2021 In Review: Looking at the Data

Welcome to our first blog post, the first of many to come as we dig deeper into the London School of Economics entrepreneurial ecosystem. We wrote today’s blog post as we approach the end of 2021 and look back at everything that has happened over the last 12 months.

Bottom line? What a year it has been!

The team at Houghton Street Ventures came together at the beginning of this year with a vision to back LSE entrepreneurs with an early-stage venture fund. It was a vision borne out of not just a view that the school’s leading-edge thinking makes it fertile ground for the incubation of industry redefining business models that will change the way we live and work for decades to come, but the data also backed it. We got excited about the opportunity when looking at the data up to and including 2020. We didn’t expect that 2021 would completely rewrite the story and make the opportunity even more compelling.

Slice the data up however you like; 2021 blew all records out of the water.

The data presented today comes from the insight and sourcing engine that we have built at Houghton Street Ventures. It ensures we support our global ecosystem as best we can from the moment founders start thinking about reshaping the future and begin their entrepreneurial journey. It is our eyes inside the network, if you will, aptly named LSee. We will be writing future blog posts using data from this engine, including a look at the ecosystem as a whole — helping us understand questions such as ‘What does an LSE entrepreneur look like?’ and ‘What is their playbook for success?’. For today though, a look back just at 2021.

We want the visuals to speak for themselves, so, without further ado, let’s look back at this remarkable year.

Total equity capital raised by LSE entrepreneurs (in USD)

In 2020, a little under $3bn was raised by LSE entrepreneurs in the private markets as equity. This number has been trending increasingly higher over the last decade and points to the growing strength of the ecosystem. What we didn’t expect is that in the space of a year, a new record would be set at a little over $10bn (3.3x higher than last year’s record). This has, of course, been driven by the maturing entrepreneurial community which has built up over the previous years, evidenced by ever-increasing raises at Series A to E. However, we have also seen strong growth within Seed, with the total raised in 2021 up to $460m (from $220m in 2019).

Number of investment rounds announced by LSE entrepreneurs

Looking at the number of investment rounds this time (rather than dollars raised), 2021 was yet another record year, with over 350 rounds announced by LSE founders. Of that, over 110 were Seed rounds, and there is still time in the year for potentially a few more.

LSE unicorns, minted in 2021

Ok, this is what really amazed us. At the start of the year, there were 4 LSE unicorns (private companies with a valuation > $1bn, founded by an LSE entrepreneur).

That has now almost quintupled in just one single year to 19. (Note: Allbirds is now publically listed so it has been removed from our unicorn universe).

Even as we wrote this post, we had to go back and amend the graphic, and the numbers as two new unicorns were announced in the Amazon Aggregator space (Merama and SellerX) over the last week (!).

Major IPO

Allbirds raised $300m in their anticipated IPO in November 2021 and joined other notable LSE alumni publicly listed companies, including Square (co-founder Jim McKelvey is an alumnus) and HelloFresh.

Major Acquisitions

There were two significant acquisitions in the LSE ecosystem in 2021. Both are being acquired for approximately $2bn each, one in the fintech space and the other in gaming.

Proportion of Companies founded by Men/Women

We want to end with a slight change in direction. We are not just looking at LSE founded companies but the entrepreneurs themselves.

We are happy to report that women start almost a third of all LSE companies we track (measured as a company having at least one female co-founder), and 2021 was an all-time high. However, there is still a lot to do, as money raised is not split proportionately (vs companies started, the split is closer to 90%/10%), and the momentum is not progressing at the pace we would like to see. This is something that needs to change.

We now are tracking over 15,000 active entrepreneurs who have a connection to the LSE; if you are one of them, we would love to speak to you and learn more about your vision for your company.

Learn more about what we do at houghtonstreet.com or follow us on LinkedIn.

We hope everyone finds some time to rest over the coming weeks, catch up with friends & family and are looking forward to 2022.

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Adam French

Adam French

Partner at Houghton Street Ventures. Backing LSE entrepreneurs.