25 European IoT and hardware start-ups to watch in 2019

23 Jan 2019

Image: © Golubovy/Stock.adobe.com

European tech start-ups are demonstrating an instinctive approach to new hardware and technologies spurred on by the internet of things.

Europe’s tradition of quality engineering and innovation that extends back hundreds of years is re-emerging through a digital lens.

Across Europe, hardware start-ups and internet of things (IoT) players are coming up with new sensors, vehicles, drones and systems that will transform, enable, and hopefully nurture and protect human life as we progress into the 21st century and beyond.

This listing is part of our Europe Start-up 100 series for 2019, which every day this week is focusing on a different list, including e-commerce and fintech, deep tech, and medtech and life sciences start-ups. On Friday (25 January), we will publish our full Europe Start-up 100 list of the ones to watch.

Remember, these lists are not absolute because they are only a dip in the ocean of European innovation. As such, they are devised to give you a flavour of the kind of activity that is happening.

And so, here are our 25 European IoT and hardware start-ups to watch in 2019.

Animal Dynamics (UK)

UK-based start-up Animal Dynamics is a spin-out company from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University and was founded in 2015 by Prof Adrian Thomas and Alex Caccia. Animal Dynamics aims to design and develop super-efficient vehicles and systems such as drones, inspired by the deep study of evolutionary biomechanics. The company’s most recent funding was in November 2018 when it raised £6m in a Series A round led by Oxford Sciences Innovation, with participation from Kindred Capital and Australian investment company Tanarra Capital.

ApisProtect (Ireland)

Smiling woman with blonde hair and black jacket beside a bee hive.

Fiona Edwards Murphy. Image: Clare Keogh

Agritech firm ApisProtect helps commercial beekeepers to more effectively manage colonies and optimise pollination. The Cork company’s in-hive sensor network uses long-range, cellular and satellite-powered communication to proactively monitor honeybee colonies. The brainchild of CEO Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, ApisProtect announced plans in November to create 25 new jobs after closing a seed round from Finistere Ventures, Atlantic Bridge Capital, Radicle Growth, The Yield Lab and Enterprise Ireland.

Augmenta (Greece)

Founded by George Varvarelis and Dimitri Evangelopoulos in 2016, Augmenta is focused on the agricultural IoT and automation space. It offers a plug-and-play device that is mounted to a tractor to scan crops, analysing 4K video data in real time. It aims to augment income for farmers, enabling them to boost production and enhance crop quality. Based in Athens, Augmenta also has an office in Austin, Texas. Last June, it raised $600,000 in a seed round from Marathon Venture Capital.

Blickfeld (Germany)

Based in Munich, German start-up Blickfeld is developing the high-tech systems needed to enable autonomous cars and robotics to ‘see’, packaged in low-cost devices suitable for mass production. Founded in 2017 by Dr Mathias Müller (CEO), Dr Florian Petit and Rolf Wojtech, the company’s product family uses proprietary LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology based on patented silicon MEMS mirrors and commercial off-the-shelf components. Last summer, all of Blickfeld’s existing investors (Fluxunit, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Tengelmann Ventures and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners) participated in a further funding round, increasing the total kitty to $10m.

BuffaloGrid (UK)

Mobile electricity start-up BuffaloGrid is working in the area of community-based solar-powered chargers, making them available for free in participating communities found off a country’s main electricity grid. Split between London and New Delhi, the business was founded in 2011 by Daniel Becerra and Daniel Fogg, and is aiming to bring its solar chargers to the estimated 1.2bn people globally without access to electricity. Currently running pilot programmes in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the company announced that it secured a total of £3.4m in December thanks to a LocalGlobe funding round and a Horizons 2020 grant.

Click & Grow (Estonia)

Based in the Estonian capital of Tallinn as well as San Francisco, Click & Grow is an innovative smart garden start-up that makes it possible to grow produce in even the smallest of homes. Founded in 2009 by Mattias Lepp, it has raised close to $18m over a series of six funding rounds. The most recent was in the fourth quarter of 2018, when United Angels VC led an $11m round. Lepp hopes to help make a positive impact on food chain sustainability and reduce food waste.

DyeMansion (Germany)

DyeMansion turns 3D-printed raw parts into products, claiming to pick up the mantle from where the industrial 3D printer stops. It turns out sleek and high-valued finished products in as little as three hours. It offers its services for large enterprises as well as a small-volume on-demand finishing service, even providing a trial benchmark that it calls ‘TryMansion’. A funding round worth $5m was announced in September 2018 and included AM Ventures, Btov Partners and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners.

