80 percent of Finnish startup investments burn up, finds study

Finland’s startup scene has stirred in recent years, with growing amount of capital and interest flowing into a scene strong on mobile, energy and gaming. Just last week, Rovio announced its forthcoming public listing at unicorn value. Spearheaded by the interest garnered by global startup event Slush, the country’s tech scene seems to be key in the country’s future growth.  

But the numbers show otherwise. Finnish business daily Kauppalehti has tracked the financial health of most of the startups that received more than €5 million euros in funding between 2010 and 2016, using data from fellow business publication Talouselämä’s database. Kauppalehti didn’t say what proportion of money invested came from domestic vs. foreign investors.

Here are the key findings from the 82 companies included in the study.

  • Out of the 1,1 billion invested, 885 million euros have been pure loss.

  • Eight companies are breaking even today

  • Eight companies have gone bankrupt, after having received €120 million in VC money

  • The sum total EBITDA: minus €138 million

  • Average revenue: €1 million euros

Kauppalehti notes that its study is not exhaustive, but gives an indication of the realities of the venture capital world, where it’s commonplace to assume it takes up to five years before a portfolio company starts breaking even. 

Kauppalehti highlights Nokia-spinoff company Jolla as a cautionary tale. The mobile operative system provider and smart device maker had less than one million revenues in a lossmaking 2016, against €43 million in venture capital investments to date.

Read More: Once-promising Finnish mobile upstart Jolla is having some hard times

Although the study makes for grim reading from an investor perspective, it’s worth remembering that one jackpot can make up for dozens of lossmaking businesses. A good example is Finnish gaming company Supercell (not included in the study), which was acquired for $8,6 billion by Tencent. 

Counterintuitively, Kauppalehti finds that one of the best-performing businesses is anything but a tech company: SuperPark, a chain of indoor activity parks, will have an estimated revenue of €14 million this year, and hopes to double that amount by next year on the back of an expansion to Asia. 

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