EU Startups with International Founders
The European Union and the border-free Schengen Zone seem to have unleashed the continent’s entrepreneurial talent.
It’s common today to find startups with founding teams from all over Europe, and startup hubs such as Berlin and London are attracting top talent from around the world. From Madrid to Tallinn, expats and international businesspeople are partnering up to create some truly innovative startups. In fact, European Startup Monitor reports that 12% of all EU startups have expat founders, and a third of all EU startups have international teams.
List of Expat startups
This post is a celebration of Europe’s international startup founders. Each of the 17 startups below has at least one expat or international person on its founding team, and each is doing exciting work right now.
Startups in the EU
Atrápalo — Spain
Barcelona’s Atrápalo [ES] has grown into one of the largest online travel agencies in Spain, and co-founder Marek Fodor was there at the ground level in 2000. After eight years as Atrápalo’s CTO, Fodor moved into a mentorship role for seed-stage startups, and he’s now entering his fourth year as chairman at forex company Kantox.
BlikBook — Ireland
Barnaby Voss, commercial director at online education platform BlikBook and British expat in Ireland, is one of several businesspeople who appreciate how accessible Dublin’s tech ecosystem is. “It’s easy to know people, it’s easy to get support,” he told The Next Web in 2015. “In countries with smaller ecosystems it can be tough, and in countries with larger ecosystems — like the UK or the US, — you can get lost in things, it’s often difficult to meet someone you need.”
Clue — Germany
Copenhagen native Ida Tin chose Berlin as the headquarters for Clue, an app that helps women track their menstrual cycles. In the years since founding Clue, she’s grown the VC-backed startup to a team of 22 people, and she’s helped raise nearly 3 million EUR in funding.
Coinprism — Ireland
Flavien Charlon, a native of Lyon, France, is operating right on the bleeding edge of financial technology. In 2014, he launched Coinprism, a wallet for colored coins, which allow users to manage assets such as properties and stocks on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Crowdyhouse — The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s Crowdyhouse has built an Etsy-style marketplace for design professionals, which seeks “to democratise the design industry through helping designers and makers sell directly to design fans all over the world.” That’s right in Mark Studholme’s wheelhouse. Prior to co-founding the startup in 2013, he managed Archello, a social network for architects and designers.
Destinia — Spain
Destinia is another online Spanish travel agency that launched back in the early 2000s. Its founder, Amuda Goueli, from Egypt, has been at the helm for all 15 years, during which time he’s grown the company from a solo operation to one that reaches nearly 70 million users each year.
Doclink — Ireland
Kristjan Koik from Estonia saw that doctors and other medical professionals were adopting WhatsApp as a mobile collaboration platform, and in that he found an opportunity to create something more robust and secure. So, he founded Doclink, which in addition to secure messaging features a newsfeed tailored to each user’s field of interest.
Elasticsearch — The Netherlands
Shay Banon moved from Israel more than a decade ago because his wife had enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, and he used that transition as a chance to get into new technologies. Banon, it turned out, has a real knack for developing software.
His startup, Elasticsearch, which helps companies search and analyze their data in real time, received more than 90 million EUR within just 18 months of its launch.
Future Finance — Ireland
Chicago native Brian Norton brings an American perspective to a problem familiar on both sides of the Atlantic. His startup, Future Finance, helps students in the UK get access to new sources of funding — loans from 2,500 GBP to 40,000 GBP — for their undergraduate or postgraduate studies.
“No qualified student should be denied a productive education purely for financial reasons,” the company says. “It really bugs us that money gets in the way of otherwise deserving students.”
glispa — Germany
Berlin-based mobile advertising startup glispa serves 400 billion monthly ad impressions, and lists Kaspersky Lab and Deezer among its clients. Gary Lin — a Chinese-American whose career has taken him from Malaysia to Brazil to Germany — founded the company in 2008 and says it is adding six million new customers each month.
GoButler — Germany
GoButler, co-founded by Navid Hadzaad, launched in early 2015 as a free SMS-based assistant service that allowed users to take care of things such as flight bookings and restaurant reservations. Within three weeks, the company says, it processed more than 300,000 requests. The company has since pivoted a bit and is now focusing just on flight bookings. In 2016, Hadzaad was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Consumer Tech list.
Holvi — Finland
Former VC Johan Lorenzen wasn’t actually on the founding team at Holvi — a banking platform for self-employed Europeans and small businesses — but he does bring plenty of financial wisdom to the team as CEO, a role he took on in 2013. Bonus points go to Holvi, whose 18 team members represent 11 countries.
Lodgify — Spain
Lodgify’s platform lets individual homeowners create easy booking websites for their holiday homes — something like the Shopify of vacation rentals. CMO and co-founder Naveen Sharma has a lot of work to do, though, because as lucrative as this space is, it’s highly competitive.
Packlink — Spain
Packlink co-founder and CEO Ben Askew-Renaut is at the helm of Spain’s fastest-growing tech startup. His company helps businesses and individuals manage online shipping and delivery more easily, and four years in Packlink has a presence in four of Europe’s largest countries: Spain, France, Germany and Italy.
Truecaller — Sweden
Tehran-born Nami Zarringhalam created Truecaller back in 2009 simply because he and co-founder Alan Mamedi didn’t have a better way to identify who was calling their mobile phones. Today, TrueCaller functions as a smarter phone book “so you can always connect with who you want, when you want, and block yourself from unwanted calls.” In late 2014, TrueCaller registered its hundred-millionth user.
Typeform — Spain
CEO David Okuniev is turning Typeform into the go-to provider of better web forms. These forms will let website managers ask smarter questions of visitors, create a better user experience when inputs are necessary, and simply engage visitors better.
Yousician — Finland
Chris Thür was a student at Tampere University of Technology when he met Mikko Kaipainen. Both agreed that the Internet was going to empower millions of people to learn to play music, but technology up to that point didn’t really incentivise learning. So, they created Yousician and built an app, called WildChords, that gamified the learning process. By 2012, they’d received seed funding of around 1 million EUR and have been growing the company since.
CurrencyFair – Dublin
No list would be complete without mentioning ourselves! In operation since 2010, just this year in 2017 we were listed by Irish Tech News as one of the top 20 Fintech companies in Ireland. We are so proud of our journey and honoured to be recognized.
CEO and co-founder Brett Meyers is an Australian expat, now in Dublin. You can read more about our story here.
We created CurrencyFair because we felt that transferring money abroad was not the way it could (and should) be: simple, fast, and above all, cheap!
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