The future of marketplaces 2021

The future of marketplaces

As the world’s top marketplaces reach a combined $5 trillion in value, we’ve teamed up again with Adevinta Ventures and Speedinvest to look at the future trends and models of online marketplaces.

To mark the launch of a brand new insights platform dedicated to online marketplaces, and after a tumultuous year, this report looks at which models are winning, where global growth is happening, and what trends are coming down the road.

In the last ~15 months there’s been a tech-driven bull market has seen the Nasdaq up 50%. In parallel, venture capital is seeing investment records smashed. But more fundamentally, accelerated digital adoption during the pandemic created tailwinds, resulting in companies beating expectations. And here, marketplaces have benefitted strongly; especially in areas like Food, Digital Health, and eCommerce.

Report - The future of marketplaces 2021

Marketplaces are outpacing tech overall

The combined value of marketplace unicorns has climbed 70% since January 2020, outpacing the both the Nasdaq – which grew 50% during the same period – and the MSCI World Index. 

Marketplace unicorns have grown +70% since March 2020

Among the categories that saw the most substantial valuation growth in the wake of Covid, fashion jumped by 142%, followed by food delivery (132%) and digital health (120%). This was a continuation of the trend highlighted in last summer’s The Marketplaces Report, which found healthtech, online learning, recruitment, food delivery and passion economy startups were seeing the most significant growth off the back of Covid-related shifts in consumer and business behaviours. 

3x year on year – record investment for online marketplaces

During the first three months of 2021, global VC investments in marketplaces reached an all-time high of $28bn, driven by megarounds for Gopuff ($1.2bn Series G) Cazoo ($800m) and Wolt ($530m Series E).

Q1 investment in marketplaces has almost tripled since the same period last year, and totals $4bn more than the previous record-breaking quarter of Q4 2018. The majority of investments in Q1 focused on logistics and last-mile delivery services. 

Investment in Q2 continues to be high, with $12bn of VC money pouring into the sector in the first five weeks of the quarter, including money raised by Travelperk ($160m), Kry ($312m) and BlaBlaCar ($115m). 

See live marketplaces funding


A quarter of all unicorn startups are marketplaces

There are now more than 370 marketplace unicorns with the top 30 accounting for 79% of total value ($3.9tn). There have been 81 new additions to the list of billion-dollar companies since January 2020.

Chart showing growth on online marketplace unicorns globally

See every marketplace unicorn


The future of marketplaces in a post-Covid world

As these figures demonstrate, customers truly embraced a shift to digital during 2020, with 60% of the entire global adult population now online. European households alone already spend $11 trillion per year on goods and services, amid total consumer global spending of $40 trillion. 

While Covid has underlined the value of online marketplaces, large swaths of consumer spending remain undigitised, suggesting that considerable growth in the marketplace sector is still to come. To attract and retain more customers,  marketplaces are increasingly either seeking to capture more of the value chain, or are embedding fintech or SaaS in their platforms. will explore how this works in later marketplace reports. 

Report - The future of marketplaces 2021