European start-ups and unicorns raised US$23bn in last 5 years

8 Jul 2015

Start-up Europe Partnership has identified 1,000 scale-ups and 400 exits in five countries.

European scale-ups — companies that have raised between US$1m and US$100m in venture capital — and unicorns have raised US$23bn in the last five years, according to the Startup Europe Partnership.

The research by the Startup Europe Partnership — which focused on five European countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK — analysed 99 scale-ups and close to 40 scalers (unicorns) that were able to raise US$23bn in five years.

The UK is the most prolific country in Europe in terms of the number of scale-ups and capital raised, while Germany and France follow closely and Italy and Spain lag behind.

Software solutions and e-commerce are the sectors that attract the most European scale-ups.

The majority of funding comes from VCs rather than IPOs: 7pc of the scale-ups raised 56pc in venture capital, of which 40pc was raised by 32 scalers.

“There’s definitely life on planet scale-ups,” said Alberto Onetti, coordinator of SEP.

“Rather than looking for the unicorns, that is private companies with over US$1 billion dollar valuation, we analysed the scale-ups and scalers, that is those start-ups that have been able to respectively raise over US$1m and US$100 million.

“In short, quantity over valuation. And the results we got – 1,000 scale-ups and 400 exits – are ultimately a valuable starting point to scale-up the European start-up ecosystem.”

Europe’s top three unicorns

Europe’s top three scalers include Markit (UK, US$1.5bn), Delivery Hero (Germany, USUS$1.3bn) and Zalando (Germany, US$0.9bn). The stock market plays a relevant role only in the UK (USUS$4bn raised through the IPO channel).

Some 374 exits were identified in total: 24 IPOs and 350 M&A.

While there were only 20 M&As in 2010, this number grew six-fold in 2014 to 126 cases.

Only one-third of the scale-ups were acquired by domestic companies, while 14pc of the scale-ups were acquired by a company from another EU member state. In general, approximately one out of two remains in Europe after the acquisition.

The UK proved to be the most prolific country among the five considered. With US$11.1 billion, UK scale-ups alone raised nearly 50pc of the total amount: this represents 1.7 times more financing than German start-ups (US$6.6bn) and 3.6 times more than France (US$3.1bn).

Though France and Germany host almost the same number of scale-ups, German scale-ups raised twice as much capital as their French neighbors. If we move south and look at the Mediterranean region, the availability of capital to fuel growth gets further reduced: Spanish scale-ups raised US$1.8 billion whereas the Italian ones raised US$0.4 billion only, 28 times less than UK, despite having only six times fewer scale-ups.

In terms of the average capital raised per scale-up, UK scale-ups raised US$27.8 million, US$31.7 million in Germany, US$15.1 million in France, US$17 million in Spain and only US$5.6 million in Italy.


The SEP has identified almost 1,000 scale-ups and 400 exits by start-ups in five European countries.

Europe image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years