Exein (Italy)

Exein is a cybersecurity start-up that seeks to secure IoT, industrial and critical infrastructure devices using a world-first firmware security solution that includes offline monitoring. The software is said to be injected like a vaccine inside the hardware in order to defend it from inside. It was founded in July 2018 by Gianni Cuozzo in Italy as a spin-off project undertaken by cybersecurity firm Aspisec. Less than a year old, Exein has already raised €2m in a Series A funding round. This investment last November came solely from United Ventures.

Fairphone (Netherlands)

Amsterdam-based Fairphone makes modular smartphones from ethically sourced materials and is paving the way for the ethical electronics movement. Founded in 2013, Fairphone announced last year that Eva Gouwens would succeed Bas van Abel as CEO. It raised €20m in 2018 a number of ways, including a crowdfunding campaign (€2.5m), a venture round (€4.5m) and debt financing (€13m).

Go Flash (Germany)

Young man in casual wear on electric kick scooter on city street in motion blur in sunday.

Image: © Bortnikau/Stock.adobe.com

Focused on the future of smart urban mobility, Go Flash is a Berlin start-up that is designing and developing its own e-scooter vehicles. The start-up is currently in the process of running two limited pilot trials in Lisbon and Zurich. Founded by Lukasz Gadowski, the company recently raised a €55m Series A funding round led by Target Global.

Hardt Hyperloop (Netherlands)

While the likes of Virgin Hyperloop One might get most of the headlines, a growing player in the hyperloop transport concept is Dutch start-up Hardt Hyperloop. After winning the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition in 2017 with Delft University, co-founders Tim Houter, Marinus van der Meijs, Mars Geuze and Sascha Lamme launched the firm that now has almost 20 full-time staff. The company’s big break came in September 2018 when it secured €5m from European sustainable energy advocate InnoEnergy following a €1.25m investment the previous February. It hopes to lead a consortium to start the process of standardising and regulating the technology in Europe.

Infraspeak (Portugal)

Portuguese company Infraspeak integrates with IoT sensors to help facility managers with maintenance and technical assistance, aiming to simplify technology, boost productivity and reduce bureaucracy. Its headquarters is based in the city of Porto but it also has offices in San Francisco and Florianópolis. Infraspeak was founded by Felipe Ávila da Costa and Luís Martins in 2015. A seed round in October 2018 brought its total funding to more than $2m, and investors include Tencent Holdings, Construtech Ventures and Innovation Nest.

Isorg (France)

French tech innovator Isorg develops and produces advanced image sensor technology and printed electronics, which are in demand among manufacturers of consumer electronics, medical devices and biometric security systems. Isorg spun out of CEA-Liten in 2010 and maintains its operations at the Grenoble research laboratory along with a manufacturing site in Limoges. Jean-Yves Gomez and Emmanuel Guérineau lead the company as CEO and deputy CEO respectively. In 2014, a Series A fundraising round amounted to €7.9m, followed by last year’s substantial €24m Series B round including New Science Ventures and Bpifrance.

MiniBrew (Netherlands)

A fully automatic beer brewing machine, MiniBrew condenses home brewing into one device. Founded in 2015 in Utrecht by Bart van de Kooij and Olivier van Oord, the company has seen nine funding rounds. Most recently, it raised €2.6m in a Series A round from undisclosed investors, and it hopes to use this in expansion plans in the near future. This year, it aims to roll out to the entire EU, followed by the Americas in 2020. Van Oord told Silicon Canals the company hopes to reduce ‘beer miles’ and emissions in beer brewing.

NavVis (Germany)

NavVis was founded in 2013 in Munich to, according to its website, “bridge the gap between outdoor and indoor digital maps”. It is a global provider of indoor spatial intelligence solutions for enterprises working in construction, insurance, automotive, real estate and more. It has raised more than $45m in funding over the course of three seed rounds, the latter of which was by far the most lucrative. Clocking in at $35.5m, the December 2018 Series C venture was led by Digital+ Partners, a growth equity investor focused on B2B technology.

NIL Technology (Denmark)

Denmark-based company NIL Technology (NILT) was founded in 2006 by Brian Bilenberg and Theodor Nielsen. NILT specialises in nanopatterning and nano-imprint lithography. The company’s aim is to develop and deliver micro- and nanostructures to the world’s high-tech companies. The company’s most recent funding round resulted in €6.3m in financing at the beginning of December 2018. The funding round was co-led by Jolt Capital and NGP Capital. NILT has said it will use the funding to expand R&D, production capacity and sales presence.

