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Europe’s Unicorn Herd Multiplies As VC Investment More Than Doubled In 2021

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Funding to European startups showed unprecedented growth in 2021, Crunchbase numbers show, with $116 billion invested. That’s up 159 percent compared with the $45 billion invested in 2020. 

Consider that a decade ago, less than $8 billion was invested in European startups. In 2012, venture funding to the continent represented 13 percent of all global funding; in 2021 that figure was 18 percent.

Within Europe, $40 billion—or one-third—of all venture funding last year went to seed and early-stage startups. That’s not much less than the total funding raised for each year in 2020 and 2019. 

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Two-thirds, or $76 billion, of funding last year was invested at late-stage, up more than 230 percent year over year, according to Crunchbase data.  

Last year 84 new unicorn startups from Europe joined the Crunchbase Unicorn Board, compared to 11 in 2020. The board currently counts 150 European private unicorn companies.

Table of Contents

European Venture Dollar Volume Through 2021

Deal counts

In 2021 a  larger number of European startups raised funding at early and late stage compared to 2020. 

Close to 600 companies in Europe raised funding at Series C or later. Over 1,600 companies raised funding at early stage and more than 4,700 companies raised at seed stage, Crunchbase figures show. 1  

European Venture Deal Volume Through 2021

Late stage and technology growth

Growth-stage investors increased their appetite for European startups with more investors that led or co-led rounds at $1 billion and above in 2021 compared to prior years. Late-stage and technology growth funding grew by more than 200 percent year over year to $76 billion, compared to $23 billion in 2020. 

The proportion of late-stage funding also grew from 51 percent of funding in 2020 to 66 percent in 2021, matching global trends.  

European Late-Stage And Technology Growth Investment Through Q4 2020 to Q4 2021

Early-stage funding

European early-stage funding in 2021 totaled $31.4 billion, up from $17.1 billion in 2020—marking 84 percent growth year over year. 

In 2021, 46 companies raised Series A or B funding rounds at or above $100 million, according to Crunchbase data. In 2020, 13 companies raised at those elevated amounts. 

European Early-Stage Investment Through Q4 2020 to Q4 2021


The seed ecosystem grew in 2021 by 74 percent year over year, with $8.4 billion invested. The fourth quarter exceeded all prior quarters with $2.8 billion raised across more than 1,000 funding rounds.

European Seed And Angel Investment Through Q4 2020 to Q4 2021

Leading countries

Among the top six countries in Europe, both Germany and the Netherlands each grew more than 200 percent year over year and Spain grew more than 400 percent. Alongside the growth in funding, a greater proportion was invested outside of the leading U.K. markets.   

Leading European Countries, By Venture Dollar Volume, Through 2018 to 2021

Unicorn herd grows

The Crunchbase Unicorn Board is now home to 150 European private unicorn companies, with more than half of those—84—joining in the past year alone.

They include:

  • E-commerce company Trendyol and delivery service Getir from Turkey;
  • Crypto exchange platform, connecting bank data service TrueLayer and peer-to-peer loan platform Zopa from the U.K.;
  • Commission-free broker Trade Republic, grocery delivery company Gorillas, and content delivery platform Contentful from Germany;
  • Electric scooter company Voi from Sweden;
  • Gig staffing marketplace JobandTalent and online real estate platform idealista from Spain;
  • Global fantasy football company Sorare and blockchain security company Ledger from France;
  • Crypto exchange Bitpanda form Austria; and
  • Blockchain developer Consensys from Switzerland.

The Crunchbase Unicorn Board currently hosts five European companies valued above $10 billion, an unprecedented number. Across Europe, 17 countries  raised funding above $1 billion in 2021 compared to eight in 2020. 

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Europe matures

Of the top funded startups globally in financial services in 2021, five of them hailed from Europe. They include Stockholm-based buy now, pay later platform  Klarna, London-based mobile banking platform Revolut, Amsterdam-based payments integrator Mollie and Berlin-based mobile bank N26 and commission-free trade broker  Trade Republic.

The European ecosystem is maturing and demonstrates similar trends to those seen in the North American market since 2018, with larger fundings at all stages and an increase in late-stage funding led by global growth equity investors. 

Silicon Valley firms are also actively setting up shop in Europe itself, as leading European companies no longer see the need to cross the pond to succeed. 

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Further reading


The data contained in this report comes directly from Crunchbase, and is based on reported data. Data reported is as of Jan. 9, 2022.

Note that data lags are most pronounced at the earliest stages of venture activity, with seed funding amounts increasing significantly after the end of a quarter/year.

The most recent quarter/year will increase over time relative to previous quarters. For funding counts, we notice a strong data lag, especially at the seed and early stages, by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent a year out.

Please note that all funding values are given in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted. Crunchbase converts foreign currencies to U.S. dollars at the prevailing spot rate from the date funding rounds, acquisitions, IPOs and other financial events are reported. Even if those events were added to Crunchbase long after the event was announced, foreign currency transactions are converted at the historic spot price.

For M&A transaction analysis, we include venture-backed companies and exclude companies that previously went public. 

Glossary of funding terms

Seed and angel consists of seed, pre-seed and angel rounds. Crunchbase also includes venture rounds of unknown series, equity crowdfunding and convertible notes at $3 million (USD or as-converted USD equivalent) or less.

Early-stage consists of Series A and Series B rounds, as well as other round types. Crunchbase includes venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture and other rounds above $3 million, and those less than or equal to $15 million.

Late-stage consists of Series C, Series D, Series E and later-lettered venture rounds following the “Series [Letter]” naming convention. Also included are venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture and other rounds above $15 million.

Technology growth is a private-equity round raised by a company that has previously raised a “venture” round. (So basically, any round from the previously defined stages.)

Illustration: Dom Guzman

  1. Seed funding in 2021 will continue to be added at a greater pace compared to other stages  after a quarter has closed.

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