The UK’s tech industry is leading the way in creating billion-dollar firms despite Brexit fears, according to new research released by GP Bullhound, but the founder and CEO of AI and cyber security firm Darktrace says Europe still has “plenty to learn”.
GP Bullhound’s report, Titans of Tech: European Tech Comes of Age, found that the UK has added six billion-dollar tech companies to its club of 26 in the last year, more than any other European market.
It has also produced the highest number of billion-dollar companies in Europe since 2000, contributing $64 billion to Europe’s $240 billion ecosystem of billion-dollar tech companies.
New entrants from the UK in the past year include digital banking start-up Revolut and robotic process automation software firm Blue Prism.
Manish Madhvani, managing partner at GP Bullhound, said: “The UK’s tech ecosystem continues to present an attractive proposition to global investors, and British tech companies are driving up the ambition level and paving the way for the rest of Europe.”
Of the 50 businesses expected to achieve ‘unicorn’ status, the research found that half are in the enterprise SaaS, FinTech and transportation sectors, while almost two-thirds are based in the UK, France and Israel.
FinTech continues to be a fertile industry for up and coming start-ups in the UK despite the challenges presented by Brexit. Germany, on the other hand, is leading the way in transportation tech.
Madhvani added: “The US and Asia may still dominate the market for billion-dollar tech businesses, but our report indicates a hugely optimistic outlook for the UK’s tech industry over the next decade.”
The report has identified 10 key European companies set to become billion-dollar businesses within the next year, including British firm Darktrace and Sweden’s iZettle (which have both since achieved unicorn status), French big data company Algolia, and German tour & activities booking platform GetYourGuide.
In GP Bullhound’s research, Darktrace chief executive Poppy Gustafsson (pictured) hailed the technical skills and academic expertise on offer in the UK as having been “critical” to the company’s success.
“Nonetheless, the UK and Europe still have plenty to learn from other global tech hubs,” she said.
“First, they must aim higher. All too often, we see companies which are great innovators selling out too soon or focusing on only their home market – big successes require big visions, which require big ambitions.”
Gustafsson goes on to say that the key to Europe’s future success will be its ability to remove limits to growth and constantly challenge the status quo.
“We were told we would never be able to hire enough cyber security specialists and artificial intelligence experts to scale – so we went and trained them in house instead,” she said.
“Inspiration from successful entrepreneurs will be the biggest drive to creating larger successes in Europe, and will come through exceptional talent with unprecedented ambition challenging the status quo.”