You might not associate Europe with billion-dollar, category-changing companies--but that could all change soon. Research suggests that investment in the region is on the rise, as EU companies are on the cutting edge of areas including the blockchain and crypto-currencies.
A new report from the London-based venture capital firm Atomico, "The State of European Tech 2017," finds that more than $19 billion has been invested in EU companies in 2017 alone. That's up from $14.4 billion in 2016. In recent years, a number of billion-dollar Euro-based companies have emerged, from grocery delivery service Hello Fresh to augmented reality app Blippar. This past year, the region has clinched seven additional "unicorns," including Purple Bricks in the U.K. and Rovio in Finland.
"The question of whether Europe can produce world-class innovation has been put to bed," said Tom Wehmeier, Atomico's partner and head of research. To compile the report, his team culled data from LinkedIn, Meetup, Stack Overflow, Dealroom.co and the London Stock Exchange, which they presented at the sixth-annual Slush Conference in Helsinki on Thursday.
While much of innovation has sprung from Scandinavia and the U.K., it certainly isn't limited to those areas. The Atomico report finds that investment this year flowed to startups in the Netherlands and Spain, including Madrid-based ride-hailing service Cabify, which raised $100 million in May.
Of course, Europe will face a new set of challenges in the months to come that could put pressure on business owners. Germany, for one, may be facing a snap election, after incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to form a government with smaller coalitions this fall. And the U.K. continues to negotiate its exit from the EU, a move that has many local businesses concerned over future access to talent and expenses associated with trade. (The U.K. remains the No. 1 destination for technical talent, according to the Atomico report, although it has lost some share to neighbors Germany and France--likely as a result of Brexit.)
Investors are nonetheless bullish on the future. "While Europe is notably absent from the top 10 most valuable companies in the world, the probability that the next industry-defining company could come from Europe has never been higher," says Atomico's Wehmeier.