ObjectBox (Germany)

Based in the German city of Munich, ObjectBox is a database that brings edge computing to mobile apps and small IoT devices, enabling data to be stored in a fast and secure manner. It was founded by Dr Vivien Dollinger and Markus Junginger in 2015, and has since grown to become a platform used by more than 80,000 developers. ObjectBox received a funding boost last month in a seed round worth $2m from investors including Cavalry Ventures and Vito Ventures.

Orbital Systems (Sweden)

Orbital Systems, the “NASA-inspired” “Tesla of showers”, hails from Malmö, Sweden. This award-winning company sells a digital shower system that recirculates, filters and purifies the water flowing out of the head so you can enjoy a shower from a closed-loop system. Founded by industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, Orbital Systems attracted early investment from Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström and former Tesla executive Peter Carlsson. Last year, it secured a €15m loan agreement with the European Investment Bank, bringing total funding to date to almost $47m.

PlayPass (Belgium)

Tapping into the lucrative live-events market, Belgian start-up PlayPass offers patrons RFID and cashless payment systems at bars and kiosks. Users can top up an account linked to a wristband that can be used to buy items. Founded by Dale Hofkens and David De Wever in Antwerp in 2012, the company already has the likes of Ticketmaster and Live Nation as partners. Last year it secured €1.9m in funding led by Amsterdam-based VC Newion Investments. It claims to have processed more than €50m in payments across more than 600 events in 19 countries.

Scandit (Switzerland)

A Zurich-based start-up founded by Christian Floerkemeier, Christof Roduner and Samuel Mueller in 2009, Scandit develops software for scanning barcodes, harnessing the power of augmented reality (AR) and computer vision to bring IoT to the everyday world. The software can be integrated into any app, working on smartphones, tablets and even wearables. At the cutting edge of retail technology, Scandit has raised a total of $43m in funding rounds, the latest of which was a $30m investment including Alphabet VC arm GV, NGP Capital and Atomico. Scandit clients range from Verizon to US department store giant Macy’s.

Twaice (Germany)

German analytics platform Twaice builds virtual battery models based on digital twins. The platform uses hardware to collect data that can help designers expedite development, increase reliability and attain the holy grail that is a longer battery life. All of the data is collated and gathered in one place on its easy-to-navigate interface. Its first funding round, announced in September 2018, generated €1.2m and was led by Speedinvest and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners.

Ultrahaptics (UK)

UK-based start-up Ultrahaptics uses ultrasound to create rich, three-dimensional shapes and textures that can be felt, but not seen. The company, led by CEO Steve Cliffe, aims to add haptics to virtual objects, develop immersive holographic interfaces and augment gesture control with natural tactile feedback. Ultrahaptics was founded in Bristol in 2013 and has enjoyed a significant number of funding rounds since then. In December 2018, Ultrahaptics raised £35m in a Series C funding round led by Mayfair Equity Partners, with participation from Hostplus, IP Group, Woodford Investment, Cornes and Dolby Family Ventures.

Varjo (Finland)

Helsinki’s Varjo is developing AR, virtual reality (VR) and cross-reality (XR) hardware and software for industrial use. The technology allows professionals in industries such as aerospace to work in human-eye resolution VR or XR when designing equipment. The company was founded in 2016 by Klaus Melakari, Niko Eiden, Roope Rainisto and Urho Konttori. Last year it raised $31m in a funding round led by Atomico and involving Siemens’s venture firm, Next47. Total funding in Varjo to date now stands at almost $46m.

VOI (Sweden)

According to its website, VOI envisions “a future with cities free from noise and pollution, with happier citizens”. How does it aim to do this? By providing an electric scooter-sharing service that can be accessed easily through its app. Based in Stockholm, VOI was founded last summer by Fredrik Hjelm, Douglas Stark, Adam Jafer and Filip Lindvall. It raised $50m in a Series A round last November, bringing total funding to $52.9m. Investors include Balderton Capital and Vostok New Ventures.

WaveOptics (UK)

Lightweight glasses equipped with AR technology may seem a while away yet, but companies such as the UK’s WaveOptics are working on it. Specifically, WaveOptics is developing high-performance and easy-to-manufacture diffractive waveguides so that head-mounted displays can seamlessly combine the real and the virtual. The Oxfordshire company has been riding a wave of funding and partnerships since being founded in 2014 by David Grey and Sumanta Talukdar. Its £32.5m raised to date includes investment from Octopus Ventures, GoerTek and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.