The 2023 edition of our market map and some learnings
For those of you who follow us, it’s no secret that we, at Point Nine, have been big fans of market maps, of marketplaces, and, increasingly so, of B2B marketplaces, since 2016 and our investment in REKKI. Fast forward 7 years, and we’ve partnered with 11 B2B marketplaces, spoken to a few hundred of them, and published tens of blog posts with our learnings like these ones (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 ). In 2018 and again in 2020, my ex-colleague Julia worked on mapping the European B2B marketplace landscape with our friends at Hokodo. If you’re curious about the state of the ecosystem back then, check the 2018 post here and the 2020 version there.
In conjunction with our Future Of Marketplace Open Conference happening in Warsaw last week and again in partnership with Hokodo, my Point Nine colleague David and I thought that it was about time to publish a renewed version and a few thoughts on the evolution of the ecosystem. Let’s get into it!
Part I: The map
The map now includes 216 European B2B marketplaces. If you’re interested in the spreadsheet and/or want to be added to it, please reach out to us here.
Part II: Some stats/facts about the evolution of the B2B marketplace ecosystem in Europe
The ecosystem has matured, but most companies remain fairly early-stage
In our initial map in 2018, we had roughly 100 companies. In 2023, that number has grown to 216 companies. We’re probably missing some, but it’s fair to say that there are now several hundred B2B marketplaces in Europe.
Looking at this graph, and also taking into account the fact that it’s harder to discover the ones that have been founded very recently, we can consider that there are approximately 15 to 20 new B2B marketplace businesses created every year in Europe. In other words, it’s a small market! Our hope is also that we do not (yet? :)) have great coverage of the most recent ones and that the number is not decreasing. We strongly believe that there are still a lot of markets where trade needs to be digitized.
Now, looking at the amount of funding and based on Crunchbase data, the 216 B2B marketplaces in the landscape have raised about $4Bn since their inception (including close to $1bn for Auto1 and $500M for Travelperk).
Alongside a heated funding market, some of them kept on raising more money developing very nicely, and about 7 of them have now raised >$100M in funding.
With Auto1’s IPO at the German Stock Exchange, Europe also saw its first European B2B marketplace IPO in 2021.
The market cap of Auto1 went up to ca. €8Bn and is now stabilizing around €1.5–2Bn.
That being said, looking again at the distribution of companies by funding amount, it’s clear that the lion’s share of the ecosystem remains fairly early: only 25 B2B marketplaces have raised more than $20M!
B2B marketplaces tend to originate from the epicenter of their industries
At Point Nine, we strongly believe that great businesses can emerge from anywhere (we’ve invested in 31 countries so far). We also see this in our dataset, which includes B2B marketplaces from 30 different countries in Europe.
One specific observation we’ve made regarding B2B marketplaces is that the best founding teams often come from the epicenter(s) of the industries they’re trying to digitize rather than from startup hubs. For example, Container xChange in the container logistics industry is based in Hamburg, one of the largest ports in Europe, while cargo.one started in Germany and partnered with Lufthansa, the largest European cargo airline. Rooser began between Aberdeen in Scotland and Saint-Malo in France, two important places for the seafood industry in Europe. Similarly, Wikifarmer is based in Athens, and a significant portion of fresh fruits and vegetables production comes from Southern Europe (Greece, Italy, and Spain in particular).
Now, looking at aggregated statistics, we can see that the UK and Germany represent over 50% of the European B2B marketplaces in the landscape, followed by the Netherlands (11%) and France (9%). These four countries alone account for 76% of the ecosystem!
B2B marketplaces in the Food & Beverage industry now account for >25% of the landscape
In our previous editions, we differentiated between marketplaces for goods and services and split marketplaces into 8 different categories. In our 2020 edition, the split between goods and services marketplaces was 40/60, but it has now shifted to 52/48. While this may suggest a trend toward goods over services, the key takeaway is that the split remains roughly constant at 50/50.
