France scores another tech unicorn as SMB expense management heats up

The news: Corporate spend management platform Spendesk became the fifth French startup unicorn this month after its €100 million ($114 million) Series C extension.

Spendesk’s offering: The French fintech calls itself an “all-in-one” corporate spend management solution that lets mid-sized customers automate and better visualize their expenses. Companies can give employees debit cards, approve expenses, and reimburse employees in one central location.

Spendesk’s platform has proved popular with a host of medium-sized tech companies—including Soundcloud and Wefox—and the fintech said it more than doubled its revenues in both 2020 and 2021.

A closer look at SMB expense management: Investor interest in the space has rocketed in the past year.

  • A slew of sizable SMB-focused expense management funding rounds closed in 2021.
  • In December alone, Copenhagen-based Pleo raised a $200 million Series C round, and US-based Rho netted $75 million in a Series B round.
  • Sky-high investor interest stems from growing demand from the client side: In the UK and the US, 36% of businesses said they planned to upgrade their spend management and expense controls, according to a September 2021 PYMNTS report.

Zooming in on the French tech ecosystem: Spendesk joined Qonto, PayFit, Ankorstore, and Exotec in becoming a unicorn in January.

The French tech ecosystem is booming—it became Europe’s third-biggest fintech funding hub in H1 2021—spurred by a supportive Macron presidency that took measures like overhauling tech visas and distributing €4 billion ($4.56B) to bail out local startups during the pandemic.

Despite France’s hot start to 2022, we expect it will continue to trail behind the leading European fintech hubs, the UK and Germany.

UK-based and Germany-based startups raised $16.8 billion and $5.3 billion more in total venture capital funding last year than their French counterparts—a larger gap in both cases than in 2020, per a 2022 report from CB Insights.