Spanish startup exits (2005–2017): from emptiness to a decade of relative abundance

For the purpose of this analysis, we’re only considering investor-backed exits -involving a stake greater than 50%- and those in which the price of the acquisition was either officially confirmed or reported by credible media properties. The whole list of exits and sources is available here.

A big thank you goes to Dealroom and Tech.eu for helping us gather the data used in this post.

Technology industries need exits to survive and develop. That has been one of the main engines of tech ecosystems around the world, a form of creating and distributing wealth among founders, investors and employees.

Spain, as a young market, has often lacked -especially in the eyes of our Europeans and American counterparts- a strong path to exit. While a significant number of companies were sold (or acquired) around the dot com era, the number of exits in Spain pretty much disappeared throughout the first decade of the century.

However, things are slowly but surely changing.

As the graph above shows, between 2014 and 2016, 18 Spanish technology companies were involved in M&A transactions. A significant increase compared to previous years.

In terms of total number of exits, 2014 and 2016 were the most active years. However, when exit volume is considered, 2016 was the strongest year by far for the Spanish sector as a whole, with a combined €844 million in exits, mostly thanks to Privalia (Vente-Privee), Ticketbis (eBay/StubHub) and Olapic (Monotype).

The number of years local companies have needed to reach a successful exit has decreased over time. While tech startups founded between 1995 and 2000 took a median of 14 years to be acquired, those created in the first five years 0f the century found an exit 10.5 years down the line, and the most recent batch (2005–2010, it’s too early to consider 2010–2015 as a valid period) needed 7 years to exit.

While this might lead us to believe that Spanish startups are selling earlier and, thus, wealth is being created and distributed at a faster pace, it’s worth noting that the exit multiple (compared to the amount of funding raised by these companies) of the most recent acquisitions is lower.

No valid data is available for the 1995 to 2005 period, but the average exit-to-funding ratio for companies founded between 2005 and 2010 is 6.2X, while the same ratio for those founded in the next five years decreases to 3.5X.

This makes sense, since companies that do not sell early get to build bigger and more sustainable businesses, thus attracting higher acquisition prices.

The 2010 to 2015 batch is looking bright, and we truly believe that the best is yet to come for the Spanish tech ecosystem.

We are K Fund, a €50 million early stage Venture Capital firm based in Madrid that’s looking to back the best and brightest Spanish entrepreneurs, wherever they might be. We truly believe in the Spanish tech ecosystem and we’re here to make it bigger as a whole.

If you have an interesting project or startup that fits our investment criteria, please let us know using our contact form or emailing us at info@kfund.vc.