A year ago in May of 2015, Creandum published the Nordic Tech Exit Report where it put the region into context: while the Nordics are home to just 3% of Europe’s population, it has created more than 50% of Europe’s Billion Dollar exits since 2005. With another year of data collected, it’s fitting to do an update and present it at this year’s Arctic15.
2015 was not a very strong year in terms of exit value, but the overall trend is still up.
The story of Nordic Tech is that it’s getting better year over year. Looking at the chart below, the years 2000-2004 created $1.4bn in exit value, 2005-2009 created $3.6bn, and 2010-2014 pulled in $4.1bn. What may be interesting to VCs as a side note is how important it is to invest in the big winners – two thirds of all exit value was created by just 3% of the exits.
Drilling into individual countries you can’t help but notice Sweden has been the main driver in the startup scene. Our data shows that in exits above $100m, Sweden is creating more value than the rest of the Nordics combined; the country represents 55% of all exit value and has the most exits both in terms of exits larger than $100 million as well as exits larger than $1 billion. And removing the biggest exit from each country increases Sweden’s share of exit value to 59% with Denmark clear number 2 at 22%, Norway at 12% and Finland at 7%.
With companies like Spotify, Mojang, King, Tictail, and Truecaller coming out of Sweden, it’s consumer that plays a large part in the Swedish startup ecosystem. In our exit report; 64% of all exits above $100m came out of the consumer sector (when split between consumer, software, and hardware).
Consumer startups have been driving most of the value, but as you can see above, Software accounts for the highest number of exits larger than $100 million.
Overall you can’t help but notice that it’s remarkable how well Nordics are punching well above their weight, but at least the global press is starting to catch on. While the Nordics account for just 2% of the world’s GDP over the past 10 years our region has created 7% of the world’s billion dollar exits.
Although exceptionally impressive, this is still a lower portion of BUSD companies than one year ago. The main reason naturally being that the Nordics didn’t have a BUSD exit in 2015 whereas there were a number of primarily US-based ones bringing down the Nordic ratio. So the rest of the world is catching up, the Nordics is still accounting for 50% of Europe’s Billion Dollar Exits.
If there’s one unique thing about the Nordics, it seems to be in consumer products getting global adoption. About 45% of the Nordics’ BUSD exits are in the digital consumer space, something that makes up just 11% of global billion dollar exits.
With this specialty on games, music, and overall in building engaging consumer products, the Nordics have built a unique talent in capturing a global audience, driven early to get out of our small local market. This outlook then drives entrepreneurs to grow up companies to be exited as unicorns at a higher percentage than the rest of the world.
Looking forward one thing that we believe that will help our ecosystem stay competitive are local aircraft carriers, or what we call large tech companies that invest into the ecosystem by acquiring companies and raising the bar for talent. The US dominates our acquisitions while local tech giants like Ericsson and Nokia are not big enough players in our startup scene.
It has a tremendous impact on startup ecosystems to have a resource like an aircraft carrier in your backyard. The Creandum team took a trip to Israel to see what makes that remarkable ecosystem tick, and we couldn’t help but notice that huge companies like Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and Cisco with centers R&D in your backyard has a huge impact on raising the professionalism of talent and driving local acquisitions. What’s missing up north is a true giant like Facebook, Apple, or Yahoo who invest the country heavily into local tech.
Overall we’re optimistic. The Nordics are a large and growing tech market that has created $4.1bn in exit value over the past five years, and we’re working with the best entrepreneurs in Europe to build the aircraft carriers the Nordics needs – and just maybe we’ll find them at the Arctic15.