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It’s been in the air for a while, but now it’s official: Europe is one of the world’s top two players in terms of investment in technology. Never before has so much been invested in European technology companies ($100 billion) as in 2021. Six years ago, the figure was $10 billion. European technology companies are also growing faster than ever. In 2021, 98 companies reached unicorn status (with a market valuation of more than 1 billion).

Europe’s leading hubs to invested capital @ Atomico’s report

“State of European Tech”

This is evident from the 2021 “State of European Tech” report, issued annually by Atomico, a European venture capital firm headquartered in London. The report processed data for the first nine months and extrapolated it to the end of the year. It also includes the results of a survey completed by 5,000 industry respondents.

Major investment rounds

The tremendous growth in investment in 2021 was largely due to larger investment rounds involving more than $250 million. Such capital injections have grown by a factor of 10 over the past 12 months and now represent 40 percent of total capital invested in Europe. But rounds of more than $100 million were also almost normal this year. In the first nine months of the year, 152 companies received investments of 100 million or more. These large funding rounds involve companies in a scale-up phase, particularly fintech companies. The money comes from institutional investors, governments and venture entrepreneurs alike.

That is not to say that investment in start-ups lagged behind this year. In fact, Europe’s share of this type of funding has grown so much that the European start-up ecosystem is on par with that of the United States. European start-ups account for 33% of all capital invested globally in rounds up to $5 million, compared to 35% for the United States. This is an important statistic. Early-stage funding is a key indicator of future growth. China is much less significant in this regard. Asia as a whole accounts for only 17% of start-up funding.

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    Enterprise Value

    In any case, investor interest in early-stage European technology companies is evident. It seems that American investors have discovered Europe. The Atomico report shows that 28 percent of investment in European technology companies comes from the United States.

    The value of European tech companies also grew sharply. In 2018, the value of tech companies in Europe exceeded the one trillion dollar (1,000 billion) mark for the first time. It took Europe a few decades to reach that milestone. After that, things accelerated. The second trillion mark was reached later in the late 2020s. The third trillion mark was hit in September 2021.

    Incidentally, the largest publicly-traded technology companies in Europe are ASML (with a market value of about 300 billion) and Adyen, both founded and based in the Netherlands. The United States still remains the dominant player on the world stage, with a 70 percent share of the total market capitalization of technology companies.

    One area in which Europe does surpass the United States is in IPOs of technology companies in 2021. More companies went public in Europe than across the Atlantic.

    Estonia

    Europe is doing well across the board. No fewer than 28 different countries have at least one unicorn within their borders. Yet it is primarily Western Europe that makes the cut. As every year, the United Kingdom is the absolute front-runner. The total amount invested in British technology companies is more than double the amount of capital invested in Germany and France combined. The top five capital-rich countries are further complemented by Sweden and the Netherlands.

    This top five has remained unchanged since 2020. In Southern Europe, Spain is making great progress while Italy is sinking even further and is behind Estonia, which retains its place as the most entrepreneurial country in Europe. That country has over 1100 tech entrepreneurs per one million inhabitants. The five largest hubs by total invested capital are London, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm and Amsterdam, in that order.

    The healthy state of tech investment in Europe is also reflected in the record amount investors have collected by exiting young companies. Various IPOs, mergers, management buy-outs and other exit strategies have brought in no less than $275 billion.

    Compare the 2021 results with last year’s “State of European Tech” report

    Also interesting: Investments in Dutch start-ups on the rise, but money mainly comes from abroad

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Ewout Kieckens is a Dutch journalist in Rome who writes about Italian lifestyle and culture. He has written books on diverse subjects such as the Vatican and Italian design. He is very interested in innovations, especially Italian contributions to progress.