The record amount of venture capital investment in Europe this year suggests that the appetite for the region's startups remains strong despite the global pandemic. Including investment in Israel, VCs invested $46 billion in the continent as of Dec. 14, beating last year's record of $41.8 billion, according to PitchBook data. Part of the reason for this is that many startups have flourished at a time when remote digital services—from food delivery to ecommerce—are in more demand than ever.

VC investment was also concentrated on fewer rounds. As of Dec. 14, the venture capital deal count has dropped from 7,502 to 5,883 this year with almost all countries registering a decline in deals. Some jurisdictions have fared better than others. See the map below for a snapshot of the continent's hottest areas for VC investment in 2020: 
 

UK

The UK remains the biggest draw for VC investment in Europe, with British companies raising $13.7 billion so far this year, according to PitchBook data. That said, the number of deals fell by 27% from the previous year to 1,791.

Five new UK unicorns were created in 2020, more than any other European country. Gousto's valuation topped $1 billion when the meal kit startup raised £25 million (around $34 million) from existing investors Perwyn and BGF in November.

Another newly minted British unicorn was virtual events startup Hopin, which raised a $125 million Series B in November at a $2.1 billion valuation. Other notable deals include digital bank Revolut's $580 million Series D and Amazon's long-awaited $575 million investment in Deliveroo, which was cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority in August after a year-long investigation. 

DACH region

Germany saw a 10.9% increase in venture funding in 2020, PitchBook data shows. One of the biggest rounds was for COVID-19 vaccine developer CureVac, which raised $640 million in July from backers including Qatar Investment Authority, GlaxoSmithKline and the German government, which plans to fund more of the county's startups in 2021. Last month, a new €10 billion (around $12 billion) state fund was announced to back German startups over the next ten years, with a view to attracting an additional €20 billion in private VC investment. Other notable German rounds in 2020 include fintech provider N26's $570 million Series D and e-scooter startup Tier Mobility's $250 million Series C.

Austria has been one of the fastest-growing ecosystems this year. Individual deals remained small with the largest being a $52 million Valar Ventures-led investment in Bitpanda, PitchBook data shows, the operator of an exchange for trading digital assets. Switzerland also showed resilience, aided by its abundance of biotech startups. Among others, Arvelle Therapeutics, a company developing treatments for central nervous system disorders, raised $207.8 million in May, while Sophia Genetics scored $110 million in October for its AI-based medical data platform. 

France and Benelux

France remains the third most active VC market, just behind Germany, and the gap is closing. As in Germany, startups are getting extra government support. In September, President Emmanuel Macron announced the government would provide an additional €7 billion of funding to support the digital economy and startups.

Ynsect, a Paris-based startup that breeds insects for animal feed and fertilizer, raised France's largest round of 2020 with $372 million. And SaaS startup Mirakl hit a $1.5 billion valuation in September following a $300 million round led by Permira.

The Netherlands was the biggest winner of the Benelux region, logging an increase of more than 38% in VC funding, according to PitchBook data. Startups in the country raised $1.6 billion in venture investment across 232 deals, several of which took place toward the end of the year. MessageBird raised a $200 million Series C at a $3 billion valuation for its cloud communications platform in October, and Amsterdam-based payments specialist Mollie secured €90 million in a round led by TCV in September.

Both Luxembourg and Belgium saw VC investment levels fall by around 23% and 18.1%, respectively, in 2020, PitchBook data shows. A bright spot for Belgium appeared in the form of data intelligence company Collibra, which raised $112.5 million in April, bringing its valuation to $2.3 billion. 

Nordics

Norway had a busy year. VC investments were up 73.9% to $458 million as of Dec. 14, according to PitchBook data. Finland, meanwhile, surpassed $1 billion in venture funding for the first time thanks to the likes of food delivery startup Wolt and proptech company Kodit.io. In Sweden, payments company Klarna became Europe's most valuable VC-backed fintech startup this year after securing a $650 million round. Swedish companies received a total of $3.2 billion in 2020, boosted by several mega-rounds. Stockholm-based Kry benefited from the growing popularity of virtual medical consultations, raising €140 million. And increased interest in micromobility saw e-scooter startup Voi bag $160 million. 

Israel

Israel's VC funding was up over $750 million in 2020 to stand at $4.9 billion. Four startups surpassed the $1 billion valuation mark. In January, Calcalist reported that Insight Partners took a 10% stake in Moon Active, valuing the Tel Aviv-based mobile game developer at $1.25 billion. Cato Networks, the creator of a cloud-based enterprise security platform, raised $130 million last month, pushing its valuation over $1 billion. 

The country's existing unicorns logged some hefty rounds. Ridehailing app developer Gett grabbed $100 million ahead of its rumored IPO, while behavioral biometrics startup BioCatch raised a $145 million Series C led by Bain Capital's tech opportunities arm. 

Central and Eastern Europe

Estonia is one of a handful of European countries to have actually completed more deals this year than in 2019. The tiny country known for creating powerhouses such as Skype and TransferWise saw VC investment fall 5.3% to $104 million as of Dec. 14, according to PitchBook data. However, a few days later, Tallinn-based Uber rival Bolt collected €150 million in a round led by D1 Capital Partners. 

The rest of the region did not fare as well. Only two other countries surpassed $50 million in VC funding and both saw a big drop in activity. In Poland, investment was down by some 42.9% to $113.3 million, while Hungary was the worst performer in Europe—VC funding dropped by nearly 80% to just under $75 million. 

Southern Europe 

Spain's VC ecosystem reached double-digit growth this year. AI-powered biotech startup Quibim brought in €8 million in July to detect cancer, Alzheimer's and COVID-19, among other diseases.

VC deal activity in Italy was also up for the year, leaving the country just shy of reaching $500 million in venture funding, as of Dec. 14. Notable deals in 2020 included Milan-based logistics startup Milkman's €25 million round in May and autoimmune-focused biotech company Enthera's €28 million Series A in July. 

Featured image courtesy of Voi

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