Published by EXPANSIÓN
By: Tino Fernández
Carlos Blanco, entrepreneur and investor, updates the analysis that forecasts which startups will become the next 20 Spanish unicorns, based on the opinions of the main venture capital funds and business angels in our country. The traveltech companies Civitatis and Exoticca, together with the fintech Red Po¡nts, occupy the podium of favorites in the 2024 ranking as candidates for companies valued at more than 1,000 million dollars.
Civitatis, the traveltech startup dedicated to the online distribution of guided tours, excursions and activities in Spanish; Exoticca, the online travel agency whose value proposition is based on digitizing the contracting of long-distance trips and offering packages with flights, hotels, transfers and activities already included; and Red Points, the fintech dedicated to brand protection and the fight against piracy, are the three favorite startups to become unicorns in 2024, according to the analysis of Carlos Blanco, founder of Encomenda, the accelerator Conector and Nuclio, based on consultations with leading Spanish venture capital funds and business angels.
This is the third edition of this forecast prepared by the serial entrepreneur, investor and talent trainer about the start-ups that will become part of the select club of companies that exceed the valuation of 1,000 million dollars in our country.
Predominant sector in 2024
Carlos Blanco, for whom “being a unicorn is not the most important thing for a start-up, since the healthiest thing for the entrepreneurial ecosystem is that companies are created and that they have a turnover and are profitable”, highlights in this edition the resurgence of the traveltech sector: “There were very good companies in this sector, such as Atrapalo or eDreams, and now these three that appear in the ranking of favorites to become a unicorn are doing very well”.
Thus, in addition to Civitatis and Exoticca, mention should be made of Kampaoh – in 18th place – which offers comfortable and modern accommodations without the need for the client to assemble anything.
Exoticca has been present in all three predictions so far. It was twentieth in 2022, thirteenth in 2023 and now second, while this year’s favorite, Civitatis, was sixteenth in 2023.
In the predictions of the previous 2022 and 2023 editions, the software sector was in the majority: in 2022 there were five representatives from this sector (Factorial, Typeform, Clarity, Seedtag and Abacum), the same as in the 2023 ranking (Typeform, Userzoom, Seedtag, Clarity and Playtomic).
Last year, the next most represented sectors were marketplace/ecommerce, with two representatives (Wallapop and Tradeinn), the same as mobility (Paack and Trucksters); edtech (Odilo and The Power); fintech (Capchase and Cobee); proptech (Housfy and Clickalia); and traveltech (Exoticca and Civitatis). The latter travel and leisure sector is the protagonist in the 2024 ranking, although there are also three candidates in the proptech (Clikalia, Citibox and Housfy) and edtech sectors, to which Odilo, The Power and Innovamat belong.
A new take-off of the ‘traveltech’ industry
Investors have been targeting travel and leisure technology firms since 2022. The recovery of tourism and cultural and leisure activities after the pandemic, the boost of digitalization in bookings and the growth of proposals to enjoy more sustainable travel in nature have generated an increasingly favorable scenario for funds.
The 2024 ranking of the future Spanish unicorns places two traveltechs – Civitatis and Exoticca – in the top two positions among the 20 favorites. Another traveltech, Kampaoh from Seville, is in eighteenth place.
By 2023, the global travel industry was estimated to be worth $854.8 billion, and over $1 trillion by 2027. Accelerated by the pandemic, the sector has a very high rate of digitization and up to 74% of total revenues will come from ‘online’ sales by 2027.
CANDIDATE 1. Civitatis. The company grew from a small project created in 2008 by Alberto Gutiérrez Pascual to finance his own trips to become a successful company in the online distribution of guided tours, excursions and activities in Spanish, with a turnover of over 200 million euros and the ability to attract international funds.
Covid had a major impact on Civitatis, which suffered a ruinous 2020. The negative trend changed in the second half of 2021 and in 2022 this platform specialized in excursions, activities and guided tours in cities around the world gave entry into its capital to the British fund Vitruvian Partners, investor in other tourism firms such as Fever, and with assets of 10,000 million euros under management. This alliance allowed Civitatis to accelerate its international growth, especially in Latin America and Europe.
It is precisely in Latin America that Civitatis wants to grow. There it has been exploring markets such as Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil to increase its customer base and open local offices in some regions. Civitatis has grown to 270 employees, a presence in 4,000 destinations and almost ten million customers.
CANDIDATE 2. Exoticca. In September 2020, the online travel agency founded by Jesús Rodríguez in 2014 resorted to external financing to fuel its growth, closing a €20 million investment round led by the British fund Claret Capital Partners and in which Sabadell Venture Capital, which was already a shareholder, also participated.
In recent years Exoticca has turned to financing rounds as the fastest way to grow. It raised 66 million euros and its shareholders include funds such as 14W, Milano Investment Partners, Mangrove, K Fund, Bonsai, Palladium and Kibo Ventures, which control 60% of the capital.
With the new resources, the start-up intended to take advantage of the recovery of tourism after the pandemic to increase its business in the US and Canada, which account for 60% and 10% of its sales, respectively.
CANDIDATE 18. Kampaoh. The Seville-based firm for booking luxury tents in campsites focused on responsible tourism in contact with nature raised one of the largest rounds of 2023 in the traveltech field. Founded in 2016 by Salvador Lora, the company raised 14 million euros in January, between debt and equity, from BBVA, JME Ventures, Axon Partners and Encomenda, among other investors, with which it boosted its internationalization in France, Italy and Portugal.
CANDIDATE 3. Red Points. The counterfeit detection company established its head office in Barcelona last November, after six years in Pamplona.
Founded in 2012 by lawyer Josep Coll, it manages a cloud-based platform focused on preventing identity theft and fraudulent distribution of products on e-commerce portals, social networks and websites.
