LONDON (Reuters) – Warburg Pincus has taken a stake in Swiss barcode scanning firm Scandit as part of a $150 million capital raise in which the U.S. buyout fund will invest in a European tech unicorn amid bumper growth in the region’s herd of billion-dollar tech start-ups.
Warburg Pincus has led a late-stage funding round that values Zurich-based Scandit at more than $1 billion and supports the rollout of its smart data capture technology which helps retailers scan barcodes to better cope with booming e-commerce volumes triggered by COVID-19.
“We see a huge amount of long-term potential as the market for smart data capture is in its infancy and Scandit is the market leader,” Flavio Porciani, a London-based managing director at Warburg Pincus, told Reuters.
“Scandit has benefited from all the main trends we’ve seen accelerate during the pandemic including the need for digital transformation that most companies, their employees and their customers are facing,” he added.
Funding to billion-dollar start-ups, traditionally known as “unicorns,” has proliferated during the pandemic as deep-pocketed investors have paid hefty prices for shares in young companies.
Europe has produced 84 new unicorns in 2021 – more than three times that of China – and has seen venture capital investment more than doubling last year, making it the fastest-growing region for this asset class globally, according to Crunchbase data.
Scandit – co-founded in 2009 by Chief Executive Samuel Mueller – has so far raised almost $300 million from a wide range of investors including Atomico, Forestay Capital and Schneider Electric which invested alongside Warburg Pincus in the company’s latest cash call.
Scandit, whose client network includes American Eagle Outfitters and FedEx Corp, was selected by Britain’s National Health Service to digitize the COVID testing process last year.
Its revenue has more than doubled since its previous fundraising in May as logistics companies increasingly rely on barcode technology to work with the likes of Amazon.com Inc in handling last-mile delivery between a distribution hub and consumers’ doorsteps.
“It isn’t enough to train new drivers and hire more warehouse workers to cope with the record volumes of online orders that we have seen over the past two years,” Mueller said.
“Workers want to be able to use their smartphones and other smart devices to operate scanning, data capture and picking solutions all at once for a more familiar and enjoyable user experience.”
Mueller told Reuters he plans to use the proceeds of the company’s fundraising to drive global growth with a focus on Asia-Pacific. He also sees scope to tap in to the robotics market as retailers are increasingly turning to machines to stock their shelves.
“The end goal is to deploy machine learning and computer vision to automate processes and create real-time inventory capabilities,” Mueller said.
(Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia in London; Editing by Matthew Lewis)