Home » Technology

Blockchain Startups: A By-The-numbers Look At Europe’s Key Leaders

Updated on

With the EU recently launching the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications,  a story on the blockchain startups regulatory climate in Europe and how European nations are accelerating towards mainstream blockchain adoption.

Below are some facts and figures on the blockchain startups space in Switzerland, Ireland, Gibraltar, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands, as well as commentary from leading political and industry figures from the aforementioned countries.


Q1 hedge fund letters, conference, scoops etc


Strong encouragement from the government, open and flexible regulatory bodies, and the existence of innovation centres and knowledge hubs such as ‘Crypto Valley’ — which is home to 20% of the global blockchain market — has allowed this European country to flourish as a leading hub for blockchain innovation.

  • Investment in blockchain to-date
    • Switzerland is the ICO capital of Europe, where companies generated $456 million in 2018, and $1.46 billion in 2017.
    • Swiss startups received almost 1.24 billion francs (close to $1.25 billion) of venture capital in 2018, nearly 32% more than the previous year.
  • Number of blockchain startups operating in Switzerland
    • As of Q1 2019, 750 companies using blockchain are in the ‘Crypto Valley’, 712 of which operate in Switzerland. Utopia Music, a new entrant into the Crypto Valley top 50, is the only Media and Entertainment company to break into the top 50, showcasing the breadth of companies in the Swiss blockchain cluster.
  • Number of Unicorn startups (companies already worth billions)
    • Switzerland is home to four Unicorn startups: Bitmain, Cardano, Ethereum, and Dfinity.


Armin Schmid, CEO of Swiss Crypto Tokens, part of the Bitcoin Suisse Group, said: “At Swiss Crypto Tokens, we consider ourselves very fortunate to call Switzerland home. The Government here has always shown great encouragement of the blockchain community and this has undoubtedly been a huge part of our success in positioning Switzerland as the ‘Crypto Nation’. In addition, given how developed and influential the Swiss financial sector is — managing around 5% of all global cross-border assets — Switzerland is an ideal environment with a stable economy and currency for liquidity-providing instruments such as the CryptoFranc, our Swiss-Franc pegged stablecoin.”

Daniel Haudenschild, President of the Crypto Valley Association, said: At the heart of the blockchain movement, the Crypto Valley Association has been central to creating Switzerland’s leading position as a pioneer in cryptocurrency and blockchain. The valley is home to some of the most innovative and influential blockchain companies in the world, only made possible by the friendly regulatory environment, secure and predictable legal framework, world-class infrastructure, talent pool, sound policies and economic strength here in Switzerland.”


Ireland is home to the EMEA headquarters of some of the world’s biggest tech companies including Google, Twitter, Apple, LinkedIn and Airbnb, thanks to its attractive 12.5% corporation tax. For a country with a population of just under 5 million, the Emerald Isle has demonstrated that it can punch above its weight and seal its place as a global technology powerhouse, and is home to some of the most innovative blockchain startups including multi-award-winning AID:Tech, which revolutionises how governments, corporates, and NGOs deliver digital entitlements across the world.


Mai Santamaria of the Department of Finance, Ireland said: “Ireland has positioned itself as a leading destination for tech enterprise and research, and has the potential to be a centre of excellence for blockchain and distributed ledger technology. In addition to the growing number of companies using the technology here, the Government has taken several steps to encourage innovation in this sector. Some highlights include, the creation of a €500m Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund; recently hosting a blockchain hackathon to identify public services business problems that can be solved using blockchain technology; and the founding of BlockchainIreland, a combined effort of Government and Irish-based companies, led by the IDA’s Blockchain Expert Group, to help promote and share information on blockchain in Ireland. Blockchain technologies have the potential to create great economic, social, and technological value and, where possible, Ireland aims to capitalise on this potential.’


Gibraltar has adopted a principles-based approach to DLT regulation built around a core framework of nine principles, while also providing sufficient flexibility for blockchain projects to thrive. Gibraltar’s value-based, industry-informed framework is an example of vision and ambition operating in parallel, in which regulators and businesses collaborate to address industry inefficiencies, accelerate protracted processes, and improve the lives of citizens.

  • Key Government initiatives:
    • Gibraltar became the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce a purpose built Distributed-Ledger-Technology (DLT) framework in January 2018.
      • So far, over 30 companies have applied to the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) for a DLT license.
    • The New Technologies in Education (NTiE) group, represents a joint effort between the Gibraltar Government, the University of Gibraltar, along with some of the leading new technology companies based in Gibraltar. The NTiE group is geared towards creating new technology-related education courses around blockchain.


Albert Isola M.P., Minister for Commerce of Gibraltar, said: “As the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce a purpose built Distributed-Ledger-Technology (DLT) framework in January 2018, Gibraltar has become home to a wide range of quality blockchain projects that want to be recognised as a licensed provider of DLT. Gibraltar’s supportive business environment and thriving blockchain community are two of the hallmarks of success for our wider economy.

As a jurisdiction, we have always prioritised educational development alongside regulatory advances. The launch of the New Technologies in Education (NTiE) group, represents a joint effort between the Gibraltar Government, the University of Gibraltar along with some of the leading new technology companies based in Gibraltar. The NTiE group is geared towards creating new technology-related education courses around blockchain, giving students the chance to broaden their knowledge of the intricate workings of blockchain applications.”

