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European VC soars in Q1

A stunning first quarter in venture capital funding was not restricted to the United States; Europe also had one hell of a start to the year.

According to data from Dealroom and Crunchbase News, an investor, and an analyst from PitchBook, European startups put together an impressive fundraising haul. The venture capital world kicked off its 2021 European investing cycle with enough activity to set the continent on the path that would crush yearly records.

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Inside the data, there’s lots to unpack, including which sectors of European startups stood out in terms of capital raised, rising seed and late-stage deals, and dollar volume. We’ll also need to discuss exits — the Deliveroo IPO and its various woes was not the only transaction from the period worth understanding.

As with our prior looks at AI startup fundraising and the United States’ own blistering start to the year, we’ll lean on multiple sources to ensure that we have a wide lens. And we’ll keep in mind that all venture capital data lags reality somewhat, as many deals from a particular period are not disclosed or discovered until long after they actually occurred.

In this case, it makes the numbers all the more impressive. Let’s get into the data.

The big numbers

Dealroom was first out of the gate, reporting that European startups had a record quarter in Q1 2021 back when April just got started. Its preliminary results for the first quarter indicated that startups on the continent raised €16.6 billion, or $19.9 billion at today’s exchange rates.

That total was not only a record, but what Dealroom described as double the results of Q1 2020. While we’ve become slightly inured in recent months to the venture capital market’s rapid pace and capital-rich environment, it’s worth considering for a moment, as the first quarter of last year ended, how few of us would have guessed that just a year later — as COVID-19 still harms public health and disrupts life and business — we’d see numbers like this.

The Dealroom data, however, was not all records. Round volume by the group’s estimates was down from the year-ago period, if slightly better than the last few quarters. The general move toward the later-stage and larger-round venture capital market is alive and well in Europe.

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