Red Points’ technology makes it possible to track large volumes of content and automate processes in order to be fast and efficient. The start up is specialized in the protection of copyrights, trademarks and other industrial property rights.
Chaired by Laura Urquizu, Red Points closed in November 2022 a €20 million financing led by European venture capital IRIS, which joined existing investors Summit Partners and Eight Roads. With these funds, the company aimed to increase the development of its artificial intelligence technology that allows it to track the Internet and combat online piracy, fraud and detect identity theft.
CANDIDATE 4. Freepik. In 2011, this Malaga-based startup founded by Alejandro Sánchez began to operate, dedicated to the creation and distribution of images, icons and vectors for the design field. In 2016, its formula for success was based on the free nature of its services, the use of an efficient meta-search engine and the convergence of a huge base of graphic material on its web portal. The majority of the company’s revenue comes from its subscription model, with the remainder resulting from advertising revenue and partners.
In March 2023 EQT, the Swedish investment fund that has owned Freepik since 2020, announced the sale of the company – Morgan Stanley would be in charge of coordinating the deal – which could fetch around €1 billion, although in October EQT readjusted the timing of its divestment in the graphic resources platform.
One of the factors that will be most important to prospective acquirers of Freepik is how the company is implementing artificial intelligence and how this technological breakthrough impacts its business.
CANDIDATE 5. Playtomic. “The padel sector will grow to €6 billion by 2026,” according to the latest edition of the Global Padel Report Monitor by Deloitte and Playtomic, the startup founded in 2017 by Pablo Carro, Félix Ruiz and Pedro Clavería, which has developed a booking app and management software for padel and tennis clubs.
Playtomic has an application that allows you to book paddle, tennis or squash courts at partner clubs, and functions as a social platform where you can interact and pose challenges.
In December 2021 it raised 56 million euros in a round led by GP Bullhound, with the participation of co-founder Felix Ruiz (also founder of Tuenti); the British Claret Partners and the Swedish Optimizer Invest.
CANDIDATE 6. CoverManager. Founded in 2015, it has developed restaurant reservation management software for clients such as the Goiko, Ginos, La Mafia chains, or restaurants like Diverxo, El Celler de Can Roca, Aponiente or Smoked Room. At the end of 2022, it closed a Series A extension that it had already opened in May 2022, raising an extra €17 million from the British investment bank GPBullhound. The amount was in addition to the €35 million raised in May, bringing the funds raised to €52 million.
CANDIDATE 7. Capchase. Born in the middle of the pandemic, with headquarters in Madrid and New York, the growth of Capchase, the platform dedicated to financing SaaS software companies, has been unstoppable in the last three years. The fintech raised €72 million in March 2022 – two years after its founding in Boston – in a round led by 01 Advisors together with QED, Caffeinated, Bling, Scifi, Thomvest Ventures, Tusk Venture Partners, Invesco and Gaingels. In 2021, it raised $103 million to launch just-in-time financing to technology firms.
CANDIDATE 8. Seedtag. Born in Madrid in 2014, it develops an advertising solution that prioritizes user privacy and is a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In July 2022 it received more than 250 million euros in funding from the private equity firm Advent International, which served to expand and improve its contextual intelligence technology, with a special focus on the United States, acquiring more capacity to carry out new mergers and acquisitions of companies.
CANDIDATE 9. Odilo. Founded in Cartagena by Rodrigo Rodríguez in 2012, it allows any organization to create its own learning ecosystem, offering its users unlimited access to an extensive catalog of multi-format educational content. In June 2022, the company led the largest round in the edtech sector in the history of Spain and the most important in this market in Europe. The €60 million deal was led by Bregal Milestone, and was aimed at accelerating the growth of its workforce in all areas, verticals, and in the countries where it is present, reinforcing the technology, data, artificial intelligence and content teams.
CANDIDATE 10. Paack. The transport and parcel delivery firm founded in 2015 received €45 million last September – €15 million in debt from BBVA Spark and €30 million from French fund Infravia Capital – to further strengthen its position in the ecommerce parcel delivery market and thus continue to invest in product innovation, and expand its distribution coverage throughout Europe.
In January 2022, it announced a round valued at €200 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, in a deal that left Paack on the verge of becoming a unicorn.
FROM 11 TO 20…
CANDIDATE 11. Clikalia. Real estate technology platform for buying and selling homes that operates in the different phases of the real estate business: buying, selling, renting, financing, sales management, architecture and decoration and additional services such as appraisals, legal advice and insurance.
Citibox. A smart mailbox company focused on facilitating e-commerce and home package delivery.
CANDIDATE 13. Housfy. Integral technological platform of real estate services that encompasses all the services of buying and selling real estate, mortgage and financial intermediation, residential rental and home services, such as renovations or removals.
CANDIDATE 14. Vice. Born in 2020, it is dedicated to the online sale of premium burgers through different platforms.
CANDIDATE 15. Cobee. Allows HR departments to streamline paperwork and paperwork for employees, who can access benefits offered by the company, such as childcare services, health insurance, meal tickets, transportation, gym or training.
CANDIDATE 16. The Power. It offers the opportunity to study a business master’s degree in a totally practical way, with the help of the world’s leading references, in 15-minute classes, without timetables and at an affordable price.
CANDIDATE 17. Innovamat. Change the negative effect of math on life decisions, and not be a negative equation for those who want to go into STEM professions. Help solve the problem of fear and poor learning outcomes in this subject.
CANDIDATE 19. Boopos. Lending platform that offers flexible financing for business acquisition and growth.
CANDIDATE 20. GFAL. Video game ‘Start up’ that bets on Web3 and NFT.