H1 2023 In Review: Economic Silver Linings Playbook

Adam French
Houghton Street Ventures
6 min readJul 13, 2023


“You have to do everything you can, you have to work your hardest, and if you do, if you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.”

- Pat, Silver Linings Playbook

Six months ago, in my review of the LSE entrepreneurial ecosystem for 2022, I wrote of how different it felt from the euphoria of 2021, but felt hopeful in general as we continue to track more and more founders in these challenging times. And although some of the macro-level statistics look a little subdued, there are huge successes to be found in the micro.

Just as in Silver Linings Playbook, where the characters navigate personal adversities to find their silver linings, since early 2022, the global economic landscape has been battling a series of challenges. As we examine 2023 so far, we’re seeing the emergence of a new chapter filled with promising green shoots — our silver linings in the economic narrative.

Spoiler alert: 2 new LSE unicorns in 2023 so far.

As a reminder, the data presented today comes from our proprietary data analytics platform (supporting our insights and sourcing) that we have built at Houghton Street Ventures. It ensures that we support our global ecosystem as best we can from the moment founders start thinking about building something big and beginning their entrepreneurial journey.

Equity rounds announced by LSE entrepreneurs (in USD), by size of round

The ‘death of the unicorn’ Klaxon may have sounded a little early (and aren’t unicorns supposed to be rare anyway?), but the ‘death of the “mega-round”’ — equity raises of $100m or more — is in full swing. H1 2023 saw only four such rounds involving LSE founders, and there is no immediate signal that this is about to change.

Equity investment rounds announced by LSE entrepreneurs

At the end of last year, we noted that you would have to look back to 2016 to find a year that compares to 2022 in terms of the number of equity-only funding rounds announced for the year. At the halfway mark of the year, we are going to have to look at things differently to predict where we might land this time.

Cumulative number of equity investment rounds announced by LSE entrepreneurs by month

We have to go back to 2014 to find a year with only 120 deals announced in the first half by LSE founders. For 2023 to beat 2014 over the full year, that leaves a target of 114 deals to announce over the next six months — it is going to be close. The good news is that only 2013 is in contention for comparison before that, with 2010–2012 full-year numbers already defeated.

Number of companies started by LSE entrepreneurs

At Houghton Street Ventures, we go earlier than looking at funding round announcements as we regularly monitor and speak with founders on day one of their journeys. As such, we collect data on how many companies are being started, and I’m afraid the trend here is similar. However, the data likely shows us something else if we look closely enough…

  • The funding round drop from 2021 to 2022 of 30% looks similar to the drop in the number of companies founded from 2020 to 2021 of 35%.
  • The funding round drop from 2022 to 2023 of 40% looks similar to the drop in the number of companies founded from 2021 to 2022 of 35%.

So with a smaller drop of 15% (at the halfway mark) in the number of companies founded from 2022 to 2023, perhaps, with the one-year lag we see above, we get some insight into what the future might hold for future funding rounds with stabilisation into this ‘new normal’.

Additionally, to provide some context to the funding round drop the LSE ecosystem has experienced from 2022 to 2023, this is very much in with what we have seen in the global venture capital market — approximately 50% down (in USD terms) from H1 2022 to H1 2023, as discussed here on Crunchbase.

Number of equity investment rounds announced by LSE entrepreneurs by quarter

Jan-March 2023, in terms of volume, was low. You would have to go back to Q1 2015 to find a quarter with fewer deals announced, but we appear to have bucked the trend, with Q2 bouncing back by 25% from Q1 — and Q2 deal volume only 25% below the 2015–2020 quarterly average. Is it too soon to suggest that the worst of it may now be over? All of this said, knowing June was the strongest month of the year so far.

LSE unicorns, minted in H1 2023

It wouldn’t feel like 2023 if we didn’t have an AI company to proclaim as the latest LSE unicorn. So far this year, we have welcomed two new LSE-founded businesses to the unicorn club (private companies with a valuation > $1bn).

Synthesia recently raised their Series C, as they have fast become the biggest AI video platform in the world.

MNT-Halan became our first LSE African unicorn earlier this year and were also the only fintech to achieve unicorn status in Q1 this year, globally. They are fast becoming one of Egypt’s largest banks and lenders to the un- and underbanked.

Largest ever LSE funding round

Q1 may have been slow and painful for many in the venture market but not for our friends at Abound (a.k.a. Fintern) — at the beginning of March, they announced the largest funding round we have ever seen within the LSE ecosystem for their AI-assisted lender, of £500m — not all equity mind you…

These stories continue to inspire us that anything is possible in what continues to be a challenging market if you continue to build a resilient business to solve big problems or go after interesting opportunities.

We are now tracking close to 26,000 founders (~16,400 of which are still active) in our database. This is up from 24,500 at the start of the year, an additional 600 of which are actively running their entrepreneurial endeavours.

In times like this, we salute those who choose to adventure down the entrepreneurial path; you are playing on “expert mode”, but the rewards will be satisfying.

And we have backed 5 LSE alum founders this year in the US, Canada and Latin America, adding to our portfolio companies already in the UK and Europe.

Much like the characters in “Silver Linings Playbook”, who faced challenges but ultimately found joy, growth, and resilience, 2023 presents a similar landscape for venture-backed businesses. It’s not without its challenges, but the emerging green shoots offer promise for a strong year of recovery.

It’s time to build.

If you are building a business and have a connection with the London School of Economics and Political Science, we would love to speak to you and learn more about your vision for your company.

Learn more about us and submit your pitch at houghtonstreet.com, follow us on LinkedIn or read what others have to say about us at Landscape.vc.



Adam French
Houghton Street Ventures

Partner at Houghton Street Ventures. Backing LSE entrepreneurs.