulled from that edition:
“The number one reason why people don’t order more food delivery is because it’s expensive. In Spain, you’re paying 12 per person, more or less, which is expensive. And the reason it’s expensive is because we’re still paying the prices of running a restaurant – which has nothing to do with delivery.”
There's no reason why Bolt can't innovate enough to help "food delivery cross a threshold where ordering from them will be cheaper, better, faster, healthier and as reliable as cooking at home.
Then you got last-mile mobility. I wrote about scooternomics and the scooter wars quite a bit, and even though I think these wars will leave a bunch of cadavers, the reward at the end of the rainbow is very, very big (and a zero sum game).
Back then I wrote:
If you read the Uber and Lyft S-1 filing, you may also have realized that both businesses have a meaningful part of their business tied up in rides that are 1.5-4.5 kilometers.
So will they jump into the scooter biz to cover the 0 to 1.5 kilometers range missing? Of course. It’s too lucrative not to.
The interesting thing is that scooters (due to the need for critical mess on a specific location to reduce wait times) is a zero-sum game. I predicted a bunch of consolidation in the market, but Bolt has something that those companies out there don’t: a big-ass war chest.
I know those markets are competitive, but if Bolt doesn’t get enamoured with their war chest and pick the path of least resistance (like they did with ride hailing) and operate a similar playbook, they can be the winners.
And that's why Bolt can be a €10 billion company in (less than) 10 years.
- Location: London, UK
- Investors: Insight Partners, Ignition Partners, Plug and Play, Georgian Partners, Entrepreneur First
- Valuation: $150 million
- Revenue: unknown
Yesterday, Tractable announced its €22.7 million Series C led by Canadian investment fund Georgian Partners.
"London-based insurtech AI startup Tractable, which is applying artificial intelligence to speed up accident and disaster recovery by using computer vision to perform visual damage appraisal instead of getting humans to do the job, has closed a $25 million Series C, led by Canadian investment fund Georgian Partners."
Great for them, not so good for me. Even though I had them in my list of "€10 billion in 10 years" startups, carefully filed under deep tech long-shots, now you'll think I'm just following the news.
Then I realized I don't really care. I wanted a deep tech long-shot in my list, so I'm getting one. Two big reasons why I'm picking Tractable as my bet:
First, this is a ridiculously gigantic market. Car accidents and home disasters affect hundreds of millions every year, "with a worldwide financial impact exceeding $1 trillion."
The first step in every single recovery process is a visual appraisal, which Tractable's AI can assess and estimate with ridiculous precision in real time, expediting claims and settlements. A process that took countless hours and was done millions of times every day can now be automated. This would save billions of dollars and improve the customer experience an order of magnitude compared to the existing claims process.
Right now they operate in nine markets (customers include Ageas, Covéa, Japan’s Tokio Marine and Polish insurer Talanx-Warta) and they are going to use the €23 million to expand into many, many more markets.
Second, European talent has some of the best experience out there when it comes to scaling deep-tech companies.
Scaling a technology company is one of those things that can't be deducted from first principles because many of the things that are necessary to grow from $10 million to $100 million and then to a billion are counterintuitive.
This means that by definition, they only come with experience. Experience Europe has thanks to a deeply ingrained research culture that often start with university research teams (Oxford, Cambridge, ETH Zurich, etc.) and goes all the way to technology companies (Celonis, Darktrace, Graphcore, etc.)
Now it's your turn
I know I'm playing with Monopoly money again and that I'm missing dozens of potential picks. But it's a fun excercise worth doing every now and then. Now let me flip it back to you: "What 3 companies in Europe do you think will surpass €10 billion in valuation in the next 10 years?”
Let me know.