Strong and stable: London extends lead as Europe's top hub for unicorn startups

 
Emily Nicolle
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822 tech firms have selected London for new projects since 2008 (Source: Matt Alexander, PA Wire)

London has cemented its status as the home of more young billion-dollar tech companies than any other European city, taking home the crown for ten consecutive years.


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The number of so-called unicorn startups – private businesses valued at $1bn (£752.6m) and founded after 2000 – reached a record high of 13 in the UK capital last year, up from eight in 2016 and just two in 2008, according to data from London & Partners.

This was almost double its next closest rival, with Berlin hosting seven unicorns last year and Paris and Amsterdam tied with four startups each.

Fintech brought in the city’s highest number of entrants last year, including digital banks Monzo and Revolut.


Artificial intelligence and cyber security followed closely behind, with Benevolent AI and Darktrace raising rounds of $120m and $50m respectively in 2018.

Venture capital firm GP Bullhound predicted that London will be home to a quarter of all new unicorns founded in Europe over the next few years. Those tipped to enter the billion-dollar ranks include fintech firms Starling Bank and Lendinvest and cyber security startup Onfido.

Octopus Ventures chief executive Alliott Cole said the opportunity for London to create extraordinary companies has “never been stronger”.

Separately, London also attracted more foreign direct investment projects than any other city globally for the fifth year running in 2018, and came out on top over the decade according to data from FDI Markets. The capital has received investment across more than 4,600 projects since 2008, beating out Singapore’s 4,330 and 3,000 in Dubai.

International financial services firms chose London as their primary destination for expansion globally last year, ahead of Singapore, New York and Hong Kong. In the last decade, 740 financial service firms set up an operation in London, creating over 25,900 jobs in the city.

Tech firms also favoured the capital, with 822 firms selecting London for new projects since 2008. Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have all opted to more than double their headcount in the city, opening up new London campuses in locations such as King’s Cross, Battersea and Shoreditch.

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Ben Brabyn, head of London startup accelerator Level39, said the data “defies the outdated criticism that Britain lacked the ability to scale globally significant businesses”.

“London is now the world leader in fintech and is setting the pace for transformation across international financial services,” he added.