The sad fact about Europe’s $1B-tech companies

Small cap exchanges difficult outside London: LSE CEO

Europe has produced 13 "unicorns" – start-ups with $1 billion valuations – in the past 12 months, according to tech investment bank GP Bullhound, in a sign that the region's technology scene is gaining strength.

The continent now has 40 unicorns, up from 30 this time last year, after 13 were new names were added to the exclusive list, and three dropped off. In the same period, the U.S. produced 22 companies of this size.

But in the battle between the two sides of the Atlantic, when it comes to valuations, the U.S. leaves Europe in the dust. The total valuation of all of Europe's unicorns is $120 million – that's almost half the $227-billion market capitalization of Facebook alone, and only three times Uber's $40-billion valuation.

"I think we need to reset the ambition levels so we can create these $10 billion companies, we can push on and create these $30 billion companies. That is going to be the next challenge," Manish Madhvani, managing partner at GP Bullhound, said at London Technology Week's launch event on Monday.

'Great unicorns'

Still, there are lots of positives around Europe's technology start-up scene.

The creation of 13 unicorns in the past year trumps the long-term annual average of just three since the year 2000, according to the report. In addition, funding for European tech start-ups almost doubled from $2.88 billion in 2014, to $5.65 billion so far this year. Funding rounds over $50 million represent 59 percent in value terms of all the money raised by the billion-dollar companies, GP Bullhound said.

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"We are seeing the emergence of these great unicorns or leading lights…that are getting out there and demonstrating that London can build billion dollar businesses," Russ Shaw, founder of start-up organization Tech London Advocates, said during a panel discussion on Monday.

New unicorns on the block include music-identification app Shazam, take away service Delivery Hero, and ridesharing service BlaBlaCar, according to the investment bank's report.

UK the leader

Britain has led the way when it comes to Europe's billion-dollar club, with eight out of the last 10 unicorns coming from the country. This has been driven by the "fintech" sector, with financial technology companies now accounting for 31 percent of Europe's unicorns. The cumulative value of the U.K.'s unicorns is $40.4 billion and the country houses 17 of Europe's 40 billion-dollar-plus start-ups.

Sweden is the country with the second-highest number of tech unicorns, followed by Russia and Germany.

Investors said that the rising number of solid start-ups in Europe indicates that a strong ecosystem was developing, boding well for the future of the region's ability to breed billion-dollar firms.

"We are going to see more and more unicorns, based on the talent coming off from those companies and those founders finding new business," Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital, told CNBC by phone.

"Everything is going in the right direction and you are seeing so much more finance. We are trending in the right way."

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