When we think of tech giants, we tend to think of Silicon Valley.

And rightly so. California has given the world iconic digital brands like Facebook, Google and Uber.

The US leads the way both with listed tech giants and unicorns – privately held companies valued at $1 billion or more.

More than half of the world’s unicorns are based in the US, according to research firm CB Insights.

However, the US is still only one part of the global tech story.

China is home to some of the world’s largest tech companies: ecommerce giant Alibaba, search engine Baidu, and ride-sharing platform Didi Chuxing.

And Europe is also proving increasingly fertile ground for tech entrepreneurs.

The chart below shows some of its largest tech companies – both listed brands and unicorns:

Image: Statista

Scandinavian success

Although the UK is home to the largest cumulative value of $1 billion-plus tech firms in Europe, the continent’s biggest companies are found in Scandinavia.

Spotify is by far Europe’s most highly valued tech company. The Swedish music streaming service is reportedly being valued at around $16 billion. This makes it the most valuable music streaming service on the planet.

It is also the continent’s biggest unicorn – although it will lose that title if, as expected, it floats on the stock market with a valuation that some expect may reach $20 billion.

Spotify is one of three European tech companies to be valued at more than $10 billion by a report published in September called Europe’s Titans of Tech by investment firm GP Bullhound.

Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek is co-founder and CEO of Spotify, Europe’s most highly valued tech firm.
Image: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The exclusive $10 billion-plus club also includes German ecommerce firm Zalando, and Spotify’s Scandinavian neighbour Supercell.

Finland-based mobile gaming company Supercell is famous for such games as Clash of Clans. Last year Chinese tech group Tencent bought an 84% stake in the company, valuing Supercell at $10.2 billion.

UK hub

According to GP Bullhound, the UK is home is to nearly $50 billion-worth of $1 billion-plus tech companies, making it the epicentre of Europe’s digital revolution.

Its biggest listed tech company is online retailer ASOS, while CB Insights identifies the UK’s top unicorns as data centre provider Global Switch and online food delivery service Deliveroo.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18, the UK is ranked 8th overall, thanks to its “technological readiness and the sophistication of its business sector”.

However, the report warns that the UK’s Brexit negotiations to leave the European Union could undermine its global competitiveness.

Freedom of movement for EU citizens forms a central part of the ongoing negotiations between the British government and the EU.

GP Bullhound’s report claims much of the UK’s tech success is due to London’s “gravitational pull” for entrepreneurs from across the continent.

This is backed up by the fact that of the 29% of tech founders in Europe who are expatriates, 60% chose the UK as the place to start up their business.

In total more than a third of European tech founders are based in the UK.