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European venture capital investment hits record high of £42 billion

Explosion of mega funding rounds have seen at least two unicorns created per day since January

A map of Europe made from numbers

European startups attracted €49 billion (£42bn) of investment in the first half of 2021, more than double the €17 billion (£14bn) recorded in the first six months of 2020.

Globally, venture capital investment reached an all-time high of €264 billion (£226bn), according to research from Dealroom, up from €114 billion (£98bn) in the same period in 2020.

This investment has been spread across various funding rounds, with the majority of it going towards so-called 'mega rounds', involving funding of £100 million or more, and 'mega round plus', which is funding of £250 million or more.

According to the report, there have been 47 of these mega rounds in Europe so far in 2021, compared to just 12 throughout the whole of 2020.

The mega rounds have helped to boost the number of unicorn startups (companies worth $1bn) around the world, with a sharp rise in Europe and, in particular, the UK. There are now 1,600 unicorns in the world, according to Dealroom, with more than half in the US (853). China is the next biggest with 280, with Europe is close behind with 268, although London is considered the most fertile ground with 71 unicorns - more than three times the number in Paris (21).

Since January 2021, more than two companies have been registered as unicorns each day, with 170 cities boosting at least one, and 65 of those being spread across European cities.

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What's more, unicorns are beginning to crop up in emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, with Turkey, Nigeria and Sao Paulo all receiving record investment over the last 12 months. Turkey has attracted 18 times more VC investment than the same time last year, according to Dealroom, and Nigerian firms have brought in $474m of investment alone in 2021.

Research released in June by Tech Nation revealed the UK had recorded its 100th tech firm reaching unicorn status.

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