Emerging Europe’s start-up scene is thriving: new money and new ideas are coming onto the market all the time. To keep you up to date with the latest investments, innovations, movers and shakers, each Monday Emerging Europe brings you a round-up of the region’s start-up news.
Preply: Ukrainian-founded language learning marketplace raises 50 million US dollars
Ukrainian-founded Preply reached a record-breaking milestone in the company’s funding history last week, raising 50 million US dollars in its series C, bringing its total level of investment to over 100 million US dollars since inception.
Despite the war in Ukraine, founders Kirill Bigai, Dmytro Voloshyn and Serge Lukyanov have succeeded in building a truly global business, expanding the team to over 400 employees of 58 different nationalities across 30 countries worldwide. From an education start-up, Preply has become a global e-learning powerhouse that connects the world’s largest live language learning community.
The Series C round was led by Silicon Valley based Owl Ventures, the largest Education Technology investor in the world. Previous investors Diligent Capital, Hoxton Ventures, Educapital, Evli Growth Partners, Przemyslaw Gacek, co-founder of Grupa Pracuj also participated, as well as new investors such as Swisscom Ventures, and Orbit Capital.
The Preply marketplace pairs hundreds of thousands of learners with more than 32,000 tutors teaching over 50 languages. Over the past year, Preply has tripled the size of its B2B language learning business which now counts Bytedance (TikTok), Mercedes and McKinsey amongst its customers.
On the consumer side, the number of people using the Preply app has grown fourfold over the last two years and in many geographies overall users have almost doubled year-on-year. The number of students being taught on the platform now exceeds the number of students taught in Ivy League universities as the platform plans to conquer the growing online language learning market, set to reach 47 billion US dollars by 2025.
Kirill Bigai, co-founder and CEO of Preply, says, “I am indescribably proud of what the Preply team has achieved. We have become the world’s leading brand in live language classes and the platform of choice for so many tutors who have decided to teach online. With the additional funding, we plan to continue growing our footprint in the US and Europe by doubling down on AI-based matching and delivering on our promise to connect the largest live language learning community in the world.”
Though Preply’s main offices are in the US and Europe, the founders hail from Kyiv. Over the last few months, the company’s global workforce have launched a number of meaningful initiatives to support Ukraine. This includes a ‘Messages to Ukraine’ campaign, translating over 8,000 global messages of support into Ukrainian, as well as a free language assistance programme for 1,000 Ukrainians crossing borders and grappling with a new language.
Lightyear: Estonian investment platform raises 25 million euros, expands across Europe
The Estonian-founded investment platform Lightyear last week announced the raising of 25 million euros in a Series A round from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and the company’s seed investors: Mosaic Ventures, Taavet+Sten, and Metaplanet.
Lightyear, founded by ex-Wise duo Martin Sokk and Mihkel Aamer, combines multi-currency accounts with unlimited access to global markets so customers can invest without hidden fees.
Traditionally, if investors in Europe want access to international markets they are hit with transaction and custody fees, but most notably, hidden foreign exchange fees. With its multi-currency accounts, where users can add, hold and invest in different currencies, Lightyear seamlessly bridges the gaps between international markets for customers.
The fresh funding comes at the same time as Lightyear’s expansion into 19 European markets, just nine months after it launched in the UK. The European launch enables customers now access thousands of US and European stocks in addition to Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Countries part of this first European rollout include Ireland, the Baltics and most of Western Europe such as Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands and France.
“Nine months ago, we launched our app in the UK to initial waitlisters,” Martin Sokk, co-founder and CEO of Lightyear says. “Fast forward to now, and we’ve secured a European licence that enables us to launch across the continent and raised one of the largest Series A rounds in 2022. But, our goal remains the same: to give all of Europe access to the world’s markets without hidden fees and to make investing easy for everyone.”
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group says: “For too long, financial markets have been overly complex with high barriers to entry and confusing jargon. Martin, Mihkel and the Lightyear team are lifting the lid on the world of investing – making it more transparent whilst empowering people through education – to choose the products which are right for them.”
Elinta Charge: EV charging solutions start-up raises seven million euros
AVIA Capital and LitCapital have invested seven million euros in Elinta Charge, a Lithuanian developer and manufacturer of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions, to support R&D, development of new products and further international expansion in the fast-growing e-mobility market.
Elinta Charge designs and assembles EV charging stations for commercial and residential use, and also provides cloud-based intelligent software for fleet managers, as well as operators of public spaces, offices, hospitality and other facilities. The company’s technology is already installed in more than 30 countries on four continents worldwide.
“Elinta Charge is an innovative company operating in the booming EV market, whose charging solutions are valued by clients and industry experts for their functionality, durability and aesthetics,” says Piotr Panasiewicz, director at AVIA Capital. “The company knows how to service demanding corporate clients and cities, supporting green transport while preserving the beauty and functionality of the urban landscape. We are happy to come aboard as investors and support further growth, not least because this investment will have a positive impact on the environment.”
“Considering the solid market potential, coupled with our strong belief in the engineering talent at Elinta Charge and the outstanding product they have built, we are extremely glad to be able to join as investors,” adds Šarūnas Šiugžda, founder and managing partner at LitCapital.
The European Union has set a target of tripling the number of publicly accessible charging points to 1 million by 2025, and banned the sale of new cars with combustion engines from 2035. Around the world, the number of public charging points will increase 12-18 times by 2030, according to International Energy Agency estimates.
“While Elinta Charge is already achieving outstanding growth, we’re only just getting started on tapping into the enormous potential in the EV technology space,” says Ignas Mikutis, Elinta Charge CEO. “With rising support from individuals, businesses and regulators, electric vehicles are becoming an increasingly inevitable part of our daily lives. This is an exciting market to be in, and our focus on refined design, high-end engineering and smart functionalities produces e-mobility infrastructure solutions that are both elegant and durable, delighting infrastructure operators and EV drivers alike.”
Elinta Charge will use the funding from AVIA Capital, which specialises in scaling up innovative companies, to explore production opportunities in Poland, benefiting from the country’s strong automotive component sector, supportive R&D policy and infrastructure, as well as its proximity to key EU markets. The investment will be used to scale up the company, create new products and services, develop next-generation software and recruit engineers and programmers.
According to the company’s CEO, it will help the company to maintain the same growth rate during this and upcoming years as in 2021 when Elinta Charge doubled its performance.
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