One Saturday in February 2022, the phones of European venture capitalists began to light up as WhatsApp groups exchanged sarcastic comments about a piece that had appeared in the weekend edition of the Financial Times. The consternation was caused by an extract from The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Art of Disruption, by journalist Sebastian Mallaby, which, to many in Europe, reflected the ill-informed and sometimes condescending attitudes of Silicon Valley-based investors toward the continent.
Mallaby reported an incident from 2019 when Matt Miller, a partner at blue-chip VC fund Sequoia Capital, which has around $85 billion in assets under management, sent a memo to other partners at their office in Menlo Park, making the case that the European technology ecosystem was finally worth their attention. Given that $30 billion was invested in European tech firms that year, the idea that an American VC needed to use (in Mallaby’s words) his “intuition” to find that there was opportunity in Europe provoked howls of derision from Dublin to Berlin.
“How lucky for us bumpkin Europeans that the Americans came to teach us all about tech and VC 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 wasn’t as accessible to founders as it was in the Valley. Four years later, Atomico, a VC fund established by Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström, published its first “State of European Technology” report, revealing that around $10 billion had been raised by European technology companies that year. Since then things have changed. In 2021, that number was $100 billion. Across the continent, an additional 98 companies were valued at over $1 billion and the total value of the European ecosystem is estimated to have grown 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 companies in 10 European cities (for the purposes of our report we count Tel Aviv as Europe) that are generating excitement among local entrepreneurs and investors. We aim to find ambitious founders at a relatively early stage who have a vision to build companies with purpose that are addressing a need or taking on a challenge. We don’t claim that the list is exhaustive, or that the startups are the best-known or most-funded. But we hope that it’s a snapshot of the companies in each city that are exciting and inspiring others in the ecosystem. And, who knows, maybe even gaining the attention of Silicon Valley.