By Alexei Tuknov, investment director at Maxfield Capital
Historically, the Nordics cluster has done well in every market and social aspects – from economic competitiveness to social health and happiness. It successfully navigated through the financial turmoil in the eurozone in 2008-09, ended up comprising 11.41% of the EU economy, turning into well-capitalised local markets and being ranked as the happiest place to live in. Does its market have much to offer to startups and global VCs? Good news: yes, it does, in particular after the UK leave.
London (and the UK) has long been considered as the biggest and most relevant tech hub and as a significant player in the exit space in Europe. As for now with all uncertainty and agitation over Brexit other regions are more likely to get due attention.
In any event, Scandinavian investors have a lot to be happy about.
As a point of reference, in 2014 the Nordic countries produced 53% of Europe’s $B exits and over past 10 years the Nordic region has taken almost 10% of global $B exits. Long story short, VC investments are unchangeably growing at a pace of 136% increase a year.
Our counterparts in Europe have a good presence in the Nordic region. We’ve decided to profile the Nordic countries by taking a closer look at 43 Nordic incubators/accelerators, about 1400 companies and top 5 relevant events and have chosen 17 most active Nordic independent VC funds. In our brief review we’ve stressed on their portfolios, networks and activities. We’ve also laid out recommendations for VC funds to ensure their better exposure and investment performance.
Next on the list is the country with a vast emphasis on gaming (health and wellness startups are becoming a second close). In 2015 investments in Finnish early-stage growth companies reached the record of 253 million euros. The gaming has caused a stir in the VC investment market, turning into large success stories – Rovio Entertainment’s market valuation is at $4 billion and Supercell video game company has reached a $3 billion valuation.
The area is witnessing the trend of serial entrepreneurs becoming founders. Finland has also strong fundamentals for being the favourite hub for startups and holds the record for having the highest number of active investors in Nordics. One more silver lining is that startups here get government funding. 130 million euros are spent yearly on Finnish startups.
Finnish VC funds tend to choose SAAS, B2B SAAS, Healthtech, IoT.
Denmark is a HQ hub for most Nordic VC funds. It’s also the country with the Scandinavia’s leading accelerator Accelerace.
The recent success stories have featured Just Eat with the market capitalization at $2.44 billion (in March 2015) and ViVino, which raised $25 million in series B funding in January 2016. The foodtech industry is not the only market niche the startups here like to take on. Denmark focuses on general sectors without any specific preferences.
VC investing is a quite nascent industry in Norway, since the country has been first and foremost an energy play. The energy here makes up nearly half the funds’ portfolio, yet it’s beginning to inch into the VC market. For now, Norway has a high concentration of PE capital. Xeneta, which raised $5.3 million in Series A funding, and Opera acquired by Golden Brick Capital through an estimated NOK 10.5 Billion LBO, are rare, but recent successful stories from the Norwegian VC market.
Sweden has been touted as a do-it-yourself nation, but when it comes to investing, it’s turned into the dominant country that makes up more than 50% of exit value and number of exits. Moreover, Sweden represents 55% of all exits larger than $100 M, that in turn leads to the country’s importance for the whole Nordic eco-system.
Stockholm has seen unicorn momentum quite a lot (it takes the 5th place globally as the region with the highest number of unicorns) – Skype and Mojang were acquired by Microsoft, while Spotify raised $1 billion and Klarna hit a $2.25 billion valuation.
Swedish VC funds like to work with startups from digital, medicine, fintech, SAAS (both for B2B and B2C markets).
After Brexit “playing it Nordic” may become the buzzword in the investment world. However to attract a potential home run VC funds should promote heavily a cross-border network. Firstly, that means they should present opportunities for startups, such as doing cross-border business with links to NYC, California, Asia, etc. and get exposure to high quality international tech talents. They also need to ensure global exits, as well as business development at a broader international scale. Secondly, VC funds should offer cross-border business performance – ensure that startups act globally (literally think globally) starting the first day after the deal is closed.