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In 2022, there was a 35 percent decrease in start-up investments compared to 2021. This is one of the key conclusions of the Global Start-up Ecosystem Report (GSER) launched by Startup Genome at the TNW conference. Although fewer start-ups were funded last year, they received more significant funding, with the average deal size growing by two percent. The growth of the number of unicorns also declined. While we had 595 unicorns worldwide in 2021, that number dropped to 359 in 2022 (a decrease of 40 percent).

  • Investments in startups decreased by 35% compared to 2021.
  • Estonia has strengthened its position as a deeptech startup ecosystem, rising 28 spots in the overall ranking since the GSER 2022 report.
  • China’s dominance on the ecosystem ranking has diminished, with eight Chinese ecosystems, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, dropping in the list.
Hazel Boydell

‘Only the best ideas survive’

“It’s an interesting time,” commented Startup Genome’s editor-in-chief, Hazel Boydell, during an interview before the publication. “Between 2018 and 2022, there was a tremendous peak in investments, and start-ups had relatively easy access to funding. 2022 it became more difficult; a clear decline occurred during the second half of last year. However, this also presents an opportunity for start-ups to scrutinize their product or service more keenly, an additional motivation to be sharp. Only the best ideas will survive.”

The GSER report is based on data from 3.5 million start-ups across 290 ecosystems and consists of three rankings: Global Start-up Ecosystem Ranking, Emerging Ecosystems Ranking, and Strong Starters Ranking. The latter is new this year and features the top 25 Emerging Ecosystems where early-stage funding activity is most robust.

Significant investments in AI and Big Data

Positive news comes from the AI and Big Data sector. This subsector had the highest number of venture capital deals and accounted for 28 percent of the global share. Deep tech start-ups are also becoming increasingly integrated into the start-up ecosystem. The exit amount (the amount founders and investors receive when the company is sold or goes public) in this sector grew by 326 percent between 2017-2018 and 2021-2022. In comparison, the average growth for other sectors was 225 percent.

London and Berlin: Europe’s global hubs

In Europe, the most represented region in the emerging ecosystem rankings, early-stage funding decreased by fifteen percent in 2022 compared to 2021, but the average amount of early-stage deals increased by seven percent.

London and Berlin remain global hubs, with London ranking second alongside New York City, just behind Silicon Valley. London is the absolute number one in Europe, with the most billion-dollar companies in the region.

Estonia: a successful newcomer 

Boydell states, “London and Berlin are doing very well, and I don’t see that changing quickly. However, we are witnessing increasing divergence. More ecosystems are emerging, and start-ups no longer need to be exclusively linked to the largest hubs to succeed. Just look at Estonia, which has risen 28 spots within a year and is truly establishing itself as a deep-tech community.”

Estonia ranks #3 in the Strong Starters list, having climbed 28 places in the overall ranking since the GSER 2022 report, and it finished at #10 in the list of emerging ecosystems. Zurich also made remarkable progress, rising ten places (from #46 to #36) on the global list—by far the most significant annual increase in Europe.

Amsterdam: a leading ecosystem

Amsterdam remains stable, ranking #14 in the overall ranking and #3 in Europe. The report refers to the city as a “leading ecosystem” for start-ups, attributed to the abundance of talent and the multilingualism of the Dutch population. “94 percent of the population [in the Netherlands] speaks a second language. This makes the Netherlands incredibly welcoming for people from all over the world seeking employment.”

China’s dominance declined, Istanbul emerged as the most robust starter. Another notable observation is the decrease in China’s authority on the rankings: eight Chinese ecosystems dropped on the list, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Meanwhile, seven Indian ecosystems rose, with Delhi and Bengaluru-Karnataka in the top 30 and Mumbai at #31. Istanbul ranks first in the Strong Starters ranking.