The 2017 Nordic Funding Analysis

2017 was an interesting year when it came to investment in the Nordic tech scene. After three consecutive years of stunning growth, we had to adjust to a 12 months that appeared considerably slower than those we’d begun to become accustomed to. In this, our yearly investment analysis for the region, we’ll delve deeper into the numbers we saw in 2017, explain what they mean and what they can tell us about what to expect in 2018. But first, the boring stuff:

 

Methodology and Disclaimers

  • The most important thing to mention, is that at the end of a year we spend time updating our database from investments that we either missed at the time or were subsequently uncovered post the original analysis. Therefore, some of the numbers, particularly on the number of investments per quarter differ in this analysis from previous ones you may have read throughout 2017.
  • We are largely able to achieve this increased accuracy due to the higher quality of available data sources that exist in the region these days, particular shout-outs deserve to go to Nordic9, Nordic Tech List and Northstack.
  • Any differences that occur in our datasets are predominantly due to methodology, therefore it is important to outline ours:
  • We only record publicly disclosed, private minority (equity and loan) investments into Nordic tech companies. We do not include secondary investments, nor do we include accelerator investments (for entry into a programme)
  • You should also note that ultimately we decide to leave out Unity from this analysis due to them being headquartered in the United States for quite some time now, for anyone who disagrees, just add ‘1’ to the number of investments and $400 million to the totals. 
  • We did not include Snow Software’s $120 million round as they are majority-owned by buyout fund Vitruvian (Thanks to Bjorn Bergstrom for alerting us to this)

 

The Number of Investments

  • Ultimately the year ended slightly above 2017’s numbers meaning we didn’t see the down year that looked possible at the beginning of the year, with just under 800 investments ultimately recorded (793).
  • Still, growth in investments has clearly considerably slowed. The last few years have practically doubled, whereas growth this year was *just* 12%.
  • Despite the slowdown, with the deluge of new funds that have sprung up in the region recently, particularly at the early-stage, I’d expect us to see 1,000+ investments in 2018, putting us on a higher level of growth once more.
  • Therefore 2017 can be viewed as a stabilisation year, with normal service likely to resume this year.

 

The Amount of Capital Invested

  • This was a very strong year for capital invested and if we disregard the anomalies that are Spotify’s $526 million round in 2015 and $1 billion round in 2016, then 2017 was in fact a record year for total capital invested into the region.
  • When you consider that the number of investments didn’t rise by much but the capital did considerably, then it is clear that a higher quantity of larger investments occured in 2017, demonstrating a more mature ecosystem.
  • With our anticipation of 1,000+ investments in 2018, as well as a continued maturation of companies moving through the funding pipeline, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more capital invested at levels even higher than 2016 including Spotify.

 

The Number of Investments per Quarter

  • The year started strongly with the 200 mark breached in both Q1 and Q2, whereas things slowed down (as to be expected) during the summer and then picked up slightly in Q4 but not reaching the heights of H1.
  • Q4 has traditionally been the strongest quarter of the year in the region, as companies prime their announcements around Slush and getting the news out before the end of the year, however this (clearly) wasn’t the case in 2017.
  • This indicates a possibility that the growth rate could be slowed down further, but even if this does roll over into Q1 and Q2 of 2018, the impact and activity at the early-stage from the newer funds means that this ‘lull’ is unlikely to last for long.

 

The Number of Investments per Country per Year

 

  • Denmark had a consistent year, admittedly to my slight surprise. I had forecasted a more difficult year, although they defied my expectations with 5 more investments than the previous year.
  • This also meant that Finland didn’t surpass Denmark for the number of investments, however, they did still see the increase I had anticipated, recording the highest % of year-on-year growth. Once again, I expect this to continue again in 2018 and for Finland to reclaim second spot for the highest number of investments this year.
  • We recorded just 11 investments for Iceland, however, after speaking with Kristinn from Northstack, he assures me there was actually more like 20, however a lot were not publicly disclosed. (Again, read our methodology above) Still, I’d expect a more active (in fact, record) year for investments in Iceland in 2018.
  • Norway continued their investment ascent, however, just like the region, growth rate considerably slowed. I’d expect this to pick up once more in 2018. This is not really a concern in any case, as Norway saw a deluge of $10 million+ rounds as the ecosystem continued to mature.
  • Sweden recorded a decent level of growth, with an additional 54 investments than 2016. Expect the 500 mark to be breached for the first time in 2018.

