The unicorns are loose in France.

According to information from the FAZ, Fintech Spendesk is now the 26th young company in the country to achieve the status that indicates an investor valuation of more than one billion dollars.

Niklas Zaboji

Economic correspondent in Paris

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By expanding the so-called Series C round by an additional 100 million euros, Spendesk has now crossed this threshold.

The investment sum comes from the American venture capital fund Tiger Global with the participation of all existing investors.

Tiger Global has funded early technology companies like Meta (Facebook) and Spotify and is popular in the industry accordingly.

Longer and longer every week

As a provider for the management of business expenses, Spendesk has been on the market since 2016. It offers companies with 50 to 1000 employees software in which all expenses can be collected and tracked. This should simplify and automate processes, which means saving time and money, especially in accounting. The expense slip filled out by hand should be a thing of the past. Spendesk currently has 400 employees, and a further 300 are to be added by the end of this year, 120 of them at the Berlin and Hamburg locations.

It is quite remarkable that the French fintech can hold its own in the market. Because the business with expense digitization is highly competitive. The Danish competitor Pleo became the first Danish unicorn in the middle of last year and is now worth almost 5 billion euros. The Sofia-founded and London-based fintech Payhawk, Berlin-based Pliant and London-based Soldo, or the French billing specialists Jenji, Qonto and Mooncard are also vying for customers from small and medium-sized companies.

Spendesk co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant says he doesn't fear fintech competition the most. "Our competitors are companies that are sticking to the status quo with traditional and very bureaucratic processes," he says in an interview. The fruits of digitization are tangible. Ardant, who studied at the prestigious École polytechnique and has already founded and sold a company, sees the advantage of his software in the fact that it covers the entire range of expenses.

According to Spendesk, around 60,000 users are currently using it.

Germany accounts for around 30 percent of sales, but Ardant calls it the largest potential market, especially with a view to the many medium-sized companies.

He intends to expand there.

So far, German customers have included the bus provider Flixbus and the Swabian industrial icon Stihl.

As a unicorn, Spendesk joins a list of French unicorns that has been growing from week to week: At the beginning of January, the fintechs Payfit and Qonto announced that they had collected more than one billion dollars, the latter was rated with 4.4 billion euros even the most valuable French start-up.

The trading platform Ankorstore also became a unicorn a few days ago.

The market is currently swimming in investor money, everyone says.

Together, the French start-ups acquired the record value of almost 12 billion euros last year, more than twice as much as in 2020. However, there were similar and even larger increases in other countries such as Great Britain and Germany.

Direct contacts in the ministries

The robot service provider Exotec became unicorn number 25 on Monday. The goal announced by Emmanuel Macron in September 2019 to reach this amount of young companies valued at one billion dollars has thus been achieved much earlier than planned;

At that time there were only a handful of unicorns like the ride broker Blablacar, the cloud provider OVH or the appointment booking platform Doctolib.

The president, who was already in campaign mode, used the achievement of the goal as an opportunity to refer to the success of "French Tech" in a video message.

This will change the lives of the French, create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and constitute French sovereignty.

Spendesk co-founder Ardant makes it clear that he has benefited enormously from Macron's start-up funding.

"French politicians are specifically promoting the digital economy with specific measures," he says.

These included the stock options for employees and the unbureaucratic regulations for bringing skilled workers into the country.

As a result, employees from 40 nations work for Spendesk today.

"In France, there are also direct contacts in the ministries," emphasizes Ardant.

"That helps a lot."

Cedric O, French State Secretary for Digital Affairs, has announced a visit for this Tuesday, and a meeting with Macron's economic adviser Philippe Englebert in the Élysée Palace is already on the calendar for February.

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