A Saturday at February 2022, the phones of European venture capitalists began to light up as WhatsApp groups exchanged sarcastic comments on an article that appeared in the weekend edition of the FinancialTimes. The consternation was caused by an extract from The Law of Power: Venture Capital and the Art of Disruptionby journalist Sebastian Mallaby, which to many in Europe reflected the ill-informed and sometimes condescending attitudes of Silicon Valley investors towards the continent.
Mallaby pointed to an incident in 2019 when Matt Miller, a partner at blue-chip venture capital fund Sequoia Capital, which manages approximately $85 billion in assets, sent a note to other partners in their office in Menlo Park, arguing that Europe’s tech ecosystem was ultimately worthy of their attention. Given that $30 billion was invested in European tech companies that year, the idea that an American VC had to use (in Mallaby’s words) his “intuition” to discover that there were opportunities in Europe provoked howls of derision from Dublin to Berlin.
“How fortunate for us hunchbacked Europeans that the Americans came to teach us all about technology and venture capital in the year of our Lord 2019. We were busy trading clam shells until then… “, tweeted Lisett Luik, an Estonian founder and investor.
WIRED first produced an annual guide to the European startup ecosystem in 2011. It’s fair to say that, compared to the US, Europe was at a much earlier stage in its development. There were relatively few seasoned entrepreneurs, and capital was not as readily available to founders as it was in the Valley. Four years later, Atomico, a venture capital fund set up by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, released its first report on the state of European technology, revealing that around $10 billion had been raised by European tech companies that year. Since then, things have changed. In 2021, that figure was $100 billion. Across the continent, 98 additional companies were valued at over $1 billion and the total value of the European ecosystem is estimated to have increased from $1 trillion in 2018 to $3 trillion in 2021.
Over the past few months, we’ve set out to find a new cohort of businesses in 10 European cities (for the purposes of our report, we’re counting Tel Aviv as Europe) that are getting local entrepreneurs and investors excited. Our goal is to find ambitious, relatively early-stage founders who have the vision to build businesses with purpose that fill a need or solve a challenge. We do not claim that the list is exhaustive, nor that the startups are the best known or the most funded. But we hope this is a snapshot of businesses in each city that are exciting and inspiring to others in the ecosystem. And, who knows, maybe even catch the attention of Silicon Valley.