Amsterdam-founded bank becomes unicorn

Amsterdam Fintech firm bunq has become a unicorn. British equity firm Pollen Street Capital invested €193m in the challenger bank following a funding round. The cash injection means that investors value bunq at €1.6bn, making it a so-called unicorn as it passes the €1bn mark for a privately held startup.

Founded by Ali Niknam almost a decade ago, Sloterdijk-based bunq now offers its fully digital banking services in 30 markets, including the entire European Union. It calls itself the “bank of the Free” and focuses on giving its users full control of their money, such as payment overviews and creating sub-accounts or shared accounts for group expenses. It doesn't offer loans like a regular bank, and it allows customers to choose where their money is invested. bunq is also the first Dutch bank to open its IT systems – or its API – to other developers, putting innovation at its core.

Following the investment announcement, Niknam said: “bunq was founded to challenge what banking is and can do. By putting our users first we have created a bank that is super focused to make life easy in a sustainable way. We’re extremely excited to join forces with Pollen Street Capital to further expand the bank of The Free throughout Europe.”

Read I amsterdam’s interview with Ali Niknam here.

With this funding, Pollen Street Capital has acquired a 10% stake in bunq. Niknam said the money would be used to buy Ireland-based Capitalflow Group for roughly €141m, pending regulatory approval, as part of its growth strategy.

"Thanks to this deal we'll strengthen the long-term sustainability of bunq by becoming structurally profitable by the end of the year," Niknam said. "That's a unique accomplishment - an industry first to the best of my knowledge."

Amsterdam’s game-changing finance sector

The news is another boost for Amsterdam’s thriving finance and FinTech industry, which is also home to payment platform Adyen, the city’s first unicorn, and Mollie, which became a unicorn in September 2020. A number of Dutch startups, such as Ohpen, Buckaroo and EclecticIQ, are following suit and making new advances in the fields of payments, banking software and cyber security.

International FinTech players - including Azimo, Currencycloud and PayPal – have also chosen Amsterdam as a European foothold, thanks to the city’s strong financial sector, booming tech and startup scene and first-class digital infrastructure.

Read more business news from around Amsterdam.