Impact startups are businesses making a positive impact on communities, industries and ecosystems — and if you take a look across European impact hubs, one country is outpacing them all.
Yearly VC investment into Nordic impact startups has grown 25 times over the past decade, with Sweden leading the way. Investment in Swedish impact startups grew from €1.3bn in 2020 to €3.6bn this year. For the first time ever, Sweden has surpassed the UK and Germany to become the top European ecosystem by VC money invested in impact startups.
We’ve crunched the Dealroom numbers — here’s where Sweden’s impact sector is making the biggest impact, and who is leading the charge.
Which Swedish impact sector is the biggest?
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global targets that act as a blueprint for a more sustainable future. Impact startups fall under the SDG umbrella, making it a useful way to categorise and measure the impact sector.
In Sweden alone there are 460 impact startups spread across the 17 SDG categories. The SDG with the largest number of companies is “Climate Action”, which has 158 startups listed. “Good Health and Wellbeing” has 119 startups while “Industry Innovation and Infrastructure” has 112 startups.
The SDGs with the smallest number of Swedish startups are “No Poverty” and “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”.
Out of Sweden’s impact sectors, “Affordable and Clean Energy” is attracting the most funding with €2.8bn invested in 2021 so far. This is closely followed by “Industry Innovation and Infrastructure” and “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, which have received €2.7bn in funding each this year.
One of Europe’s clean energy darlings is Stockholm-based Northvolt, a battery manufacturer valued at €10.7bn. It took the lion’s share of SDG investment by securing €2.4bn in June this year.
The green transition is underway — meet the startups driving it.
But bigger isn’t always better — one of Sweden’s smaller, yet fastest growing, SDG sectors is “Quality Education”. The sector grew from just €4.5m in 2019 to €34.8m this year. “Good Health and Wellbeing” also saw steep growth, moving from €49.2m in 2019 to €407m in 2021.
Affordable and clean energy startups have attracted €2.8bn this year
Kry, which is on a mission to become the go-to healthcare super app, is the largest company in “Good Health and Wellbeing” with a valuation of €1.8bn. The company, which allows users to consult a doctor online, secured €272.6m in its Series D round in April this year, led by CPP Investments and Fidelity Management and Research.
This makes Kry the second highest valued healthtech in Europe, following UK-based Babylon Health.
Money, money, money
Investors of Sweden’s impact sector are a global bunch, with 57.5% of capital coming from foreign investors.
But locally, a huge chunk of Sweden’s VC funding goes to impact startups; in 2020, 43% of Sweden’s total VC investment went to SDG-led businesses.
Since 2010, three Swedish VCs have been leading the way in the impact space. Almi Invest has participated in 57 funding rounds with a specialist greentech fund focused on investments that reduce CO2. Norrsken VC participated in 32 rounds of funding and invested €2.7bn in the last 12 months and Creandum has taken part in 20 funding rounds.
While Kry and Northvolt have both achieved unicorn status, there are a growing number of Nordic companies hot on their heels.
This year Dealroom identified 34 potential unicorns, or soonicorns, in the Nordic countries, seven of which are impact startups — that's up from three impact soonicorns in 2020.
Investors of Sweden’s impact sector are a global bunch, with 57.5% of capital coming from foreign investors
It turns out good for the planet is good for business: Dealroom data shows seed stage impact startups were more likely to raise a Series A round within 36 months (39%) than non-impact startups.
Many of these are in SaaS and hardware, like Sturdy, a software services company founded in 2020 which recently completed its first round of funding and hopes to take on Microsoft’s GitHub.
Another is Furhat Robotics, a conversational AI and social robotics startup which raised €5.8m after six rounds of funding.
Act for impact
Want to learn more about impact startups in the technology sector?
Act for Impact Days is an event series produced by Business Sweden, focused on how Sweden’s tech ecosystem, sustainability and impact sectors are committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Learn how you can be a part of the solution at their upcoming events on fintech, mobility and 5G here.