 

The Amount of Capital Invested per Country per Year

  • Denmark took a hit on the capital invested from 2016, as early-stage investments reigned supreme and the recent Series A struggle reared its head.
  • Finland also had a record year for the amount of capital invested.
  • Iceland had a slow year for capital invested (although see above)
  • Strangely, despite the aforementioned $10 million+ rounds, Norway actually saw a slight dip in the total amount invested.
  • Sweden had a very strong year for amount of capital invested, particularly when you consider that without including Spotify in 2016’s total, the amount of capital more than doubled year on year.

 

The 20 largest private Nordic tech investments of 2017

  • FinTech dominated the largest investments of 2017, as BIMA, iZettle and ViaBill all featured at the top of the charts.
  • Sweden accounted for the majority of the largest investments, a few Finnish and Danish companies also featured.
  • Despite the increase in rounds above $10 million in Norway, none were big enough to see them featured in the top 20 largest in the region.

Edit: Bima’s $97 million round, only included $30 million in new capital, with the remainder a share transaction between Allianz and Kinnevik (Thanks Dragos Novac)

 

The Number of Investments per Round Size

  • The round size that saw the most growth in action year-on-year was the $20-50million bracket, clear evidence of the maturation of the ecosystem. In a similar vein, $10-20 million also saw a significant increase. In total there was a 64.86% year-on-year growth increase in rounds above $10 million, compared to the 12% growth across all investments.
  • There was also a decent increase in the $0.5M-$1M and $1-3M brackets, where the majority of action happens every year. There was no significant decrease in any of the investment brackets.
  • Interestingly, in 2018 there is a real chance that $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.

 

The Number of Investments per Vertical

  • FinTech returned to the peak after a slower year in 2016, representing 11.6% of the total investments in the region. Health and Wellness pushed Enterprise SaaS into third place, with Retail and Entertainment and Media making up the top 5.
  • In addition to FinTech and Health and Wellness, the verticals that experienced a significant uptick in investment in 2017 compared to 2016 included DeepTech, VR and AR, Real Estate and Manufacturing.
  • In contrast, the verticals that experienced a downturn in interest included Enterprise SaaS, Social and Communications, Adtech and Hardware.

 

International Investors

  • 17.4% of Nordic investment rounds in 2017 included at least one investor who is based outside of the region. When you consider that the majority of investments are happening at the early-stage and the fact that we are blessed with investors such as Northzone, Creandum, Industrifonden, EQT Ventures etc based in the region and able to invest in the bigger rounds, this number is actually pretty impressive and demonstrates the Nordics ability to attract International interest.
  • I expect this % to increase in 2018 due to two main factors: 1) Spotify’s (and potentially iZettle’s and Unity’s IPOs) will help contribute to a higher level of International investment in the region this year and 2) 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.

 

Conclusions

  • In 2016 I talked a lot about the need for the ecosystem to mature and for the vast number of companies that had raised pre-seed and seed over the last few years needing to have the ability to raise A and B rounds. This certainly appeared to happen in 2017 as the investment ecosystem took a step in the direction of quality rather than quantity, exactly what was needed at that point in the ecosystem.
  • This plateau will now set up the ecosystem to take another step forward, which will come in the form of more early-stage investments once more, while the larger, more-mature investments continue to happen as well, providing us with the best of both worlds in 2018.
  • For further analysis on what we can expect this year, then I suggest reading 27 theses for the Nordic tech scene in 2018

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.