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14 CEE tech startups aspiring to revolutionize life and business on a global scale

tech startups

If we ask you to name a few companies that have transformed the way we communicate, work, study, shop, and have fun, you’ll almost certainly point to Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, among other US technological leaders.

 

However, not all innovators with the guts to turn their ideas into a reality start out of a garage or a university dorm room somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic.

 

One region that has in recent years established itself as an incubator of startups and an attractive destination for venture capital is Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The Estonian messenger application company Skype, the Czech cybersecurity software provider Avast, and the Bulgarian software company Telerik, whose co-founders also built Campus X, are just a few examples of successful exits from the region.

 

Below we present 14 CEE tech startups that have already stood out with their value proposition and market fit, achieved some success and demonstrated significant potential for growth beyond the region.

 

Note: The companies on our list are either based in CEE or have a strong connection to the region – e.g., their founders come from a CEE country, they have attracted funding from local investors, and/or a substantial number of their staff are based in the region. Since we’re based in Sofia, we’ve given Bulgarian startups a bit of a preferential treatment but we’re only human, after all.

 

14 CEE tech startups to keep an eye on

 

1.

Payhawk (Bulgaria/UK)

Industry: financial services/FinTech

Year founded: 2018

Founders: Hristo Borisov, Konstantin Dzhengozov, Boyko Karadzhov

Total funding: USD 235 million

Unique value proposition: an all-in payment and expense management software solution for larger small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and enterprise customers, especially with a multinational footprint

 


Ambassador for Payhawk. Grigor Dimitrov

Payhawk reduces the manual work for finance teams with its enterprise-ready platform where they can manage all their corporate cards, payments, invoices, and expenses instead of using multiple disconnected tools. The company, which started out of a shared office at Campus X and benefited from our flexible office offerings in response to its rapid growth, has offices in Sofia, London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Vilnius, and New York. Its team, set to expand to 400 people by the end of 2024, serves clients in more than 30 countries across a variety of industries and currencies, including Mercell, ATU, Luxair, heycar, and Scalefocus.

 

In 2022, Payhawk raised USD 100 million as part of its Series B round at a valuation of USD 1 billion, becoming the first Bulgarian company to achieve unicorn status. In April this year, it welcomed Bulgarian tennis star Grigor Dimitrov as its first global brand ambassador.

 

2.

Productboard (Czech Republic/USA)

Industry: software development

Year founded: 2014

Founders: Hubert Palan, Daniel Hejl

Total funding: USD 262 million

Unique value proposition: a product management platform that helps organizations build the products their customers need and get them to market faster

 

Productboard enables managers to run efficient and coordinated product organizations that can stay on top of evolving customer needs, plan strategically, prioritize product investments, and optimize their operations. Based in San Francisco and with offices in Prague, Brno, London, Dublin, and Vancouver, the company has a team of approximately 300 professionals who serve more than 6,000 clients, including Microsoft, Salesforce, Zoom, and UiPath. In 2022, it raised USD 125 million in a Series D funding round at a valuation of USD 1.7 billion.

 

3.

Causaly (Greece/UK)

Industry: artificial intelligence (AI), research and development (R&D)

Year founded: 2018

Founders: Yiannis Kiachopoulos, Artur Saudabayev

Total funding: USD 93 million

Unique value proposition: an AI-powered platform for biomedical research that speeds up the research and development process of finding new medicines

 

Causaly’s platform reshapes the way data is found, analyzed, and applied in drug discovery and development by sifting through large amounts of biomedical literature and allowing researchers and medical professionals to focus on making new hypotheses and discoveries. The London- and Athens-based company has a team of more than 100 professionals and a customer portfolio that includes Gilead, Novo Nordisk, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

In 2023, Causaly raised USD 60 million in a Series B round led by ICONIQ Growth and backed by institutional investors such as Index Ventures and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as angel investors like Alex Gorsky, former Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, and Datadog’s co-founder and CEO Olivier Pomel.

 

4.

Dronamics (Bulgaria/UK)

Industry: aviation, logistics

Year founded: 2014

Founders: Svilen Rangelov, Konstantin Rangelov

Total funding: USD 53 million

Unique value proposition: a remotely piloted cargo drone licensed to fly in the EU that can carry up to 350 kg at a distance of up 2,500 km



Dronamics at Campus X

 

Founded by two Bulgarian brothers, Dronamics aspires to become the world’s first cargo drone airline that offers same-day delivery. The Black Swan, the company’s drone, completed its first flight at Balchik Airport in Bulgaria, with commercial operations planned to begin in Greece by the end of 2024. Dronamics recently announced an equity investment of EUR 10 million from the European Innovation Council (EIC). This investment follows an EIC grant of EUR 2.5 million in 2022 and a total of pre-Series A funding of USD 40 million raised from VC funds and angel investors, including Boyko Iaramov – a co-founder of Campus X, Telerik, Telerik Academy, and Telerik School Academy.

