The 2015 Nordic Funding Analysis

Over the course of 2015 we tracked 339 investments totalling $1.82 billion

At the end of 2014’s funding analysis I commented that 2015 should see Nordic startups passing a total of $1 billion in a calendar year for the first time. I often think that I’m too far-out in my predictions, but this was a prediction where I was wrong at the other end of the scale, as not only did Nordic startups pass $1 billion in funding comfortably in 2015, they’d already done so in June. (Thanks Spotify!)

And naturally, the Swedish music giant’s $526 million round had a huge impact on 2015’s numbers, one that can almost not be overplayed. Nonetheless, there were plenty of other big rounds in 2015, and actually, even more impressive than the total amount raised, was the pure number of investments that the year brought, an incredible 339.

Of course, Spotify played a huge part in Sweden seeing the lion’s share of the total amount of funding, but Spotify’s monster round only counts for one when it comes to the total number of investments, even still, Sweden led the way by quite some distance, as we tracked 143 investments for them. Finland saw 84 and Denmark 65, as Norway and Iceland followed with 30 and 17 respectively.

Not only did Nordic startups manage to pass $1 billion collectively for the first time in a calender year, Sweden managed it all by themselves as their investments totalled $1.07 billion to capture over half of the money that was put into the region.  Finland and Denmark swap places, as despite less investments, Danish startups collectively raised more ($273.53 million) in total than Finnish startups did ($197.52 million). Rather remarkably, despite only seeing 17 investments, Iceland only raised a couple of million less ($193.8 million) than Finland, predominantly due to Verne Global ($98 million), CRI ($45.5 million) and CCP ($30 million). Norway bought up the rear as their 30 investments totalled $85.4 million.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Norway, as if we look at the growth rates of the number of investments happening in 2015 compared to 2014, they come out higher than anyone, even higher than Sweden, although of course they came from a lot lower base number. Finland saw the smallest improvement year on year, however they started from the highest base number from 2014.

Naturally, a lot of the ‘extra’ investments in 2015 came at an early stage, meaning that pre-seed and seed investments dominated. However, we still counted 31 Series A’s, 11 Series B’s and 10 Series C rounds and onwards in 2015. (This does include angel investments, private equity or other amounts that we are unable to determine a particular stage for).

Now, lets take a look at those that made the biggest contribution to the Nordics not only passing $1 billion for the first time in a year, but only just missing out on the $2 billion mark! Perhaps surprisingly, the top 20 investments ‘only’ accounted for 67.03% of the total, demonstrating that there were still a lot of decent sized rounds raised, despite the prevalence of the pre-seed and seed investments. All countries had at least one startup register in the top 20 rounds, noticeably Denmark claimed 5 of these spots, coming in behind Sweden’s 9, with Iceland, Finland and Norway following up with 3, 2 and 1 respectively.

Mainly due to a storming Q4, Nordic fintech startups saw more investments than any other vertical in 2015, a demonstration of just how much this area has taken off in the Nordics. Unsurprisngly, Enterprise SaaS, Gaming and Health still all featured in the most popular to invest in, with Adtech making up the top 5.

The median rounds in 2015 were practically perfect for what you would expect a healthy amount to look like at each stage. Although it has to be said that seed rounds are down on last year, at least in comparison to the average. However, it’s promising to see the median Series A’s, B’s and C’s being as high as this, and it shows that it is possible to raise decent sized later-stage money as a Nordic startup.

And here is a look at those who were at the higher end of the scale when it came to raising Series A’s and B’s in 2015, with the companies registering the highest Series B rounds perhaps worth our attention when it comes to highlighting those that have a chance of a billion dollar valuation in the next couple of years.

Instead of drilling down too heavily into individual specifics for the five countries as we normally do in our quarterly reports, we are going to produce individual yearly analyses for each country in the next week or so. However, as a little taster, here are the five biggest rounds for each in 2015.

Now we get down to the really interesting stuff, comparing the amounts that were raised in 2014 compared to the year just gone. As stated at the beginning, a total of $1.82 billion was collectively raised by Nordic startups in 2015. This is compared to a total of $846.44 million in 2014, equally a growth of 115%. Although the Nordics start from a lower base number, it’s still worth comparing to the fact that London just grew at a record breaking 70%. In fact, this means that on current growth rate, the Nordics are set to pass London for venture capital as soon as next year.

However, despite the impressive amounts, I believe the most telling result from 2015 to be the sheer number of investments we saw in the Nordics this year, 339 to be precise. This is compared to what now seems like a paltry 181 in 2014, with the year on year growth coming out at 87.29%.

In all honesty, despite what the data says, it will be incredibly hard for the Nordics to sustain the growth rate of the amount of venture capital that is currently flooding into the region. However, much more possible, and important, is that the number of investments keep increasing year on year. If we applied the same rate that we saw the number of investments grow at last year for this year then we would be looking at 600+ investments in Nordic startups in 2016.

If we are take a long-term approach to the ecosystem, which of course we should, then this number is much more vital to the future success of the region than a record-breaking year in venture capital and while it is easy to get carried away with the headline number (ourselves included), we shouldn’t lose sight of the day-to-day and ensuring that more and more Nordic startups continue to be able to raise funding.

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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