27 theses for the Nordic tech scene in 2018

 

Below are my 27 theses for the Nordic tech scene in 2018. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What did I miss? Continue the conversation in the comments or find me here @neilswmurray

Investments

1. The number of investments into Nordic tech startups will surpass 1,000 for the first time. Considering just 181 were made in 2014, this is phenomenal progress even if the year-on-year growth has slowed considerably since then (Note: 793 were made in 2017)

2. We’ll see a record year for the total amount of capital invested too (disregarding Spotify’s past monster rounds) with $1.7 billion likely to be surpassed.

3. Denmark will continue to struggle with the number of companies that are pushing on past seed to raise a Series A. This could potentially lead to a slight slowdown in overall investment numbers.

4. In contrast, Finland will have an exceptional year for investment, pushing past Denmark to reclaim second spot in the region behind Sweden for the number of investments. This will be driven by new local active early-stage investors like Icebreaker and Wave Ventures, as well as some even newer investment funds likely to be closed and launched this year.

5. Iceland will finally have a record year for investments. I feel like I’ve been saying that for a while now, but it now appears the pieces of the puzzle are finally in place, with the addition of Crowberry Capital and other Nordic investors paying more attention, resulting in 20+ investments in 2018.

6. 2017 saw the pace of investment in Norway considerably slow, however this was offset by the number of $10million rounds taking place, as the ecosystem continued to mature. Good news, I’d expect the pace of investments to go back up in 2018 while still maintaining the level of startups managing to raise later-stage capital as new investors begin to participate at all levels.

7. The Swedish investment machine will keep rolling. Record year etc etc etc 🚀

8. Secondary hubs (particularly Aarhus, Gothenburg, Malmo, Lund, Linkoping, Trondheim and Oulu) will continue to attract increased, record levels of investment in 2018. This will not be to the detriment of the primary hubs but simply in addition as capital and interest continues to diversify across the region.

9. $0.5–1M could become the most active bracket for investment. This would be a remarkable turnaround from 18 months ago where it was the area where the least investment action would occur. This is largely due to the number of startups initially raising <$150K straight out of the blocks.

10. After an increased interest from Asia in investing in the Nordics in 2015, this dipped in 2016 and levelled out in 2017. In 2018 I expect to see a new level of investment from Asian investors driven by a concerted effort from ecosystem players to attract more capital from the East.

Exits

1. Spotify’s direct listing will naturally be a big moment for the region this year, with capital, momentum and attention finding it’s way to the Nordics once they (I’d expect successfully) go public. This will help contribute to a higher level of International investment in the region this year, as well as a record level of investment participation from investors who’ve never invested in the Nordics prior to 2018.

2. However, potential IPOs from iZettle or Unity could have an even bigger impact on the region even if Spotify does steal the headlines. This could result in hundreds of early employees suddenly becoming more liquid, providing the Nordics with a bigger pool than ever of potential experienced angel investors. In a similar vein, expect to see an increased number of gaming startups started by ex-Rovio employees this year after their IPO at the end of last year.

3. Aided by these potential exits, the Nordics will record the most billion-dollar exits in Europe in 2018. Forget worthless paper unicorns, the Nordics produces the real deal. Read: Rovio, Zendesk, Avito, King etc etc

4. VC-backed exits will also continue to be amongst the strongest in Europe. In fact, I’d expect at least one quarter in 2018 to have the Nordic’s come out on top in this regard.

5. Over the last two or three years, on average one of tech’s big 5 (Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft( buys a Nordic company every six weeks. In 2018 I’d expect that rate to maintain or even increase in 2018, as deep tech continues its renaissance in the region and remains crucial to these companies strategies.

Verticals

1. Speaking of which, I’d expect Deep Tech to be one of the strongest verticals in the Nordics this year. After a resurgence in investment and interest last year, I’d expect the region to double down on what it does best.

2. AR will have a breakthrough year both for investment and the number of startups being born. Finland will lead the way and establish itself as one of the world’s leading AR hubs.

3. The lack of interest in blockchain and crypto will continue in the Nordics. I shared more thoughts on the potential significance of this here.

4. The awakening towards impact investment will continue. Driven by events like Katapult and Slush, investors will continue to become alert to the fact that building a huge company and having a positive impact on the world are not two mutually exclusive things, in fact they go pretty well together.

5. Compliance is likely to be a global trend in 2018, and the Nordics are naturally well-positioned to excel in this vertical.

6. There’ll be less of an appetite for social networks and social comms startups.

7. FinTech will remain the most invested in vertical, as the region continues to position itself as one of the leading FinTech hubs.

Random

1. After multiple cases of bureaucracy winning over common sense and talent continuing to be deported from the region, I expect this to reach a crescendo in 2018. Possibly with a high profile “foreign” founder being deported.

2. We’ll see a large number of companies started by former employees of Spotify, Klarna, iZettle etc etc, resulting in a higher than ever quality of Nordic first-time founders.

3. Subsequently this will lead to shitty investors slowly being forced out. In the beginning it will be out of the best deals (due to savvier founders), eventually (hopefully) it will be from the ecosystem.

4. Northvolt’s sheer ambition and scale will propel it into the global tech scene’s consciousness, with Peter Carlsson’s profile dramatically rising as a consequence.

5. Northzone, Creandum and EQT Ventures will have their most active year to date. With plenty of capital from relatively fresh funds, as well as an abundance of companies who’ve raised seed over the last 12 months or so, I’d expect all 3 to fill their boots with Nordic Series A investments this year.

Neil S W Murray founded The Nordic Web in 2014 in order to provide the Nordics with the quality coverage it deserves. As well as being Founding Editor of The Nordic Web, Neil is also an active community builder in the region, participating in a number of initiatives, and has previously worked for Tech.eu.