Iceland’s first unicorn will spur investment but don’t expect “floodgates” to open, says unicorn founder

The founder of Iceland's first unicorn says he doesn't expect the "floodgates" to open on a flurry of Icelandic startups achieving unicorn status.
Iceland’s first unicorn will spur investment but don’t expect “floodgates” to open, says unicorn founder

Iceland boasting its first unicorn will spur investment in Icelandic startups but don’t expect the “floodgates” to open on a flurry of unicorns, says the unicorn's founder.

Icelandic startup Kerecis, which develops medical devices from fish skin and fatty acids, last year became Iceland’s first-ever unicorn, after it was sold to Danish medical device maker Coloplast for $1.3bn.

Kerecis founder Fertram Sigurjonsson said Iceland having its first unicorn had encouraged more investment into the country's startups.

But he didn’t expect the “floodgates” to open on a slew of Icelandic unicorns.

He said:

"No I don't think so. Not the floodgates. It has already made access to capital easier. There is a lot of interest now. Iceland is not a very developed investor community. 

"Most investments in Iceland have been in real-estate and traditional businesses. There is not a big history of venture investments in Iceland. But now with this exit of Kerecis and all these people making money, there is substantially more investment interest in startups."

On whether achieving unicorn status was a good metric of success, he said:

”I raised money from shareholders four times and I promised them a good return on their investment. And I was able to provide them very good return on investment."

Valdimar Óskarsson, CEO and co-founder of Keystrike, an Icelandic cybersecurity startup, which is in the early stages of securing a $2 million funding round, said he was hopeful more Icelandic unicorns would emerge.

He said boasting just one unicorn was an achiemvent, given Iceland's population of just 380,000.

He said:

"Our nation boasts a remarkable pool of talented individuals and receives substantial support through government initiatives, including grants and tax rebates. These factors collectively create a fertile environment for innovation and substantial business growth.

"While it is acknowledged that Iceland’s geographical distance from larger markets presents certain challenges, the potential for overcoming these obstacles remains high. 

"Our current status, having successfully cultivated one unicorn company, is commendable when considered in a statistical context. For example, when comparing Iceland to the United States, which has approximately one unicorn per 1.9 million people, Iceland's achievement is notable given our relatively small population."

He said among Iceland’s current crop of startups “several possess the potential to emulate the success of Kerecis, our pioneering unicorn, thereby reinforcing Iceland's reputation as a breeding ground for innovative businesses."

Image: Rudy Kirchner

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