How Ireland fared in Atomico’s latest report on European start-ups

21 Nov 2019

Image: © Evgeni/

Atomico’s latest report on the European tech scene found that there are now 99 unicorns on the continent and there has been a surge in purpose-driven businesses.

Today (21 November), venture capital firm Atomico published its annual report, The State of European Tech 2019. The report revealed that there are now 99 VC-backed companies in Europe that have achieved a valuation of more than $1bn, up from 85 unicorns in 2018, while a total of $34.3bn has been invested across the continent so far this year.

Of the top 10 countries with billion-dollar tech success stories, Ireland ranks in eighth place. Ahead of Ireland are the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark.

Of more than 1,200 founders Atomico surveyed across Europe for the report, 50pc of these were first-time founders.


Only 21pc of the founders that responded to the survey identified as female. Atomico noted that $92 out of every $100 invested in Europe in 2019 went to founding teams that are all men, which is unchanged since 2018. For every woman executive in European tech, there are 12 men executives, the report stated.

When it came to Irish founders, the survey found that out of 99 respondents, 73 were male founders and 25 were female founders. There were no non-binary founders, and one person selected the option ‘prefer not to say’.

In the regions surveyed, which includes the UK and Ireland, the Nordics, France, Benelux and others, there were no founders who identified as non-binary.

Of all respondents, including founders, employees and venture capitalists, as well as people in many other roles, 81pc said that their ethnicity was white or Caucasian. Around 6pc said that they were Asian, 2pc were Latinx and 1pc were black.

Irish initiatives

On the subject of gender and equality, Atomico said: “One of the most powerful reasons to be optimistic about the possibility of making and accelerating positive change towards a more diverse and inclusive European tech ecosystem is the large and growing number of initiatives working directly to achieve this goal.”

The report for 2019 highlighted the Dublin accelerator, Female High Fliers, as one such initiative. This 13-week accelerator programme is designed for early-stage start-ups and specifically addresses the challenges female entrepreneurs face.

Recently founded start-up representative group Scale Ireland also got a mention for the meetings it has held at senior levels to secure commitments to make rewarding start-up talent a priority. The report recognised the broadening scope of the employee ownership scheme in Ireland and the full scale review of the existing framework that is due next year.

Martin Mignot from Index Venture Partners said: “Based on our experience working with entrepreneurs around the world, we strongly believe that fixing stock option policies will have material impact on the ability of start-ups to grow and create tech giants on par with those emerging from the US and China.”

According to data supplied to Atomico from DealRoom, Ireland has seen $441m in investment this year, which is down from $615m in 2018.

Purpose-driven tech start-ups

One of the themes highlighted in this year’s report is the spike in investment into European tech companies that are seeking to solve some of humanity’s most pressing problems, such as those listed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Ireland is ranked in eighth place when it comes to the countries with the highest number of purpose-driven European tech companies.

The report said: “Looking on a relative basis, it’s clear that some countries are much more overweight towards purpose-driven tech companies when benchmarked against their overall share of all European tech companies.

“Sweden, for example, is home to nearly 10pc of purpose-driven tech companies, but accounts for only 4.3pc of all European tech companies.”

Overall, Dublin is home to 2.8pc of Europe’s tech start-ups, but the city also hosts 1.5pc of the continent’s purpose-driven tech companies.

While purpose-driven businesses are certainly having a moment, the most prosperous industry in this year’s report was fintech. Behind that was enterprise software, health, energy and transportation.

In the fintech space alone, European companies have raised $25bn since 2015, and it is area that has continually risen since 2015.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic