Everything you Need to Know about Startup Exits in Europe 2021

Everything you Need to Know about Startup Exits in Europe 2021

The 2nd edition of the DEEP Startup Ecosystem Conference that took place in Essen, Germany on 18th October 2021 convened ecosystem leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers and investors from across Europe and beyond. Their a common goal is to foster discussion on the most pressing challenges that startup ecosystems face today. The event hosted a virtual think tank for a deep analysis of the value of exits and how successful startups fuel ecosystem growth in a city.

2021 has seen the highest number of venture exits since 2017 in Europe. The total exit transaction value surpassed 421bn € at the time of the DEEP Ecosystems Conference in October. During the conference we came together with experts from startup hubs all around Europe and even beyond to discuss what the effects of exits on the ecosystem could be and how we can ensure the positive re-percussions we hope for are actually achieved.

Top 5 Facts on Exits in Europe

  • 2021 has seen the highest number of venture exits since 2017 in Europe with >3.500 deals. The total exit transaction value surpassed 430bn € (Dealroom).
  • In Europe most startups never exit, but stay private.
  • Around 12% of European companies go bankrupt before they get bought.
  • If companies exit, it takes on average 15 years from their foundation until the big day.
  • Only 0.2% of European companies exit via an IPO.

The growing number of successful startups in Europe promises a wave of exits in the near future. It usually takes 10-15 years from the foundation of a startup until it exits successfully on the capital market, either via a M&A transaction or an initial public offering on the stock market. Therefore, for the European startup ecosystem we have not yet seen a lot of exits, as the height of startup activity was reached only in the years between 2012-2016. 2021 has been a particular year: The effects of the global pandemic have driven traditional companies to invest in digitalization, which increased their appetite to acquire existing digital startups.


84 New European Unicorns

Until October Europe saw 84 new startup unicorns. Thus, the continent overtook China’s unicorn growth of only 21 unicorns in 2021 (Dealroom). With a growth of 2.9x YoY, Europe is the fastest growing major region by Venture Capital investment – growing faster than the US and Asia. The total investment sum in H1 2021 stood at 49 bn €. 65 of the 170 cities globally that have at least one unicorn are in Europe (Dealroom, Startup cities in the Entrepreneurial Age).

In 2021 the number of exits grew by +89% compared to 2020. The year 2020 itself itself was +38% higher than in 2019. This is the first time Europe saw more than 2,000 exits in a year since 2017. This increase is not only important as a signaling for Venture Capital that investments in startups pay off, but also in the creation of entrepreneurial talent with experience of exits and own capital to reinvest.

Find the full publication here.

Join us in Ludwigsburg!

The next conference will be on 23rd and 24th June in Ludwigsburg, Germany. The Stuttgart metropolitan area is famous for its hidden champions and high-tech innovators from Bosch to Porsche or MANN+HUMMEL. Ludwigsburg itself is home to Europe’s best Film and Animation Academies.

The conference will feature international visionary keynotes, data-driven workshops on startup ecosystem trends, open networking sessions to engage with the startup’s scene thought leaders, governments, investors, corporates and innovation managers as well as a startup portfolio exchange for initiating long-term collaborations.

You can also find about the strategic recommendations from previous editions and read the following Strategy White Papers:

About DEEP Ecosystems

DEEP Ecosystems is a global community of startup ecosystem builders, dedicated to supporting grassroot innovation projects and fostering interconnectivity among startup ecosystems globally.

We believe in entrepreneurs to build ecosystems that solve the biggest challenges of our times. We help to grow and connect ecosystems through our DEEP Startup Ecosystem Accelerator (DEEPSEA), with over 200 alumni since 2018, one of the biggest ecosystem builder communities in the world that gathers twice a year in our DEEP Startup Ecosystem Conference. Both are backed by our data-driven insights and reports on startup ecosystems through our open Startup Heatmap Europe data platform.