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Corporate information Updated: 10 May 2016

Five unicorn companies driving Europe

The myth of unicorns started in Europe, but new technology companies worth more than $1 billion continue to exist to this day. Of the 160 unicorns in the world, only 16 are from Europe, compared to 88 from the U.S. and 40 from China. Here’s the story of five of these mythological companies that are reinventing the European economy.

Unicorn BBVA

In her article, “Welcome to the Unicorn Club” Aileen Lee coined the term for the startups that quickly managed to surpass $1 billion: unicorn companies. Rare and difficult to find in venture capital, unicorn companies are just as sought after as the magical animals they are named after, as they are the seeds of the new Google and Facebook.

Europe knows how important it is to have its own unicorns in order to continue being a driver of the global economy. It is estimated that there are nearly 160 unicorns in the world, but they are mostly in the U.S. (88 companies) followed by China (40 companies). The treasure chest of unicorns mostly includes software, internet for consumers and e-commerce companies, although there are also companies from the health, games and entertainment and energy sectors, according to a BBVA Research study on the digital economy.

Unicorn Timeline BBVA

Europe is home to 16 of these companies – a distant figure from the number of unicorns in China and even farther from the U.S.  European unicorns are dispersed across the continent with the exception of the U.K. – the country with the most unicorns (5). Even though there aren’t as many of them, many of these European startups really are promising and have well-known brands around the world.

Below are five European unicorns selling more than magic:

1- Global Fashion Group (U.K.): Founded in 2014, this company dedicated to the retail business operates in more than 27 countries, sending products that customers buy online. Their success relies on emerging markets, which represent a third of the population. For Fortune magazine, Global Fashion Group is one of the companies that stands out the most, ranking the company worth $3.4 billion in the 31st position.

2- Delivery Hero (Germany): More than 300,000 restaurants use their mobile app to receive orders.  The company founded in May 2011 works in 33 markets on five continents. The 13 million orders placed using the app are evidence of its success. Delivery Hero bet on food delivery and investors have placed their trust in the company year after year. It is currently valued at $3.1 billion.

3- Spotify (Sweden): The king of European unicorns. The Swedish company is one of the online platforms with the most music in the world. Its CEO Daniel Ek had the idea of creating a platform that respects copyrights and is just as flexible as listening to music online with a freemium business model. Users can choose between the free service with ads or paying a flat rate. The company is worth $8.5 billion – a record among European startups. The company’s 2015 plans for an IPO fell short but this has not interfered in its expansion plans – its future project.

4- BlaBlaCar (France): Nearly everyone has heard of this car sharing service. The French unicorn was established in 2006, but it was not until 2008 when it burst onto the market. Thanks to its idea of connecting people to share travel costs the company is now present it 20 countries and worth $1.6 billion. Its simplicity and good results have rewarded the company with 20 million registered users.

5- Skyscanner (Scotland): Finding cheap flights can be complicated, but the creators of this startup wanted the search process to be easy and simple. The website currently has 50 million monthly visits and invoices €120 million a year. Venture capital allowed Skycanner to add hotels and car rentals. The company is worth $1.6 billion this year and plans to expand to more countries.