Europe is slowly catching up to the US in the unicorns race

6 Jul 2023

Image: © Евгений Вершинин/

According to the latest data from Creandum, Europe has the highest density of unicorn tech hubs in the world.

About a month ago, we looked at why so many home-grown start-ups leave Europe to set up shop in the US and other parts of the world.

Only two European cities, London and Paris, feature in a recent top 10 list of the world’s most developed start-up hubs. Unsurprisingly, the list is dominated by the US and sprinkled with strong Asian contenders such as China, India and Israel.

But a new report from Creandum, one of the first VC firms to invest in Spotify before it became big, suggests a more hopeful scenario for Europe in the long haul.

Europe has the highest density of unicorn tech hubs in the world, according to the report published today (6 July), at 514 unicorn start-ups across 65 cities.

The report, in which Creandum paints a very optimistic future for European entrepreneurship, also found that Europe is producing unicorns at a much faster rate than the US. There are now 88pc more unicorns in Europe since 2014, compared to 55pc in the US.

‘Still some catching up to do’

It’s important to note that the total number of unicorns in the US is still significantly higher than in Europe or other parts of the world, despite the US having a smaller population than Europe.

According to PitchBook data from March 2022, there were more than 600 active unicorns in the US economy. In comparison, Europe was home to only around 150 unicorns last year according to Sifted, placing it ahead of India but behind China in the top four.

“It is clear that Europe still has some catching up to do with its counterparts – particularly in the US and Asia – in producing the world’s strongest tech giants,” Glory Eromosele, a senior associate at Techstars, told recently.

But it’s the growth that places Europe in firm footing to challenge the US and China in the near future. The report suggests that Europe’s share of global VC funding has quadrupled with the continent now taking more than a third of global investments at early-stage.

Staffan Helgesson, general partner at Creandum, said Europe has over the span of two decades “gone from being an outsider to a global challenger”. And in the next 20 years, he believes Europe can take the lead in emerging sectors, from digital health and climate tech to fintech and AI.

“For the past 20 years, our overriding ambition has been to back the best entrepreneurs and the great thing about Europe is that successful companies can come from anywhere,” said Helgesson.

“We have seen first-hand with companies like Spotify, which became a global category leader headquartered in Europe, how software has been a catalyst for disruption and as the ambitions of the next generation of founders get bigger, we expect to see even more great global tech companies created here.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic