Coming into 2023, there was a deal of scepticism and worry about finances. Faced with a global economic downturn, VCs tightening their bank accounts, costs spiralling and a degree of pessimism, many of Europe’s startups have come into 2023 with an understandable quality of conservatism and hesitancy to risk.
Despite this, there are still signs of growth – and so far, resiliency is what is standing out.
At the end of January, we took a look at the funding situation in Europe, finding that over $12 billion has been raised by European startups during 2022. But we wanted to investigate a little further – to find out which nations are the most investment-happy. Here, we take a look at the six countries with the highest startup investment per capita – and it’s a Northern European washout.
In 2022, Estonia was sitting at about €9800 invested per capita, smashing the European average of just €130. Estonia has become one of Europe’s emerging startup success stories – globally recognised as a small nation that oozes potential and innovation. There are a number of key factors contributing to it’s digital strength. For example, the internet in Estonia is recognized as a basic human right, making it a leader in IT, cybersecurity and government. It also means the country has a rich talent pool that has a high level of English for international founders and investors to dive into in search of talent. Estonia also benefits from the Estonian Startup Visa which supports increasing demand for talent in the tech and IT field.
According to the Estonian Startup Database, currently, there are 1400+ startups founded in Estonia – a number that has continued to increase significantly and Estonia is a critical player in the European tech scene. Despite its small size, (the population of Estonia is approximately 1.3 million) ten unicorns have been created in Estonia: Skype in 2005, Playtech in 2007, Wise in 2015, Bolt in 2018, Pipedrive in 2020, Zego, ID.me and Gelato in 2021, and Veriff and Glia in 2022.
Iceland is rapidly becoming known for its fresh approach to innovation and exciting entrepreneurial stories. It raised about €500 per capita which is a lot more than the Europe-wide average. Iceland is a small country with a population of just 0.3 million people! Despite this, it is pumping out impactful innovation and startups and the country is a regional leader in terms of forward-thinking tech, for instance, 98% of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources. It is a great place for social impact and sustainable business.
Currently, there are 167 startups in the country including 45 Foodtech startups in Iceland, 30 Energy & Environment startups in Iceland and 18 Health startups in Iceland. We recently took an in-depth look at the nation’s ecosystem, identifying 10 startups you should be keeping a close eye on.
Sweden has one of the most active startup ecosystems in Europe. The country has fostered corporations such as IKEA or Volvo and startup unicorns, including online platform Klarna and sustainable business Northvolt. In 2022, Swedish companies raised about €570 per capita, which is considerably higher than the European average. According to Dealroom, half of the Swedish funding came outside of the European Union. According to the ‘Swedish tech report 2022’ the value of Sweden’s startup ecosystem nearly doubled in just a year, now valued at €239 billion. We were able to see some mega-rounds such as Northvolt’s €2.5 billion Growth Equity, four funding rounds totalling €2.4 billion for Klarna, Epidemic Sound Growth Equity rounds, and Kry‘s Series D.
There are a few reasons why Sweden is so attractive for startup founders. Notably, the country invests more than 3% of its GDP towards research – one of the leading investment levels in the world. It also benefits from an established R&D infrastructure and a well-educated talent pool. We recently explored Sweden’s thriving startup scene, identifying 10 promising startups to watch this year.
Swiss startups are soaring, benefiting from a stable economy, a thriving tech scene, and the infrastructure to back it up. According to the Swiss Venture Capital Report, there are two key trends in the venture market: the rise in the total amount of investments (29.7%) and the growth in the number of rounds (7.9%). The country is home to a thriving startup scene with over +47 accelerators and incubators, +20 investment funds, +18 events and networking organizations, and many other ecosystem players. Operating in various sectors, Swiss startups are mainly prominent in fintech and blockchain, with the Zug region having even gained the nickname “Crypto Valley.” In Switzerland, the startup funding per capita was at around €440 per capita in 2022.
Overall, more than €2.2 billion was raised by tech companies in 2022 and the country is counting around 30 unicorns in total: SonarSource, Scandit and Climeworks. Climeworks, specializing in carbon dioxide air capture technology, raised €600 million.
Overall, 2022 was successful for the UK startup scene despite adverse external facts like political uncertainty and Brexit. The investment rate works out to just under €465 per person. Moreover, the countries’ ecosystem value jumped by almost 43%. Whether startups have offices in the UK, consider the UK market a large target audience, or work with partners across the channel, the UK is a key location for startup success.
Fintech is still a dominant industry in the country and London retains its fintech crown. British startups currently represent 10% of the global fintech market share with an annual average value of more than €11 billion. Notable startups include Revolut (raised £1.3 billion), Wise (raised £996 million) and Monzo (raised £843 million) were launched in the UK. In 2022 a new fintech company, Fly Now Pay Later, raised about €155 million. The company aims to help customers split the costs of air tickets.
Not only is Finland one of the happiest countries in the world, but it’s also a thriving hub of innovation and tech development. The country brought us pioneering companies like Nokia, Rovio and Wolt and it’s consistently setting itself apart for embracing green technologies and digital advancement. Indeed, about 90% of the Finnish innovations born in the last decade support the realization of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The investment rate per capita in Finland is at about €335 per person.
2022 was a record-breaking year for Finland, with new milestones being reached and impressive funding deals being closed. A few days ago, we also introduced you to 10 super-promising and fast-growing Finnish startups.