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European states launch alliance to spur unicorn growth

A political initiative that aims to double the number of European unicorns by 2030 launched at the Web Summit today.

Europe Startup Nations Alliance cuts the ribbon for their official launch at Web Summit.
(Image courtesy of Web Summit)

A political initiative that aims to double the number of European unicorns by 2030 launched at the Web Summit today.

The Europe Startup Nations Alliance, which will comprise 27 nations, was established by the Portuguese government with support from the European Commission. The alliance aims to support national governments in improving the structural conditions for domestic startups, to ensure that startups can grow at any stage of their lifecycle.

It is based on the European Commission’s Startup Nations Standard, a set of best practices aimed at fostering entrepreneurship in the European Union. The SNS document’s proposals include implementing startup-friendly regulation, loosening stock options rules, accelerated visas for tech workers and democratizing access to finance.

"[We want] to make sure that a startup in Europe, wherever it is created, can fully access the European single market,” Pedro Siza Vieira, Portugal’s minister of state for the economy and digital transition, said at a Web Summit press conference. “This is the most critical topic. In the US, a good idea, product or business can immediately scale up to the whole of the continent, but in Europe we have more barriers to growth.”


Siza Vieira stated that by increasing access to capital and alleviating barriers to growth, the alliance could double the number of European $1 billion-plus startups in the next 10 years. At the start of the previous decade, European unicorns were virtually non-existent but their count reached 92 in Q2 2021 with a combined value of €253.3 billion, according to PitchBook research. ESNA will also aim to increase the number of startups per capita in Europe.

The initiative will be based in Lisbon, operating with a budget of €1.5 million a year provided by the Portuguese recovery and resilience plan and a further €500,000 from the Horizon program.

ESNA will monitor member countries’ progress in implementing the best practices. It will collect and assess data such as startups’ count, job creation, survival rates and ability to raise capital in each member state.

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    Written by Leah Hodgson
    Leah Hodgson is a London-based senior reporter for PitchBook covering venture capital across Europe and the Middle East. Leah graduated from the University of Surrey with a BA in international politics with French. She has previously been a radio reporter in France. She later turned to financial journalism, covering the wealth management industry. She joined PitchBook in 2018.
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