Klarna, the Sweden-based European e-commerce payments solution announced today that it has received $155 million in financing. This new round came from DST Global and General Atlantic, and was supported by Sequoia Capita, who invested in the company in 2010. Already today, Klarna handles over $2.5 billion worth of transactions annually for its 14.000 connected merchants in in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. The company announced it will use this funding to hire more talent and expand to more regions.
A month ago, a Finnish newspaper interviewed me and asked are we living a bubble due to the high valuations of startups. Back then, I said no. Today, I'm not so sure anymore. My statement in that interview still stands true though on one part - there's no bubble in Northern Europe for sure, but I can't fully agree with regards to the US anymore. First, let me define a bubble in this case by stating it's an economic cycle where companies' valuations are highly inflated compared to a situation when calculated by business potential and metrics at large.
An interesting development: TechCrunch reported that a Swedish startup Klarna (formerly Kreditor), one of the biggest providers in Europe of in-store credit and invoice based payment solutions for the e-commerce sector, has secured funding from Sequoia Capital. What's interesting here is that the superstar VC Mike Moritz, who invested in Google among others, has joined Klarna's board.
Why this is interesting is because the general belief is that US VCs are very rarely interested in investing in European companies, and it's even rarer to see a big name US VC to join a Euro startup board. Just in our previous story our guest blogger, Marita Seulamo-Vargas, reported how the US VCs had advised Nordic and Baltic companies to seek investments primarily from home.
Earlier this month we had an ArcticEvening about startup financing and investments. The event was a success and a lot of topics were covered in general, but one area that could have been discussed more is the venture capital market at large and how it is changing - or is it?
Many blogs and online media sources, especially, have mentioned that during times of economic hardship innovation tends to flourish as talented people are laid off, or otherwise take the bait for entrepreneurship. Furthermore, large corporations that usually dominate the markets cut down on investments in order to cut down on expenses to keep the companies solvent and this gives excellent possibilities for startups to take market share.
The recent weeks' downturn in the global economy has dramatically tightened the availability of funding for companies, not only startups but large companies alike. The downturn that started from the US with the uncovering off the sub-prime "fraud" has echoed its effects to all corners of the world as connections between financing houses begin to unravel.
Sequioa Capital, one of the most famous startup financing houses in the US, has held a secret meeting earlier this week. A slideshow from the meeting has fled to the public unraveling the contents of the meeting - short and long term scenarios for the world economy. The contents of the document are not very positive. If the name of the presentation is "RIP - Good times", I think it says all.
I've also heard while discussing with Nordic entrepreneurs that the financing market has, also in Europe, tightened dramatically. This of course means that those seeking funding rounds form the public will face tougher times in years.
I'm expecting we'll see a huge rise in applications to the government institutions that support and finance entrepreneurs as the private markets tighten. It is natural for entrepreneurs to seek financing at all costs, as it is their only way to survive if they do not have a positive cashflow. This however, in my opinion and even at the cost of receiving a ton of hate mail, does not give the institutions any right to loosen their funding - just to support the companies and keep people employed.
This may seem harsh, but the Nordic startup scene is still very small in terms of employment and thus does not pose a great threat to the GDP. Times like these serve as natural ways to bring about healthy change to the markets with companies that are truly innovative and have a chance of becoming profitable in the near future (ie. are already showing healthy amounts of revenue).
One must also remember that even in difficult times, it is usually the strongest that survive - creating more value in the long run to the individuals as well as economies they serve.