Sunday, March 3, 2024

Q2 2022: Europe created more new unicorns than Asia for first time

Chris O'Brien
Chris O'Brien
Chris O'Brien is an American journalist based in Paris. Since moving to France in 2014, he has covered Europe's startup ecosystem as a correspondent for VentureBeat. Previously, he spent 15 years writing about Silicon Valley as a journalist at the San Jose Mercury news and The Los Angeles Times.
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The global unicorn boom is crashing hard in 2022, but so far it’s not impacting all startup regions in the same way. According to a new report by CB Insights, Europe has so far weathered the economic turbulence better than the U.S. and Asia.

The report highlights the pace of unicorn creation, which has dropped precipitously on a global basis.

According to CB Insights, 537 unicorns were created in 2021, an average of more than 2 per business day. But by Q2 2022, there were only 87 new unicorns for an average of 1.4 per business day.

“The slowdown in new unicorns has been felt most intensely in the US and Asia,” the report states.

New unicorns in the US fell 5 percentage points in Q2 while Asia saw its percentage of global new unicorns fall below 20% for the second consecutive quarter — a first for the region.

By comparison, Europe’s share of new unicorns rose to 19%, the third straight quarter that its share had increased and pushed it past Asia for the first time ever.

CB Insights noted that 3 of the 10 largest new unicorns in the quarter came from Europe:

SonarSource (Switzerland, $4.7B)

BackBase (Netherlands, $2.7B)

Oura (Finland, $2.6B)

The decline in unicorns comes as venture investments have slowed dramatically, particularly at later stages where large private equity and hedge fund investors have pulled back. Between macroeconomic concerns like supply chain disruption and central banks raising interest rates to fight inflation, and geopolitical anxiety over the war in Ukraine, the investment atmosphere has grown increasingly cloudy this year.

The report says Europe managed to hold strong in part because central banks raised interest rates in the US much sooner. And while major late-stage investors such as Tiger Global and SoftBank had begun moving into Europe more aggressively in 2021, these alternative investment firms had been playing a much larger role in the US for far longer, creating a bigger void when they reduced investments.

Still, those same elements are bound to eventually impact the EU’s startups, and appear to already be making their presence felt as EU central banks begin to raise rates.

Indeed, the global pace of new unicorns is falling even faster in the current quarter that ends September 30. So far Q3 is on pace for 27 unicorns by the end of the quarter. That works out to fewer than 1 new unicorn for every 2 business days.

All those companies that raised mega rounds in 2021 should be able to ride out the current downturn. But companies depending on high rates of cash burn could suffer. The report cites Sweden’s Klarna, the fintech that has developed a buy-now-pay-later platform, as a cautionary example.

Klarna reported a valuation of $45.6B in June 2021. But that valuation took a big hit in July 2022 when the company raised $800 million at a $6.7B valuation, according to CB Insights.

How Europe navigates the next 6 months could reveal a lot about the ecosystem’s resiliency.

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