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This article was published on February 21, 2023

Values of European unicorns plunge amid sharp fall in public markets

The big beasts aren't so precious anymore


Values of European unicorns plunge amid sharp fall in public markets

A rough year in public markets has taken a heavy toll on startups. According to new research, every unicorn in Europe that went public in 2021 has since shrunk in valuation.

The losses follow record-highs for VC exit valuations in 2021. PitchBook, a financial data firm, attributed the downturn to a shrinking public market.

The company found that 13 unicorns went public during 2021’s bull market and IPO frenzy. Yet none have gone on to have positive share price returns.

Their numbers paint a gloomy picture. By the end of 2022, more than half of them had lost over 75% of their market cap since going public.

All European unicorn public listings in 2021
Every European unicorn that had a public listing in 2021. Credit: Pitchbook

Their fortunes have reverberated across Europe’s tech ecosystems. In 2022, there was not a single unicorn exit through a public listing.

“The shutoff of the public listing market plays on the recency bias of founders and their management teams, as they have seen what happened to the companies that went public in 2021,” said PitchBook’s analysts in their latest VC valuations report.

Despite the tough year for exits, there has been positive financial progress for Europe’s leading startups. Last year, 47 new unicorns emerged on the continent —the second-highest figure on record — bringing their cumulative number to 129. Furthermore, aggregate unicorn post-money valuations were increasing dramatically before signs of a slowdown emerged. Yet the newest members of the herd are electing to stay private.

New and cumulative unicorn count and aggregate post-money valuation (€B)
New and cumulative unicorn count and aggregate post-money valuation (€B). Credit: Pitchbook

Notably, food delivery startups had impressive exits via acquisition in 2022. Finland’s Wolt was bought by DoorDash for €2.7 billion, Spain’s Glovo was acquired by Delivery Hero for €800 million, and Germany’s Gorillas was snapped up by Getir for €1.2 billion.

These exit routes, however, may prove to be anomalies. According to Pitchbook, most unicorns now prefer to remain within the VC ecosystem.

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