London is the Unicorn capital of Europe

  • New data shines light on London as top global city for foreign direct investment in 2018
  • UK capital remains preferred choice for international tech and financial services companies
  • London's best companies recognised at London Business Awards

London is top choice for international scale-up businesses, according to latest data compiled by London & Partners, showing that the UK capital is Europe’s number one tech hub for unicorn companies and attracted more foreign direct investment (FDI) than any other city in 2018.

According to findings by technology and investment advisory firm, GP Bullhound, London is producing more unicorn businesses than any other European city. London’s thriving technology ecosystem has helped 17 companies surpass the $1 billion valuation mark since 2010, over double the amount of other major tech cities such as Berlin (7) and Paris (4).1

London is currently home to 13 unicorn businesses, more than Madrid, Stockholm and Amsterdam combined. The UK capital’s burgeoning fintech sector is a leading source of scale-up companies, with Monzo, TransferWise and Revolut all featuring in the city’s current crop of unicorns. London’s strengths in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and gaming have also helped the likes of Improbable and BenevolentAI to reach unicorn status.

The increasing number of high growth businesses coming out of London’s has boosted the UK to the top of the unicorn league tables, with the UK currently housing over a quarter (20) of the 64 total unicorn businesses across Europe.

Since 2010, the UK has created 26 unicorn companies with many going onto even bigger things in recent years. Online fashion giant Farfetch and peer-to-peer lending platform, Funding Circle are the most recent London unicorn companies to achieve IPO status in 2018.

The future looks bright for London’s tech sector, with further research findings from GP Bullhound showing that London and the UK are set to produce more unicorn businesses than other European destinations.

Based on analysis of some of Europe’s fastest growing companies, GP Bullhound is predicting that the UK will be home to 25% of the new European billion-dollar companies created over the next few years. Some of the London companies tipped for success include fintech firms Starling Bank, SumUp, LendInvest and WorldRemit and cybersecurity companies, Onfido and Callsign.2

London also continues to be a major draw for international businesses looking to expand their operations overseas, with the latest provisional data produced by London & Partners from fDi Markets, showing that London attracted more foreign direct investment (FDI) projects than any other global city in 2018. Latest figures show that last year London saw more overseas investment than other major international business hubs such as Singapore, New York and Dubai3.

In a speech to over 800 members of London’s international business community last night, The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan emphasised that London remains open to business, talent and investment from around the world. Sadiq also hosted a roundtable with senior representatives from some of London’s leading businesses, including a number of unicorn companies.

Laura Citron, CEO London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s official promotional agency said: “London is a top place to start, grow and scale an international business. From Artificial Intelligence to Fintech, London is home to lots of exciting companies that are leading the way in developing innovations and ideas to change the world. London’s business community is truly global, built on the values of diversity and progressive thinking. We’re delighted to welcome more international companies than any other city and today’s figures show that London is open to investment and talent from all over the world.”

Manish Madhvani, Co-founder and Managing Partner of GP Bullhound added: “London is the beating heart of the European tech scene, and it is great to see so many unicorns currently based here, along with several contenders that are likely to hit the status next. The challenge now is for London unicorns to kick on, and crucially for investors to back them with increased resources so that they can challenge the dominance of Silicon Valley, which will lead to Europe securing its first tech titan of a valuation of over $50 billion. Sectors such as artificial intelligence, which London is leading the way on, will help to secure the long-term success of the Capital’s tech scene.”

London’s status as one of the world’s leading financial centres remains strong with latest provisional data showing that the UK capital welcomed more international financial service companies than any other global financial centre in 2018, ahead of Singapore, Frankfurt, New York and Hong Kong3. In the last 10 years, London has seen 740 financial service firms setup an operation in London, creating over 25,900 jobs.4

International technology businesses also continue to flock to London, with latest figures from fDi Markets produced by London & Partners showing that London has attracted more global tech companies and projects over the past 10 years than any other city including the likes of Singapore, Sydney and Paris. The data reveals that 822 companies classified as ICT & Electronics businesses have setup in London from 2008 to 2018, creating an estimated 27,000 jobs for the city’s economy.5

A number of the world’s largest technology companies have made long term expansion announcements and investments into London during this time-period (2008-2018) including:

