London resilient at top of European tech investment table despite COVID

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks wait at a bus stop on London Bridge, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), with the City of London financial district in the background, Britain, January 8, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - London retained its position as the top European destination for tech venture capital in 2020, with levels near the record amount of the year before despite the impact of COVID-19, according to research by and London & Partners.

Start-ups and growth companies attracted $10.5 billion worth of funding, accounting for more than a quarter of all investment into Europe and three times the level in Paris, Berlin and Stockholm, the research found.

Some of the largest deals involving London companies included a $500 million funding round for London fintech firm Revolut, a $400 million deal for electric vehicle maker Arrival and two funding rounds totalling $527 million for renewable energy firm Octopus Energy.

The British capital is also home to more unicorns - start-ups with a valuation exceeding $1 billion - than anywhere else in Europe. At 43, it has more than Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam combined, according to the research.

Dealroom said it had identified 81 potential future unicorns headquartered in the city.

Eileen Burbidge, partner at London VC firm Passion Capital, said activity quickly rebounded after the shock of the pandemic in the first half.

"In the second quarter capital flows and investment pretty much stopped... all the way up and down the value chain," she said in an interview.

"Towards the end of Q3 things started to pick up again, whether people were getting used to a new normal or having confidence in what the potential outcomes could be by that point, and activity in London picked up really quickly."

The pandemic had underscored the value of fast-growing sectors such as fintech - a strength for London - health tech and enterprise, for example collaboration tools, she said.

Passion Capital, an early stage investor in Monzo and GoCardless, has been seeing pitches back to pre-COVID levels or higher, she said.

"Entrepreneurs are continuing to pitch, I do think there's still a lot of investment capital available," she said.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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