2020 has been a very rough year for almost everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As countries around the world went into lockdown, economies cracked. The global stock market crashed, the G20 economics fell 3.4% YoY in the first three months, millions of job losses across the world, and more.
However, it seems that the Baltics have proved to be quite resilient to the pandemic. According to the 3rd annual Baltic Startup Scene report, although the Baltic startups witnessed a reduction in total funding in 2019, investor and startup optimism is rebounding. Survey insights along with funding data for this year indicate that 2020 H1 significantly outperforming 2019 H1 in terms of funding, even with the onset of a pandemic-induced economic downturn.
The Baltic Startup Report is a joint effort between Startup Wise Guys and EIT Digital. This is the third edition of the report and is claimed to be the largest to-date. It has been created with the additional partnership of Accenture Latvia and the UK Department for International Trade (DIT).
Startup Wise Guys is Europe’s leading B2B startup accelerator, present in all three Baltic states with participants from around the world. The EIT Digital is a leading European digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organisation driving Europe’s digital transformation.
Outperformed in 2020 H1
According to the report, the Baltics region has significantly outperformed in 2020 H1 compared to 2019 H1 in terms of startup funding, even amidst pandemic.
Interestingly, Baltic startups are among the few that are dealing with the ongoing pandemic surprisingly well. The report said 65% of the surveyed startups rate the pandemic’s effect on the startup scene as positive or neutral.
Demonstrating 5X more funding per capita
Home to 6 million inhabitants and six unicorns, Baltics leads the region when it comes to funding per capita. As per the report, the combined population of 6 million, are demonstrating 5X more funding per capita than the 14 countries in the CEE region, with €80.80 and €15.15, respectively.
The number of startups in Estonia has grown by 61.69% since 2019, bringing up the startups per capita rate to 7.9, with Latvia experiencing 16.51% growth in startup count, and 4% in Lithuania, claims the report. According to Startup Estonia, the number of startups in Estonia has nearly doubled since 2019.
10 big deals in 2020
In 2019 and 2020 the Baltics continue to see major investments, with Bolt again nabbing deals worth more than €100M. Back in 2019, Baltics attracted 11 huge deals (€5M or above) in 2019 and 10 such deals in 2020. It includes Pipedrive’s recent funding round, which pushed them over the brink to become the Baltics’ most recent unicorn.
A large part of startups from last year’s ‘Startups to Watch’ section have demonstrated predictive success, having gone on to raise €1-5M in follow-up funding this year, earning a spot in the Spotted Startups section of this year’s report.
Having said that, compared to last year, the investment numbers are significantly smaller in terms of money and also in numbers of investments made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report also found various disparities, such as only 13% of founding teams having at least one woman, as well as significant variations in urban and rural entrepreneurial paths, and founder education backgrounds.
“With the past year bringing two more unicorns to the Baltic countries, the region’s startup ecosystem is confirming its growth and maturity. The third “Baltic Startup Report” highlights the presence of a healthy funding pipeline, emphasises Baltic countries’ place in Europe’s ecosystem, acknowledges the leading role of its strong reaction to Covid-19 and, for the first time, dives deep into the increasingly relevant topic of diversity,” says Fabio Pianesi, head of external collaboration, EIT Digital.
Overall, the Baltic startup scene’s outlook ahead is positive, says the report. “Baltic startups are agile, resilient, and ready to embrace the global volatility by evolving, adapting, and pivoting to continue to do what they do best – innovate and provide solutions to real and present needs.”