European startups earned a record level of investment in 2019, drawing $34.3 billion in venture capital since the start of the year, according to the latest “State of European Tech” report from the London-based VC firm Atomico.
It’s a 40 percent increase from the year before, and occurred even as US and Asian markets saw investment slowing.
The dramatic increase was driven by a record number of mega-rounds, funding rounds that draw $100 million or more. UK food delivery platform Deliveroo raised $575 million, in a round led by Amazon, and the health tech firm Babylon drew $550 million with the backing of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Mega-rounds like these accounted for 40 percent of all funding rounds in 2019.
“That ability for Europe’s leading companies to attract mega funding rounds is one of the hallmarks of change we’ve seen reflected in the overall level of capital invested into European tech,” Atomico’s head of insights, Tom Wehmeier, told CNBC.
The report also shows that contrary to the popular narrative, Europe produced more initial public offerings (IPOs) than the US, for at least the fifth consecutive year.
“We have irrefutable evidence that the European tech ecosystem can support great companies,” according to the report. “We’re seeing a growing band of big investment rounds, and an increase in ‘purpose-driven’ companies attacking some of the world’s biggest challenges, and a pool of developer talent bigger than the US.”
The report quotes EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, who said:
“Some say China has all the data, and the US has all the money. But in Europe, we have purpose.”
Atomico’s report shows growing investment in European tech companies that are aiming to solve global problems, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. These include climate action, ending world hunger, promoting health and well-being, clean water, clean energy, and sustainable cities. Since 2005, over 500 European tech companies have drawn investment working to address these problems as part of their core mission.
London was the leading tech hub, followed by Berlin and Paris. Fintech startups raised over $9 billion, making it the fastest-growing sector, as well as one of the few in which Europe is leading the US.
However, the report also names challenges facing Europe’s tech sector, including “divergent priorities between policymakers and the public” and a lack of diversity.
The report shows that 92 percent of funding went to all-male startup teams, with little change from 2018, and that discrimination based on socioeconomic and ethnic background is still widespread in Europe’s tech industry.
Photo by Jwslubbock [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]