• 1/19/2021
  • Reading time 3 min.

TUM's third "unicorn"

Start-up Personio valued at over 1 billion dollars

For the third time, a company spun out of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has been valued by investors at 1 billion dollars or more. After Celonis and Lilium, Personio has achieved the "unicorn" status. The company provides software that enables small and mid-sized companies to digitalize their HR processes.

Hanno Renner, CEO of Personio Personio
Hanno Renner, one of the founders and today's CEO of Personio.

Personio has announced a new round of funding, raising over 125 million dollars, and a market valuation of 1.7 billion dollars. As reported by the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, these successes make the provider of human resources software one of Europe’s most valuable privately owned software makers.

The term “unicorn” – referring to the rarity of the mythical creature – applies to start-ups that exceed a valuation of 1 billion dollars without a stock market listing. In Germany, in fact, only about a dozen have been spotted – but three alone at TUM: In 2018 the valuation of Celonis, which provides process mining software to analyze companies’ digital business processes, topped 1 billion dollars. In 2020 Lilium, which is developing an electric flying taxi, smashed the unicorn barrier. Both companies were established by alumni with support from TUM.

Prototype development at CDTM

Now Personio has joined the exclusive group. While studying management or informatics, founders Hanno Renner, Ignaz Forstmeier, Roman Schumacher and Arseniy Vershinin were surprised to discover that most small and mid-sized companies (SMEs) managed their HR activities in files or long tables. Widespread HR management software packages seemed to be tailored to the needs of large corporations.

The student team got together at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), a joint institution of TUM and LMU Munich. CDTM offers the add-on degree program Technology Management, which brings together interdisciplinary teams to work on problems faced by real-world companies. At the same time, they learn how to generate innovations and start their own companies. It was here that Renner, Forstmeier, Schumacher and Vershinin developed the prototype for a software package capable of improving the speed, efficiency and logical structure of recruitment and personnel management processes. From job applications and vacation requests to payroll accounting, SMEs can digitalize the various processes in a single system.

Offices in Madrid, London and Dublin

In 2015 they founded Personio. The company achieved rapid success. Now with around 500 employees in Munich, Madrid, London and Dublin, the start-up has gained more than 3000 customers in Europe and doubled its sales in 2020. “The last year has accelerated the digitization of small and mid-sized businesses,” says today’s Personio CEO Hanno Renner. “It has also showcased the important role of HR teams, especially while so many of us continue to work remotely.”

Personio has already raised 250 million dollars in capital. With the cash from the most recent funding round, the start-up plans to continue developing the software and expand into new markets such as France and Italy. By the end of this year the company plans to double both the total workforce and the number of customers.

Further information and links
  • Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM)
  • “You should never be too proud to knuckle down” – portrait of Personio CEO and TUM alumnus Hanno Renner
  • Every year TUM spawns more than 70 technology-focused companies. TUM and UnternehmerTUM, the Center for Innovation and Business Creation, provide programs tailored to the various phases of building a business – from creating the business model to management training, and from market entry to a possible IPO. The TUM Venture Labs offer an entire ecosystem for founding teams working in important scientific fields. Up to 30 teams can use offices in the TUM Incubator to prepare for the launch of their companies. Through its own venture capital fund, UnternehmerTUM invests in tech companies displaying strong potential. Meanwhile, with MakerSpace and the Bio.Kitchen, it provides a 1500 square meter high-tech prototype workshop and biotechnology lab. According to “Start-up Radar”, no German university provides better support for start-ups.

Technical University of Munich

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