Europe's tech ecosystem is becoming a worthy rival to the US thanks to a recent boom in tech and start-up entrepreneurship. Investors such as NJF Capital are seizing the opportunity to work with these exciting new disruptors.
We often think of unicorn companies as a Silicon Valley phenomenon, but in 2018 alone, 17 European companies achieved unicorn status, six of which were in the UK.
Indeed, earlier this summer, London Tech Week celebrated the UK achieving 17 unicorns all of its own. According to data from Tech Nation and Dealroom, this places the UK third in world rankings for this milestone, just behind the US and China.
"This is incredibly exciting for European investors," says NJF Capital founder Nicole Junkermann. "Europe's tech ecosystem is now firmly established and can only continue to grow and evolve from here on in."
The role of tech research and development in Europe
The quality of the European research base is arguably the principal reason for the current boom in Eurocorns. Europe is traditionally a centre for education and it's in these hubs of knowledge and learning that Europe excels.
NJF Capital has been investing in European technology companies since 2011. Founder and CEO Nicole Junkermann comments: "In the UK alone, you have three out of the top 10 universities in the world. There is unrivalled excellence, particularly in the fields of biotech and life sciences, and this is an incredibly valuable knowledge base."
A combination of start-up-friendly regs in Europe and a move towards acquisitions and consolidations has helped create a more buoyant, entrepreneurial culture supportive to tech start-ups, with Fintech and Medtech two of the major success stories to have emerged from this intellectual and research infrastructure over recent years.
Junkermann believes that Europe's outstanding knowledge base "will remain a competitive advantage for many years to come."
European tech start-ups can bring value for investors
Debate over the state of the exit environment in Europe compared to the US, particularly around IPOs, has been overhyped. Europe undoubtedly delivers value for investors, with the listing of Adyen in Amsterdam being just one recent successful example. And additionally, a vibrant exit market on both sides of the Atlantic will help European companies, such as the recent acquisition of Swedish firm iZettle by the US' Paypal for $2.2bn. As Junkermann says, "Europe undoubtedly delivers value for investors."
Nicole Junkermann comments: "Speaking from personal experience, helping to grow a unicorn business is tremendously energising for the investor. NJF Capital's current portfolio includes many businesses that have the potential to reach the $1 billion status, including European businesses such as Blockchain and Owkin."
Cryptocurrency company Blockchain is based in the UK with other investors such as Jeremy Liew at Lightspeed and Tom Hulme at Google Ventures, and Owkin is a French-American biotech company, with other investors such as Adam Ghobarah at Google Ventures, Alex Pasteur at F Prime and Bruno Raillard at Frst. Both businesses are fast-moving and leading-edge, and Junkermann's backing will help them to expand and develop.