  • Apple is set to open a new London campus in 2021 at Battersea Power Station for 1,400 staff
  • Google will open a new HQ in Kings Cross to house up to 4500 staff
  • LinkedIn moved into its new UK HQ in Farringdon in January 2019
  • In 2018 Facebook announced it will be leasing 3 new offices in the London Kings cross area to double it headcount in the UK capital with space for up to 6,000 staff.
  • In July 2017 Amazon UK announced they would double the capacity of the London Development Centre from 450 to 900 high tech staff and by the end of the year there would 5,000 corporate roles and R&D roles in London across their London offices including their new UK HQ.
  • In November 2017, Spotify confirmed it will double its London headcount and open a new office in Shoreditch to house its R&D workforce.
  • In 2018 London’s tech companies attracted £1.8 billion in Venture Capital funding, more than any other European city.

Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank added: "London has something that Silicon Valley never had: in addition to a thriving tech community and an entrepreneurial culture, it is also a big financial centre. This makes for a compelling combination. London's success as a fintech hub should enable it to spread wealth beyond the capital city throughout the UK and the wider economy.”

Simon Murphy, CEO of Battersea Power Station Development Company, said: "As these new findings show, London is one of the greatest cities in the world when it comes to creating an environment for businesses of all sizes to grow and flourish. We are proud to be creating a new home in London for Apple at Battersea Power Station, where it will sit alongside co-working space, No.18, as well as a selection of shops, restaurants, cafés and event spaces. We can't wait to bring together a vibrant mix of entrepreneurs and small businesses in the same iconic building as the world's largest company and the ability to do so is testament to both the appeal of this iconic building as well as London's continued position as a world-leading tech hub."

Today’s figures have been published to coincide with the inaugural London Business Awards, highlighting some of the most exciting companies and entrepreneurs based in the capital.

Announced yesterday evening, this year’s winners were:

  • Paying it Forward – Mark Martin, Urban Teacher
  • Social Impact (Domestic) – MeeTwo
  • Social Impact (Global) – Salary Finance
  • Social Impact (International Company) – ChargePoint, USA
  • Highest Domestic Growth – Model Village
  • Highest Growth (International Company) – ThoughtWorks
  • Highest Global Growth – Revolut
  • One to watch – Emotech
  • London Hero – Russ Shaw and Sarah Wood
  • CEO Award – Ella Goldner, Zinc VC

A number of the companies receiving awards have been involved with the Mayor’s International Business Programme and the Business Growth Programme. The Mayor’s International Business Programme helps ambitious high-growth (scale-up) London-based companies to expand and export internationally.

The programme is led by London & Partners with the support of corporate partners including: Collinson, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, Taylor Wessing & WSGR.

For more information on the winners and how they were chosen, please visit:





Notes to Editors

All press images available HERE. Credit: Matt Alexander/PA Wire

  1. GP Bullhound data compiled for London & Partners on February 2019, analysing unicorn companies created across major European cities and countries from 2010- Feb 2019. Full data tables available here. See methodology below
  2. GP Bullhound predictive analysis compiled for London & Partners on February 2019. Full analysis available here. See methodology below
  3. Provisional 2018 data produced by London & Partners from fDi Markets, a service of the Financial Times Ltd 2019, showing FDI investment across all sectors, for all global cities in 2018. Downloaded February 2019. Full data tables available here.
  4. Data produced by London & Partners from fDi Markets, a service of the Financial Times Ltd 2019, showing FDI investment into Financial Services across all global cities from 2008-2018. Downloaded February 2019.
  5. Data produced by London & Partners from fDi Markets, a service of the Financial Times Ltd 2019 showing FDI investment into ICT & Electronics across all global cities from 2008-2018. Downloaded February 2019.

European unicorns data – produced by GP Bullhound for London & Partners

Table showing the current number of unicorn companies across major European cities (excluding companies that have been acquired). As at February 2019.

City No. of current unicorns
London 13
Berlin 7
Tel Aviv 5
Amsterdam 4
Paris 4
Stockholm 3
Madrid 2
Manchester 2
Hamburg 2
Copenhagen 2

Source: GP Bullhound 2019

Table showing the total number of unicorn companies produced across major European cities from 2010 to Feb 2019 (including companies that have been acquired). As at February 2019.