Nick Cowan, Managing Director and Founder of the GSX (Gibraltar Stock Exchange) Group Limited, said: “As a long time advocate for the incorporation of new technologies in financial services, I became convinced of blockchain’s potential to build a new exchange model fit for a new generation of traders and investors.  However, the creation of a stable, supportive regulatory environment was always central to this aspiration. The purpose-built legislative framework for businesses that use blockchain or Distributed-Ledger-Technology (DLT) here in Gibraltar has been pivotal in the success of our Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), which received its DLT license from the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) in November 2018. Strong engagement between businesses and regulators has helped direct the formation of regulation that provides flexibility for guidelines to evolve alongside the blockchain sector. The DLT regulatory framework continues to provide a road to market for quality projects using DLT.”


Denmark — consistently one of the ‘happiest countries in the world’ and home to the cultural concept of ‘hygge’ — is the EU’s most digitally advanced economy and one with a flourishing tech scene as Danish businesses increasingly embrace emerging technologies. Denmark also trumped its Nordic neighbours in the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index and is home to world-class science and research centres, including the Concordium Blockchain Research Centre at Aarhus University, headed by Professor Jesper Buus Nielsen.

  • Investment in blockchain to-date
    • It is estimated that direct investments in blockchain startups and incumbents amounted to approximately €50 million in 2018 — a number that is expected to double in 2019.
  • Number of blockchain startups operating in Denmark
    • There are some 50 registered startups within the blockchain and emerging technologies space.
  • Number of unicorn blockchain startups (companies with a market value of USD $1 billion or more)
    • None, although Chainalysis — headquartered in New York with an office in Copenhagen — is closing in.

Blockchain Startups Commentary

Lars Seier Christensen, Chairman of the Concordium Foundation, commented: “The Danish government is fully committed to strengthening Denmark’s position as an attractive digital hub and frontrunner in Europe with €134 million budgeted to explore the immense potential of emerging technologies as part of its Digital Growth Strategy. The government is actively looking into how these technologies can be used in digital identity, the welfare system, and healthcare, as well as how these technologies could make Danish businesses more efficient and competitive in the global marketplace.”


France, dubbed the ‘sleeping giant of blockchain in Europe’, recently hosted the inaugural Paris Blockchain Week, a series of events which took place under the joint High Patronage of the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance and the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs. Europe’s largest blockchain and digital assets event in Europe follows calls by French MPs for the government to spend €500 million on state-level deployments of blockchain technology over the next three years, in a bid to make France a ‘Blockchain Nation’.

As recently as last week, France’s Minister of State for the Digital Sector, Cédric O, said that the government is open to cooperation with cryptocurrency platforms to enable crypto donations for the reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral, which was extensively damaged by a fire on 15th April.

With the PACTE law being passed by the French National Assembly earlier this month, which provides a legal framework for token issuers and digital asset service providers, could France forge ahead and become the ‘Blockchain Champion’ of Europe?


Karim Sabba, Co-founder of Paris Blockchain Week and Woorton, said: “In order to reach mainstream adoption, France must foster a thriving business ecosystem in the digital assets industry, and emerging companies need to offer consumers easy-to-use products and services. The passing of PACTE nourishes the creation and development of such businesses. In most jurisdictions, digital asset businesses face enormous challenges in both setting up and operating their businesses. Anything from opening a bank account, to knowing what regulations to comply with, can become insurmountable obstacles.

Additionally, ICO regulation is an area which is notorious for ambiguity. PACTE has established clear guidelines for businesses wishing to fundraise via public token offerings, and businesses wishing to conduct an ICO can now be assured that their fundraising is licensed by the French Financial Markets Authority (AMF). By doing so, the PACTE law will help legitimize the quality of these ICOs. Overall, PACTE will positively impact the attractiveness of France as a jurisdiction for digital asset businesses which, in turn, will serve to drive forward the adoption of digital assets amongst consumers.”

Jennifer d’Hoir, Senior Advisor at Gide255 (and Partner of Paris Blockchain Week), said: “PACTE establishes a regulatory framework for the crypto economy that is both attractive and comprehensive — attractive because it strikes a balance between flexibility and credible rules to facilitate the interaction of this new economy with incumbent players, such as banks and institutional investors. It is also comprehensive because it addresses the entire crypto ecosystem based on the conviction that regulating both the primary and secondary markets of utility tokens is key in ensuring the efficiency of the future regime.

This reform brings legal certainty to a community of new players who need to build trust within what has been an unregulated environment thus far. It aims to sort the wheat from the chaff and to foster innovation in France. Obtaining a visa for the issuance of tokens from the French Financial Markets Authority (AMF) should increase the ability of crypto players to develop partnerships with incumbents, such as banks, and to help prepare them for upcoming rules or regulatory adjustments that might stem from the EU in the short-to-medium term. Considering the importance of clarity and predictability in regulation, and the marketing power of a regulatory label for the sale of innovative financial instruments, this reform meets both customers’ and issuers’ expectations.”

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, home to the recently concluded Odyssey Hackathon, the world’s biggest blockchain and AI hackathon, is by no means an underdog in the European blockchain scene. With support from partners including the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations of the Netherlands, De Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch Central Bank), the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), the European Union Regional Development Fund, Deloitte, and KLM, Odyssey saw 100 teams compete for €200,000, with 1,500 people in attendance. Prince Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, Special Envoy of Startup Delta, also lent his support to the event.

Will the Netherlands lead the way in commonising important parts of our digital infrastructure and be a shining example to the rest of the world?

Leave a Comment