UK soonicorn companies

From Startup to Soonicorn: The UK’s Future Unicorn Companies

Lucy Wilson, 21 September 2022

At the time of writing, 4 of the 10 startups we flagged as “soonicorns” last year have indeed become unicorn companies. These private UK businesses have reached valuations of at least $1b and, as a result, the coveted unicorn title. University of Dundee spinout Exscientia claimed unicorn status in April 2021, followed by fintech companies Zepz and Zilch in August and November 2021, respectively, and then mobile games creator Tripledot Studios in February 2022.

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But what about the remaining startups from that list? When are they likely to hit the billion-dollar mark and who else will rise alongside them? In the UK, the number of unicorns currently stands at 44, from edtech and insurtech ventures to a robotics firm and blockchain-powered tech startup. Here, we predict the next set of high-growth companies to join the unicorn club, and explore their growth journeys so far. 

Every soonicorn in this list is a private company, that’s headquartered in the UK, and has hit one or more of our high-growth tracking triggers. Each had a post-money valuation of at least £400m (~$453m) at their latest fundraising event, which was completed within the last two years.

Despite having different business models and varying levels of investment (with some backed by individual angels, others by top Silicon Valley VCs), they all have the potential to become a billion-dollar startup in the coming years. Read on to see who they are.

Valuations used in this article are based on post-money figures, unless otherwise stated.

01.

Curve

Sector: Fintech
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £612m

First on our list of soon-to-be unicorn startups is Curve, which aims to simplify the way that people save and spend money. The fintech company develops technology which enables users to combine their existing debit or credit cards into a single card and mobile app. It also recently launched Curve Flex, a buy now pay later service similar to Klarna. 

Founded in 2015, Curve has since proven popular with investors, going on to raise £159m, across 10 equity fundraisings. Curve’s backers include several private equity and venture capital funds, including Fuel Ventures, Outward VC and Seedcamp, as well as crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company’s valuation has climbed steadily from £37.9m in July 2017 to £176m in September 2019, and then £497m in September 2021. Most recently, it reached £612m in April 2022up 23% in seven months.

02.

Quantexa

Sector: Digital security
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £582m

Also likely to reach a billion-dollar unicorn valuation is Quantexa. The cyber security company has shown its growth potential several times over, having attended the Future Fifty and Microsoft for Startups accelerator programmes, and been featured in rankings such as the Deloitte Fast 50 and FT 1000. Its technology uses artificial intelligence and big data software to flag illegal activity within a user’s network. 

To date, Quantexa has secured five fundraisings, worth £182m in equity and loan investment. Its investors include the likes of AlbionVC, Dawn Capital and British Patient Capital. Quantexa earned its place on our soonicorns list due to its impressive post-money valuation growth, from just £11.2m in March 2017 to £582m in July 2021.

03.

Codat

Sector: Fintech
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £542m

Financial services technology company Codat has seen rapid growth in recent months. The London-based tech startup develops API integrations that allow B2B businesses to integrate customers’ financial systems into their products. It’s backed by several big name venture capitalists and investment firms, including Index Ventures, Shopify, Tiger Global, Paypal Ventures, and J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

Having incorporated in November 2016, Codat raised a £415k equity round three months later, at a post-money valuation of £1.61m. By July 2021, the company’s valuation had risen to £167m. In its most recent fundraising in June 2022, however, Codat reached a valuation of £542m—a staggering 225% increase in under a year.

04.

Bloom & Wild

Sector: E-commerce
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £505m

Bloom & Wild is no stranger to innovation, as one of the first companies to bring together the florist and e-commerce industries, developing its distinctive letterbox packaging. Customers place orders through Bloom & Wild’s website or mobile app,  fresh buds are then delivered through their doors. Now one of Europe’s leading online florists, it acquired Dutch flower delivery startup bloomon in April 2021, followed by French company Bergamotte just a few months later.

Bloom & Wild has repeatedly demonstrated its penchant for growth, pushing its valuation up 413% between October 2018 and January 2021. The company attended three accelerators across 2016 and 2017 (Future Fifty, Upscale and the Mayor’s International Business Programme) and has featured on high-growth lists such as The Sunday Times 100. Bloom & Wild was most recently valued at £505m, in July 2021, after a £50m equity and loan funding round—in which it saw follow-on investment from MMC Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, and several others.

05.

10x Banking

Sector: Fintech
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £491m

10x Banking is a London-based fintech that develops an open banking platform for the financial services industry. Founded in 2016, the company has seen strong valuation growth in recent years, increasing 215% over two years, from £156m in March 2019 to £491m in June 2021. It has also attended the Mayor’s International Business Programme, and featured on the Lazard T100 European Venture Growth Index in 2021.

With plans to expand into new markets, 10x Banking’s international growth has been fueled by four equity fundraisings, worth £223m in total investment. The company’s backers include Nationwide, North American firms BlackRock, CPP Investments and JPMorgan Chase & Co, China’s Ping An Ventures, and Australian bank Westpac. 

06.