 

Dronamics has a R&D team in an office located between Sofia Airport’s two terminals and a European operations team in Malta. It laid the foundations for its expansion at Campus X, where it set up its office in 2018. During its time at Campus X, the team benefited from a wide array of professional services, which allowed them to focus on their core engineering and business development work. In April this year, Dronamics returned to its former home for an exhibition telling the story of the Black Swan and featuring the only full-scale model of the drone.

 

5.

Infermedica (Poland)

Industry: artificial intelligence (AI), healthcare

Year founded: 2012

Founders: Piotr Orzechowski, Irving Loh, Roberto Sicconi

Total funding: USD 44 million

Unique value proposition: an AI-powered medical platform for early symptom assessment and triage

 

Through its medical guidance platform, Wroclaw-based Infermedica aspires to make healthcare accessible, convenient, and affordable, and support the communication between physicians and patients along the entire primary care journey from symptom to outcome. The platform, which is aimed at healthcare providers, insurers, and telemedicine companies, is available in 24 languages, including Polish, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese, and has facilitated 18 million checkups. Among the company’s clients are Allianz Partners, Microsoft, Kliniken AG, and PZU Zdrowie. In 2022, the company raised USD 30 million in a Series B funding round.

 

6.

Resistant AI (Czech Republic)

Industry: financial services, cybersecurity, machine learning

Year founded: 2019

Founders: Martin Rehak, Jan Stiborek, Jan Jusko, Tomáš Laube, Karel Bartoš, Josef Stach, Martin Grill, Martin Vejman, Lukáš Machlica

Total funding: USD 30.35 million

Unique value proposition: AI-based cybersecurity tools for fraud protection, anti-money laundering, and protection against other cybercrimes aimed at providers of financial services

 

Resistant AI is on a mission to make financial systems more resilient by enhancing companies’ automated risk and compliance systems at all stages of the customer journey. Its three products include Document Forensics, Transaction Forensics, and Identity Forensics. Headquartered in Prague and with offices in London and New York, the startup has raised USD 27.6 million in Series A funding and USD 2.75 million in seed funding, and serves clients such as Dun & Bradstreet, Payoneer, and Habito. Its founders previously built another cybersecurity company, Cognitive Security, which was acquired by US technology giant Cisco in 2013.

 

7.

Colossyan (Hungary/UK)

Industry: artificial intelligence (AI), learning and development (L&D)

Year founded: 2020

Founder: Dominik Mate Kovacs

Total funding: USD 28 million

Unique value proposition: a generative AI text-to-video solution for the production of learning and development (L&D) videos

 

Colossyan allows organizations to streamline and improve their corporate training processes by creating videos from text in a fast and cost-efficient manner. Its technology creates videos with digitally generated actors (avatars) on the basis of information from presentations, documents, instructions, and marketing materials. With offices in London and Budapest and additional team members around the globe, the company has 2,000 clients, including BMW Group, Vodafone, Paramount Pictures, the City of Linz (Austria), and the State of New Mexico (USA). In early 2024, it closed a USD 22 million Series A funding round with the participation of Bulgarian VC fund LAUNCHub Ventures.

 

8.

LucidLink (Bulgaria/USA)

Industry: software development

Year founded: 2016

Founders: Peter Thompson, Georgi Dochev

Total funding: approximately USD 115 million

Unique value proposition: a cloud storage and real-time file-sharing platform for the creative industries

 

LucidLink provides its users with fast and secure remote access to large files, enabling them to collaborate instantly from everywhere. Its headquarters are in San Francisco, California, but its main research and development (R&D) operations are based in Bulgaria. LucidLink’s customers include Adobe, A&E Networks, Buzzfeed, and Spotify, as well as Hollywood studios, broadcasters, digital advertising agencies, gaming companies, and architectural studios. In November 2023, the company picked up USD 75 million in a Series C funding round led by US investment firm Brighton Park Capital.

 

Its technology was used in the production of the film The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, which won the 2023 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. LucidLink is also on Forbes’ 2024 list of America’s Best Startup Employers.

 

9.

ElevenLabs (Poland/USA)

Industry: artificial intelligence (AI)

Year founded: 2022

Founders: Mati Staniszewski, Piotr Dabkowski

Total funding: 101 million

Unique value proposition: AI tools for the creation and editing of realistic and contextually aware audio in various languages

 

Co-founded by two Polish friends, an ex-Google machine learning engineer and an ex-Palantir deployment strategist, ElevenLabs develops and deploys AI audio models that generate realistic and contextually aware speech and sound effects. With headquarters in New York and offices in Poland and the UK, the startup has raised USD 80 million in a Series B funding round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz, Nat Friedman, and Daniel Gross in early 2024, joining the club of Polish unicorns. In 2023, ElevenLabs expanded its presence in industries such as publishing, media, and entertainment, forged business-to-business (B2B) partnerships with companies such as Storytel, The Washington Post, and Futuri Media, and launched an AI speech classifier that can verify if an audio sample contains ElevenLabs-generated content.

 

10.

