50x in 10 years – South Eastern European startups have arrived

Startups in South Eastern Europe have definitively gone from zero to one. With a startup ecosystem that has grown in value 50x in the last decade, this under-hyped corner of Europe is among the fastest-growing on the continent. In partnership with the European Investment Fund, European Investment Bank and Bulgarian Venture Capital association, we explore the innovation and VC scene in the region for the very first time.

Report - Startups & Venture Capital in South Eastern Europe – 2022

A decisive decade

Since 2012, SEE startups have grown 49.9x in combined enterprise value, significantly faster than its neighbours in CEE (9.1x) and the European average (12.1x). Startups founded and HQd in South Eastern Europe are worth a combined $31.1B as of 2022, up from $637M ten years ago. While this is still a long way behind Europe’s more mature startup ecosystem, SEE is on a high growth trajectory to catch up.

Map showing growth rate of the startup ecosystems of the Nordics, Central and Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, and Europe overall, with SEE growing almost 50x in the last decade.

Generation emigration

South eastern Europe has now produced nine unicorns, including big names like UIPath, Infobip and Rimac. Though many of these late-stage success stories chose to move overseas during their scaling journeys, to new HQ homes in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Map showing unicorn startups from Southeastern Europe

However, even those startups that have set up an international HQ, retain a large proportion of their talent pool back home, with roots firmly in SEE.

Graphic showing that although some Southeastern European startups have relocated their headquarters overseas to places like the UK or US, many still retain large teams in their founding geography.

And this culture of emigration is changing. Capital is becoming more available in the region both from local and international investors. 


Enterprise Software, Fintech & Transportation are the leading startup sectors in SEE. The 3 industries combined have generated over $24B in enterprise value, over 50% of total value of the region. Success cases such as InfoBip, UiPath, Payhawk and others have proven the region’s capacity to create success cases.

Chart showing breakdown of startup enterprise value in Southeastern Europe by industry, with Enterprise Software, Fintech and Transportation leading.

Record funding

Combined VC funding of SEE-based startups has passed a billion dollars for the first time in 2022. This all time record is higher than the last three years’ funding combined. 

Chart showing venture capital funding into startups in Southeastern Europe, from 2017 to 2022

Within SEE, Romania and Greece are the leading countries by value creation. But Croatia has been the fastest riser in the last five years.

Chart showing breakdown of value growth of startup ecosystems in different Southeastern European countires, with Croatia growing the most.

This moderate but emerging ecosystem has already produced proven winners. It’s newer generation of startups are scaling faster than ever. Availability of local capital is growing. And a large talent pool is already acquiring extensive experience working for globally significant startups. The pieces are in place for the next generation of startups in South Eastern Europe to build a world beater from the Balkans.

Report - Startups & Venture Capital in South Eastern Europe – 2022