Bboxx

Sector: Cleantech
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £490m

Bboxx sells and installs off-grid solar panel systems to communities with unreliable electricity supplies across the world. This innovative greentech company is one of the oldest businesses on our list of future unicorns—it was launched in early 2010 by co-founders Mansoor Hamayun, Laurent Van Houcke, and Christopher Baker-Brian. 

Bboxx has raised £129m in equity investment so far, across 11 funding rounds. The latest of these, completed in September 2022, saw the company valued at £490m. This marks a 334% increase in its valuation since June 2020. If Bboxx reaches a billion-dollar valuation in its next fundraising, it would join fellow sustainable tech companies OVO, Arrival and Britishvolt as members of the green unicorn club.

Download the full list of UK unicorn companies here.

07.

Lyst

Sector: E-commerce
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £481m

Lyst develops a social shopping website that aims to help users find items from a variety of brands. Founded in January 2010, Lyst was an early innovator in the fashion technology ecosystem, and is reportedly gearing up to IPO soon (having described its May 2021 equity raise as a “pre-IPO round”).

The London-based scaleup previously attended the Future Fifty accelerator, and has secured £122m of equity investment to date, across eight funding rounds. Investors include Balderton Capital, Accel, Molten Ventures, and LVMH. Lyst’s latest fundraising, a £215k stealth round that was completed in March 2022, saw the company valued at £481m—up 109% from its £230m valuation in July 2019.

08.

Wayve

Sector: Automotive
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £474m

Wayve applies machine learning technology to the automotive industry, to develop innovative automation software for self-driving cars. The artificial intelligence company was created in 2017, by entrepreneurs Alex Kendall and Amar Shah, both machine learning PhD alumni from the University of Cambridge. It’s now backed by the likes of M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures), Ocado, and Firstminute Capital. 

In January 2022, Wayve secured a £147m equity deal, to support the development and global expansion of its autonomous driving technology, grow its team, and fund the launch of more pilot projects. This fundraising saw Wayve valued at £474m, up 820% from its November 2019 valuation. In total, the company has raised £174m, across five equity funding rounds, on top of the £125k Innovate UK grant that it was awarded in 2018.

09.

Truphone

Sector: Telecommunications
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £445m

Headquartered in London, Truphone has developed a global mobile communication network that uses innovative eSIM technology. Since launching in 2010, the company has expanded to offices in 16 cities, including Sydney, Paris, New York, Utrecht, Hong Kong and Manila. It has raised 11 equity funding rounds already, totalling £555m. 

Truphone’s most recent fundraising was a £5m unannounced deal, completed in August 2021, at a £445m post-money valuation. Meanwhile, the company’s reported turnover is growing steadily year-on-year, rising 50% between 2016 and 2020, from £31.3m to £47.0m. And with further development of its eSIM software in the works, Truphone has potential to reach a billion-dollar valuation soon.

10.

Huma

Sector: Healthtech
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £437m

Huma (previously Medopad) is a technology company that helps healthcare providers to better manage, monitor and share patient data. Its remote patient monitoring (RPM) platform supports third party integrations and mobile apps, and has been adapted for use with COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. Alongside this technology, Huma is also developing patient companion apps and a decentralised clinical trial platform. 

Since its founding in 2011, Huma has attended four accelerator programmes, acquired four other healthtech startups, and secured £59.4k in Innovate UK grants. The company also has partnerships across the health and life sciences industry, including with the NHS, John Hopkins, Bayer, and Imperial College Health Partners. In total, it has raised £147m in equity investment, across nine funding rounds—the latest of which, in May 2022, saw it valued at £437m.

11.

Atom Bank

Sector: Fintech
HQ: Durham
Latest valuation: £429m

Atom Bank develops a digital-only retail banking service, out of its headquarters in County Durham. Founded in 2013, it has secured 12 equity funding rounds so far, totalling more than £567m in investment, alongside numerous innovation grants. It also acquired Grasp, another fintech startup company based in the North East of England, back in March 2016. 

More than a third of UK unicorns are fintech companies, including six of the country’s top challenger banks—and Atom may well join the likes of Revolut and Monzo in this club very soon. Between July 2015 and February 2022, the bank increased its valuation from £50.4m to £429m. Meanwhile, Atom Bank’s co-founder and CEO previously hinted at a 2022/2023 IPO, and it seems preparations are now underway.

12.

Form3

Sector: Fintech
HQ: London
Latest valuation: £415m

Form3 has developed internet-based software for businesses in the financial sector. Similarly to companies like Stripe, Form3’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering is designed to simplify procedures such as payment processing and clearing. To date, the London-based startup has secured £155m in equity investment, across five fundraisings. Notable investors include 83North, MasterCard, Lloyds Banking Group, Goldman Sachs, and Barclays. 

Now firmly on its way to reaching unicorn status, Form3 saw valuation growth of 4,476% between July 2017 (£9.07m) and September 2021 (£415m). The company also scaled its headcount considerably during this time, reporting just six employees in 2017, versus 127 in 2021. And having featured on The FinTech50 and 100 FinTech Disrupters in both 2019 and 2020, its impressive growth is showing no signs of slowing.

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