Mews (Czech Republic/Netherlands)

Industry: software development

Year founded: 2012

Founder: Richard Valtr

Total funding: USD 335 million

Unique value proposition: a cloud-based property management platform for accommodation providers and other hospitality businesses

 

Founded by an ex-hotelier, Mews offers a cloud-based integrated system for the management of hotels, long-stay serviced apartments, luxury resorts, and hybrid properties with the goal of helping these businesses streamline their operations and deliver personalized guest experiences. Some 5,000 customers in more than 85 countries use Mews to manage over 350,000 hospitality spaces. In March 2024, Mews announced that it had raised USD 110 million in a Series D round valuing the company at USD 1.2 billion. As part of its expansion throughout the years, Mews has acquired eight companies.

 

11.

EnduroSat (Bulgaria/Luxembourg)

Industry: aerospace engineering

Year founded: 2015

Founder: Raycho Raychev

Total funding: USD 10 million

Unique value proposition: offering access to nanosatellites and shared-satellite services that enable public and private organizations to take advantage of space data

 

EnduroSat’s main goal is to transform the satellite industry into a streamlined data service that gives organizations instant access to space data from hundreds of sensors in the orbit. Founded by Bulgarian entrepreneur Raycho Raychev, who is also the creator of the international space education program Space Challenges, the company employees approximately 200 professionals in space engineering, science, and tech, with a core R&D team based in Bulgaria and offices in the USA, Germany, France, and Italy. Since its market debut in 2018, it has supported over 200 customers and multiple missions, and delivered over 2,500 satellite modules flying onboard customers’ satellites. Among the company’s partners and clients are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus, and Vyoma.

 

In 2023, EnduroSat raised USD 10 million in Series A funding and opened a space center for space testing, assembly, and qualification in Sofia.

 

12.

FlowX.AI (Romania/USA)

Industry: software development

Year founded: 2020

Founders: Ioan Iacob, Radu Cautis, Serban Chiricescu

Total funding: USD 43.5 million

Unique value proposition: an AI enterprise application modernization platform for financial services organizations

 

Through its unified platform, Romanian-founded, US-headquartered FlowX.AI enables large financial services organizations to streamline system integration and digitization processes. In 2023, it raised USD 35 million in a Series A funding round, surpassing the previous Romanian startup ecosystem record held by automation unicorn UiPath. Among the company’s clients are the European banking groups OTP, Banca Transilvania, and Alpha Bank.

 

13.

OfficeRnD (Bulgaria/USA)

Industry: software development

Year founded: 2015

Founders: Miroslav Miroslavov, Miroslav Nedyalkov

Total funding: USD 15 million

Unique value proposition: specialized software solutions for property management and tenant engagement for coworking spaces and hybrid workspaces, as well as for landlords

 

OfficeRnD is a Bulgarian-founded, US-headquartered software startup offering a platform that allows flexible space operators, landlords, property management companies, and hybrid teams to manage their flexible and hybrid workspaces more efficiently. How? By enabling them to automate workspace-related operations, billing and payments, streamline member and contract management, and analyze data related to workplace and people experiences.

 

With over 140 employees and offices in Atlanta, Sofia, London, and Melbourne, OfficeRnD knows from experience what coworking and hybrid workspaces need. It is one of the first members of the Campus X ecosystem, and it relies on our support for its operations in Sofia to this day.

 

14.

Tenderly (Serbia/USA)

Industry: software development, blockchain

Year founded: 2018

Founders: Andrej Benčić, Bogdan Habić, Miljan Tekić, Nebojša Urošević

Total funding: USD 58.6 million

Unique value proposition: full-stack infrastructure solutions for Web 3 professionals

 

Tenderly offers a platform that assists developers in the process of building blockchain products from development to deployment. Developers can run their decentralized applications (dapps) on a high-performance multichain node with integrated development environments and built-in debugging tools. The company has a team of over 60 people and offices in San Francisco and Belgrade. In its last funding round, it raised USD 40 million in Series B from Spark Capital, Accel, and Point Nine Capital, among other investors.

 

The right environment for tech startups

 

What are the main factors that have contributed to the success of the tech startups presented in this article and continue to enhance their growth potential?

 

Offering a high-quality product or service that addresses specific pain points of specific groups is a must, but it isn’t enough. Having a team of versatile professionals led by a visionary leader helps a lot, but it isn’t enough, either. Having access to investors, mentors, and a solid base of potential customers increases a tech startup’s chances of success, but it doesn’t matter much if the company doesn’t have a top-notch product/service and the right team.

 

To thrive in the competitive international environment in the 21st century, tech startups need to be part of a vibrant ecosystem that gives them access to state-of-the-art infrastructure, top talent, abundant capital, and a support network facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experience.

 

Campus X is precisely such an ecosystem in Sofia, Bulgaria. Among our current members are Telerik Academy, Americaneagle.com, Digital Lights, Storytel Bulgaria, and Eleven.

 

If you want to learn more about Campus X, check out our private and shared offices and the wide range of professional services we offer to our members, or simply contact us.

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