This piece is an accompaniment to our newly launched ranking of Nordic startups and scaleups to watch for 2023.
Nordic techies have clearly blazed a trail in Europe over the past two decades — consistently punching above their weight.
The region has given rise to global giants like Spotify, Klarna and Skype, and startup investment per capita far exceeds the regional average for many.
Like most European tech ecosystems, Nordic VC investment took a hit across the board in 2022, falling 29% year-on-year. But growing investor interest in core sectors — such as climate tech and sustainability — and a robust tech culture are tempering Nordic’s tech winter.
Today, Sifted is releasing our annual selection of Nordic startups to watch. These companies, which span all sectors and stages, made waves in 2022 and are expected to continue doing so in 2023.
But before we get to the list, here is a look back at how the region has performed in 2022 and what lies ahead.
Takeaways from 2022: red and green lights
The good news first: 2022 was undeniably slower but the whole Nordic region managed to walk out the year relatively unscathed, as VC funding exceeded pre-2021 levels by substantial margins.
Despite a 36% plunge in funding on year, top dog Sweden retained its long-standing position as one of Europe’s top five startup powerhouses, buoyed by a string of major climate tech deals by the likes of Northvolt, Volta Trucks, H2 Green Steel and Einride.
This should be no surprise; Sweden has attracted more VC cash than all other four countries combined over the past eight years.
Denmark tumbled hard from second most well-funded hub in the region to fourth (-42% year-on-year), as VC injections fell from a record-breaking $2.6bn to $1.5bn. This was largely driven by weak deal activity at Series B and an overall drop in growth rounds.
Norway also saw an investment slump in 2022 — down 28% on year. That said, seed investing was up compared to 2021, a trend seen in a number of other European countries. Big rounds for Oda, Ardoq, Morrow Batteries and Tibber still kept hope alive at later stages.
Things went much better for both the western and eastern extremes of the region. Finland matched its peak level of $1.8bn, while Iceland brought in some $380m (+326%), partly due to its first megaround to date for Kerecis. The healthtech raised $100m at a $620m valuation for its fish skin-based tissue regeneration technology.
Some highlights from 2022
Between 700+ layoffs, a severely slashed valuation and $1bn in annual losses, 2022 was a tough year for what was once Europe’s most valuable startup. Yet the company still managed to bag $800m in growth equity and claims it’s made “clear progress” to return to profitability.
2\ New horns
Seven startups (Einride, Oura, Remarkable, Relex Solutions, Dune Analytics, Polarium and now-merged Instabee) were crowned unicorns over the course of 2022, spanning across Sweden, Norway and Finland. This matches the number of new unicorns minted in 2021 as well.
3\ Hot sectors into 2023
The key sectors of energy, health, and fintech made up a good share of VC funding across all countries over the past five years, and are expected to expand over the next few years.
Hot names of the likes of fintech Juni, refurbished phone marketplace Swappie and no-code platform Leapwork have held firmly to their positions in the list, but a good share of new entries has taken the main stage this year.
Sifted’s Nordics correspondent Mimi Billing picked her top 10 below — in no particular order:
- H2Green Steel
- IQM Quantum Computers
- Heart Aerospace
- ATLANT 3D Nanosystems
An early-stage tracker
Sifted Intelligence also tracked 316 early-stage startups for our Nordics briefing, including early-stage trends and most active investors — available to Pro members here.
Federico Scolari is an Intelligence analyst at Sifted.
This article was charted by Ruggero di Spigna and Daria Dmytrenko, Startup analysts at Sifted.
*NB: our "Startups to watch" lists consider high-growth companies currently headquartered in the region of interest, launched in or after 2015 and valued at a maximum of $999m.