Is European venture showing signs of recovery?

Anton Ioffe - October 24th 2023 - 5 minutes read

As the dust settles and economies try to bounce back in the post-pandemic era, the European venture space presents a compelling narrative worthy of our attention. This article will take you on a journey across the investment horizons in Europe, exploring the recent trends and deal activities in the startup ecosystem, and meticulously examining exit and fundraising outcomes. All the while, we will keep an eye on the sectorial shifts that seem to be dictating the pace of venture investment. Now, the burning question is, are we witnessing a genuine recovery in the European venture space, or is it just a brief pause before another storm? Carousel your curiosity into the reading expedition below to discern the challenges and opportunities awaiting in the future of Europe’s venture landscape.

Is There a Turnaround in the European Venture Investment?

As we delve into the figures, one cannot help but discern a certain trend of resilience amidst the situation. Despite a significant plunge in comparison to previous years, PitchBook figures reveal that up to the third quarter of 2023, European startups managed to pull in an impressive €43.6 billion ($46 billion). This amount, although reflective of an almost 49% decrease from the same timeframe in the preceding year, alludes to the dogged determination and continued relevance of the startup ecosystem in Europe.

However, these somewhat grim numbers shouldn't disillusion those invested in the sphere. Late-stage deal activity, for instance, saw a considerable decrease of 61.9 percent, but early-stage deal activity has been on a steady climb since the first quarter of 2023. An array of sectors looks to be returning with renewed strength, notably cleantech and AI technologies, which showed a conspicuous presence in the most substantial deals of the quarter. Commercial services, coupled with specific regions like France and Benelux, showed plausible resilience regarding sector and regional trends.

Thus, it is crucial not to charter the future course based solely on a retrospective analysis of venture capital data, as the current financial landscape is vastly different from prior times. Despite a clearly downtrend year-to-year, European venture capital and startup scene present quite a lot for optimism. With early-stage deals radiating grit and pioneering technological sectors showing signs of recovery, it seems Europe's venture scene is not as downtrodden as it appears at first glance. This resilience, along with increasing figures over the quarters, could potentially signal the turning point for the European venture investment climate.

Comparative Analysis of Deal Activity in European Venture Capital

While the current European venture market may seem stark when compared to previous highs, a closer look at deal activity tells a more nuanced story. Late-stage deal activity has suffered a notable decline, down 61.9 percent through Q3 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. This may reflect the heightened caution of venture capitalists who, in unsteady economic times, opt to back established companies with proven track records rather than take larger risks on late-stage startups. However, the story is different in the sphere of early-stage deals. Sequential increases have been observed since Q1 2023, pointing to a building momentum in this area, which is a positive sign for newly established companies seeking their first rounds of funding.

The general trajectory doesn't completely capture the landscape, though, as the sector and geographical trends underscore different realities. Cleantech and AI technologies were over-represented amongst notable deals, with five out of the 10 largest deals of the quarter being cleantech deals, including the three largest investments. This suggests an increased interest and faith in these technologies, which could be driven by global initiatives for cleaner energy and the ongoing advancement of AI applications.

Another interesting trend that emerged was the resilience shown by commercial services and certain regions - specifically, France and Benelux. In times of financial uncertainty, it is common for investments to gravitate towards sectors and regions that demonstrate stability and promise. These trends indicate positive future implications despite the overall decline in venture funding. In that sense, it is crucially important to keep an eye out for underlying trends beyond face-value figures, as these often provide a more accurate and optimistic prediction of what could come next.

Examining Exit and Fundraising Outcomes

In recent years, public listing values have seen a significant dip, showing a 79.8 percent decrease compared to last year. Conversely, buyouts have proven to be somewhat more resilient, despite still falling by 56.4 percent. Not surprisingly, acquisitions continue to occupy the majority of exit values and counts. This subtle but considerable shift in strategy could be indicative of many underlying factors within the industry.

Turning to fundraising, the data paints an intriguing picture. While the total capital raised in 2023 stood at €13.9 billion, marking a decrease from the previous year’s €27.6 billion, a gradual upswing has been observed moving into H2 2023. An uptick in capital raised to €8.9 billion is a promising sign despite the year-over-year dip. This suggests that the landscape is still conducive to fundraising, despite challenges brought on by the global economic climate.

Considering regional and sector factors, noticeable trends begin to emerge. Certain areas such as France and Benelux appear resilient, while IT hardware as an industry also shows noticeable robustness. On the other hand, energy bears the brunt of the decline within the sectoral trends. Such nuances hold testament to the multi-faceted nature of the industry and highlight the importance of regional and sector insights in formulating strategies. Despite the downturn, this illuminates strategic gains made within these regions and sectors, hinting at potential areas for future investment focus.

The Future for European Venture: Challenges and Opportunities

Given the current European venture landscape, the road to recovery is paved with both challenges and opportunities. The major challenges appear to be twofold: Firstly, the inflated market and changing investor sentiment, particularly as late-stage deal activity is showing a significant decrease. Secondly, the lack of megafunds within the asset class, which can skew investment totals and make it challenging for startups to secure crucial funding.

On the other hand, growth opportunities are emerging, especially in the form of technological advancements. Most notably, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents a significant driving force for the future. The report acknowledges that five out of the top ten deals of Q3 2023 were cleantech deals, emphasizing the increasing investor commitment to clean energy and artificial intelligence applications. This suggests that tech-focused sectors are areas of interest and potential investment for venture capitalists.

Lastly, geographical trends offer another clue to the European venture's future. The impressive resilience shown by France and Benelux, which now attract the significant share of capital raised, demonstrates the potential of these regions. Ultimately, it’s clear that while the European venture market weathers a period of contraction in the short-term, it is simultaneously sowing the seeds for regrowth. The resilience of early-stage deal activity, the emerging technological opportunities, and the shift towards newer areas all suggest that while the journey ahead might be challenging, the future holds a wealth of opportunities for those ready to seize them.


Despite a decrease in European venture investment compared to previous years, there are signs of recovery in the startup ecosystem. Early-stage deal activity has been increasing, particularly in sectors like cleantech and AI technologies. Commercial services and certain regions, such as France and Benelux, have shown resilience. While public listings and buyouts have seen declines, acquisitions continue to dominate exits. Although fundraising has decreased overall, there has been a gradual upswing, particularly in H2 2023. The challenges include an inflated market and changing investor sentiment, while opportunities lie in technological advancements, especially in AI integration. France and Benelux show potential for future investment. Overall, the European venture market may be experiencing a temporary contraction, but it is poised for growth in the future.

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