When it comes to industry categories, we have expanded the number of categories to 11 in order to encompass the entire map. You can find the covered industries listed below.
Some interesting facts:
Food and beverages represent 50% of the goods B2B marketplaces
Freight and logistics represent about 10% of B2B marketplaces in Europe
We see more and more B2B marketplaces in construction popping up
Part III: Learnings from watching the ecosystem mature
Beyond sharing these logos and these stats, we also wanted to share a few learnings from working with some of these companies and observing how the broader ecosystem has matured.
On companies’ trajectories
While in isolation some of the funding data looks rosy, we know that funding does not always correlate with long-term success. Some of the most well-funded companies in the dataset went through the same wave(s) of layoffs that much of the market suffered in the past year, including Meero, Ankorstore, cargo.one, and Qogita. It doesn’t mean that these businesses won’t be successful in the long run, but the combination of i) more scrutiny on margin, profitability, and unit economics and, ii) a tighter funding environment for B2B marketplaces led some of these businesses to go through significant restructuring.
On growth vs. profitability
The previous funding environment favored (GMV) growth (at all costs), and we now see a pretty significant shift back (overreaction) to focusing on net revenue, gross margin, and profitability. Just like in SaaS where public markets have realized that revenue multiples should be adjusted on a gross margin basis, we see more and more investors valuing marketplaces on net revenue and/or gross margin multiples instead of their historical use of ~1x GMV. For comparison and looking only at the best B2B and B2C marketplaces in public markets, we see ca. 6.6x net revenue multiples and ca. 8.7x gross profits multiples (whereas 5-year averages rather trade at 10.3x and 13.6x).
With this in mind and as founders think about future financing rounds, one of the strictest (and probably overly strict) ways to run a B2B marketplace these days is to operate it like a SaaS business, setting targets on a net revenue and/or a gross margin basis assuming they are the equivalent of ARR and/or gross margin in SaaS. This approach is probably overly strict insofar as it doesn’t take into account network effects, but it’s a good way to reassure late-stage investors who are increasingly focused on having a path to profitability.
On business models
Another learning is that these B2B marketplaces tend to develop business models that are more sophisticated than their B2C counterparts, often mixing (low) take rates with SaaS fees and charging a margin on top of value-added services like logistics or financing. I wrote about this in more detail in this post, which I’ll cover in more detail during a session at our FOMO conference in Warsaw this week.
On customer acquisition
Finally, B2C marketplace acquisition tactics like paid marketing and promotions have proven largely unsuccessful in the B2B world. A bunch of B2B marketplaces have learned (the hard way) that acquiring users by applying typical B2C marketplace acquisition playbooks can lead to very churn-y cohorts. This may sound basic and straightforward with the clarity of hindsight, but promoting a product on a marketplace doesn’t always speak for the attractiveness of the marketplace, it speaks more for the attractiveness of the (low) price of the subsidized products.
What’s clear from our data and time in this ecosystem is that B2B marketplaces are maturing as a category. That said, the level of digitization of most B2B industries remains very low, most often single or low double-digit percent. One way to interpret this is that most of the opportunities remain fairly untapped. Another way is to say that B2B marketplaces can be hard businesses to run and scale, which means that the mass digitization of B2B commerce will take time.
At Point Nine, our conviction is that each of these markets will eventually be digitized and that one or several winning B2B marketplace(s) will emerge in each category and industry.
The winning companies will be able to design smart acquisition tactics while aligning their business models with the value they provide to their industry. They’ll also be able to navigate the rough seas of the funding environment, in high and low tides.
Good luck to you/us all — we’re excited to play a small role in that ecosystem!
A big thank you to my colleagues David, Pawel, Alex, and Ami who helped gather data and polish that post. Another big one to Lucy and Ethan at Hokodo. We are looking forward to collaborating on another edition with hopefully more logos and more learnings!