Reset expectations, but Nordic startup nations punch well above their weight

Home of Slush, Spotify and sauna, the Nordic countries have gained a reputation as some of the most notoriously entrepreneurial tech ecosystems in the world. With SVB and NGP Capital, we’ve conducted a pulse check of the Nordic startup and venture capital ecosystem, during a turbulent time for innovation communities around the world.

Report - Startups and venture capital in the Nordics – 2023

Startup funding falls from all-time high

Nordic startups raised $11.7B in 2022. This is 36% lower than the all-time high in 2021, but at more than 50% higher than 2020’s total, funding levels in the Nordics have largely returned to the pre-pandemic trend line.

Chart from Dealroom platform showing venture capital investment into startups based in the Nordic countries, over time, with a peak in 2021.

The fall in funding overall is largely the result of a pullback in late-stage funding. Megarounds, of over $100M, halved in total value in 2022 compared to 2021. The proportion of funding in the Nordics going to megarounds also fell to 46%, from 58% in 2021.

Chart from Dealroom showing the split of VC funding for Nordic startups allocated to late-stage versus early-stage rounds, over time.

Early-stage funding meanwhile has held up relatively well in 2022. Pre-Seed to Series A funding levels are pretty much flat in 2022 for the whole Nordics region. There is some geographic disparity, however. In Iceland, the smallest startup ecosystem in the Nordics, early stage funding grew by +53%, and Norway by +13%.

New unicorns and rising stars

The Nordics have now created 78 unicorns and $1B+ exits. 10 of those were added in 2022. Cint, Oura and Dune Analytics were among the Nordic startups to join the unicorn club last year. Ten is down from 24 in 2021, the peak of the global unicorn party.

Chart showing the number of new unicorns created each by in the Nordic startup ecosystem.

But there is also a long tail of earlier stage rising stars and potential future unicorns that also raised fresh funding in 2022. One company was even (for now) dehorned, as Norway’s Oda raised a significant down round during a tough post-pandemic period for food delivery.

Chart showing logos of Nordic startups that raised significant investment rounds in 2022.

An impact focussed ecosystem

The Nordics are the most impact-focussed region for entrepreneurship in the world. In 2022, more than a third of all VC funding in the Nordics went to Impact startups. This compares to a European average of 22%. $4.3B was raised by impact startup in the Nordics in 2022.

Chart showing the share of Nordic VC funding going to each sector, with impact top, followed by Fintech

Entrepreneurial Nordic nations

All five Nordic countries feature among the top 10 European tech ecosystems by VC funding raised per capita last year. Iceland is second only to Estonia for VC dollars raised per capita, at $1000 in 2022, compared to a Europe-wide average of $126.

Chart showing the top ten European countries by VC funding per capita in 2022, with Estonia first at $1100, against a European average of $126.

For more data on how median round sizes are changing at different stages, how both short and medium term growth rates compare to other global and European regions, and where capital is coming from, download the full report.

Report - Startups and venture capital in the Nordics – 2023