City No. unicorns created since 2010
London 17
Berlin 7
Stockholm 8
Tel Aviv 5
Amsterdam 4
Paris 4
Copenhagen 3
Madrid 2
Hamburg 2
Dublin 2

Source: GP Bullhound 2019

GP Bullhound Methodology – defining a unicorn company

  • Tech companies in the following subsectors: Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning, Big Data, Cyber Security, Digital Marketing, Digital Media, Ecommerce / Marketplaces, EdTech, Enterprise SaaS, Fintech, HealthTech, Transportation
  • Headquartered or originally headquartered in Europe, including Israel
  • Founded in 2000 or later
  • With an equity valuation of $1bm+ in the public or private markets

Caveat #1: our sources only include public data (e.g. press articles, blogs and industry rumours), and the accuracy of our dataset is limited to the disclosed data as at 20th February 2019.

Contenders Methodology – predicting next unicorns

Ahead of GP Bullhound's annual release of the European Titans of Tech, we analysed over 500 European start-ups that have raised over $20m since 2014 to obtain a preliminary sub set of 60-70 companies with the most potential to become $1bn companies in the next 2 years. We will update the list closer to the official release of the research report and will socialise with the best European investors in order to rank the companies from 1 to 50 to determine which have the most potential to reach a unicorn status over the next two years.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Data

Table showing top 10 destination cities for FDI (Jan 2008-Dec 2018) – All Sectors

Destination City No. Projects No. Companies
London 4,619 4,016
Singapore 4,330 3,668
Dubai 3,002 2,707
Shanghai 2,853 2,422
Hong Kong 2,573 2,253
Paris 2,152 1,874
NYC (NY) 1,968 1,791
Sydney 1,523 1,366
Beijing 1,481 1,336
Tokyo 1,196 1,086

Source: fDi Markets, a service from The Financial Times Limited 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Table showing top 10 destination cities for FDI investment (2018 only, provisional) – All Sectors

Destination City No. Projects No. Companies
London 453 420
Singapore 420 391
Dubai 289 276
Shanghai 206 187
NYC (NY) 205 194
Hong Kong 201 185
Paris 187 175
Tokyo 134 122
Barcelona 130 122
Sydney 130 122

Source: fDi Markets, a service from The Financial Times Limited 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Table showing top 10 destination cities for FDI investment (2008-2018) – Financial Services

Destination City No. Projects No. Companies
London 804 740
Singapore 596 528
Hong Kong 540 484
Dubai 418 389
NYC (NY) 314 291
Shanghai 266 236
Sydney 227 220
Dublin 210 170
Paris 193 186
Beijing 180 178

Source: fDi Markets, a service from The Financial Times Limited 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Table showing top 10 destination cities for FDI investment (2008-2018) – ICT & Electronics (technology)

Destination City No. Projects No. Companies
London 911 822
Singapore 839 718
Sydney 442 395
Dubai 430 400
Paris 418 377
Bangalore 410 339
Hong Kong 343 306
Shanghai 307 279
Dublin 297 210
Tokyo 286 257

Source: fDi Markets, a service from The Financial Times Limited 2019. All Rights Reserved.

*All data above is provisional, sourced by London & Partners from fDi Markets, a service of the Financial Times Ltd, in February 2019. Final figures for 2018 data may be subject to change by fDi Intelligence at a later date*

About London & Partners

London & Partners is the Mayor of London’s official promotional agency. Its purpose is to support the Mayor’s priorities by promoting London internationally, as the best city in the world in which to invest, work, study and visit. We do this by devising creative ways to promote London and to amplify the Mayor’s messages, priorities and campaigns to international audiences.  Its mission is to tell London’s story brilliantly to an international audience.

London & Partners is a not-for-profit public private partnership, funded by the Mayor of London and our network of commercial partners. For more information, visit:

 About GP Bullhound

GP Bullhound is a leading technology advisory and investment firm, providing transaction advice and capital to the best entrepreneurs and founders. Founded in 1999, the firm today has offices in London, San Francisco, Stockholm, Berlin, Manchester, Paris, Hong Kong, Madrid and New York.

For more information, please visit, or follow on Twitter @GPBullhound


Ben Pattie - Senior Communications Manager for Business

London & Partners Media & PR Team

Tel: +44 (0)20 7234 5710

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