9 European start-ups looking to change the face of tech in 2021

9 Sep 2021

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These start-ups and early-stage companies from around Europe – including two in Ireland – are scaling new heights in their sectors.

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year, Europe’s tech sector has continued to grow and we have seen a surge in deals in 2021.

Awash with talent and innovation, the continent has also been leading the way in the tech unicorn boom this year, with 65 of the 170 cities globally to have at least one unicorn.

Here, we narrow in on nine promising European tech start-ups that have the potential to drive change in their sectors, including two based in Ireland. Several have been named as Technology Pioneers for 2021 by the World Economic Forum.


Polymateria is a British biotech start-up that aims to end the global plastic pollution problem. Using a process called biotransformation, the company’s scientists have created a proprietary additive that can break down conventional plastic packaging safely if it escapes into the natural environment. This formulation is time controlled, which means that the biotransformation process starts only after the product’s life cycle has ended.

The start-up was founded by Jonathan Sieff and Lee Davy-Martin in 2016 and is headquartered in London. Its CEO Niall Dunne, a former student of Dublin’s Belvedere College, was featured in the World Economic Forum’s list of young global leaders in 2012.


This early-stage French chemical technology company takes a different approach to solving issues of plastic pollution. Using special enzymes developed by Carbios scientists, the company is looking to deconstruct any type of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic waste into its most basic components. This can then be reused to produce new PET plastics of comparable quality.

The Euronext Paris-listed company was founded in 2011 and is headed by CEO Jean-Claude Lumaret. Headquartered in Saint-Beauzire, France, Carbios raised €114m in a capital increase in May led by L’Oréal’s venture arm Bold, Michelin Ventures and Copernicus Wealth Management.


Enapter is a renewable energy company that aims to provide an affordable alternative to fossil fuels by decentralising the production of green hydrogen and speed up the process. The company says its patented anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyser makes water electrolysis cheaper and universal. The software-integrated AEM electrolysers can be produced at scale like computer chips and solar panels.

Based in Crespina, Italy, the start-up was founded in 2017 by Vaitea Cowan and Jan-Justus Schmidt, who featured in Forbes’ 30 under 30 Energy 2020 list. In June, Enapter received €9.3m in funding from the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy to develop its electrolyser mass-production system.


This green energy company aims to make the handling and distribution of hydrogen easy and efficient. Using its liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) technology with benzyl toluene as the carrier medium, Hydrogenious is looking to make the distribution process more flexible and reliable in a bid to reduce carbon footprints.

Founded by Daniel Teichmann and his PhD colleagues at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, the idea to start Hydrogenious sprung when they decided their research in LOHC was ready for the market.

Since its inception in 2013, the early-stage company has received backing from AP Ventures, Royal Vopak, Mitsubishi Corporation, Covestro, Winkelmann Group and Hyundai Motor Company. It has a presence in Europe and the US, and is now eyeing the Chinese market.

Powell Software

Powell Software is a cloud-based digital work platform that aims to capitalise on the future of work by improving the employee experience of those working from home or in a hybrid arrangement. Its software provides companies with services such as business communication, employee engagement and collaboration. Powell’s suite of tools is targeted towards a broad range of audiences including HR, sales teams, communications teams, IT and small businesses.

The start-up was founded in Paris in 2015 by CEO Cyril de Queral and and COO Jean-Pierre Vimard.

Powell has around 400 clients and more than 1.5m users worldwide. After its inception in Paris, Powell was taken to the US market in 2016 and it now has offices in locations including London, Cologne and South Africa. Last year, it raised $16m in a Series A funding round led by US-based Level Equity and France-based Cap Horn.


Ceretai is a software company that helps media companies analyse and monitor diversity in their content. Its Diversity Dashboard platform allows them to keep track of gender representation, age distribution and other measures of portrayal. With customised diversity reports and workshops for executives, Ceretai automates the process of diversity monitoring, with the aim of making it time-effective and cost-effective.

The start-up was found by CEO Matilda Kong and chief product officer Lisa Hamberg in 2018. Along with head of insights Angnis Schmidt-May, the three form Ceretai’s all-female executive team. The company is headquartered in Stockholm and has an office in Hamburg. Partners and clients of Ceretai include the BBC, Forbes and German TV show Tagesschau, among others.


This UK-based edtech company uses the power of artificial intelligence to create learning tools and content for schools, colleges and other educational environments. With a team of teachers, neuroscientists and learning technologists, Century curates personalised learning paths for every student on the platform and delivers real-time data on the learners. The company aims to make high-quality education more accessible.

Founded by CEO Priya Lakhani in 2013, this early-stage company is headquartered in London. In November 2019, Century was named the overall winner of the Spectator Economic Disruptor of the Year Awards. Lakhani was also featured in Inclusive Boards UK list of 100 most influential BAME leaders in tech in the same year.


Evervault is an infosec start-up that was founded by young Dubliner Shane Curran in 2018. The company has built a data-privacy interface that developers can use when creating software. Its tools for secure cloud hardware across both web and mobile applications aims to take privacy away from compliance and make it a product feature.

A former BT Young Scientist winner, Curran’s encryption-as-a-service start-up raised $16m in Series A funding in May last year, led by Index Ventures. Previous investors Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Frontline also joined the round, in addition to a number of angel investors. Evervault now has offices in Dublin and San Francisco.


This Dublin-based cybersecurity start-up creates software for automating mundane security-related tasks that normally eat up time and resources for analysts and engineers, allowing for greater focus on more critical tasks. Its platform is designed for non-technical employees with click-and-drag functions and is used by customers such as tech company Box and restaurant reservation company OpenTable.

Tines was founded in 2018 by Eoin Hinchy and Thomas Kinsella, who previously worked in security roles at eBay and DocuSign. In April, the start-up raised $26m in fresh funds, valuing the company at $300m. The Series B round was led by Addition, with participation from CrowdStrike’s Falcon Fund, Silicon Valley CISO Investments, Accel and Blossom Capital.

Updated, 9.15am, 9 September 2021: This list originally contained Brussels-headquartered data analytics company Riaktr. The company was removed from the start-up list as it was acquired by Seamless Distribution Systems earlier this year.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic