The Global Startup Ecosystem Report Blue Economy Edition

Global Blue Economy Trends

Key Findings

  • Europe is the global leader in Blue Economy startups, holding 39% of the share and producing the highest number of early-stage deals.
  • Within the Blue Economy, aquaculture, marine energy, and marine transportation are receiving the most VC investment.
  • From H1 2020 to H1 2022, the global number of Series A deals grew 80%.
  • From H1 2020 to H1 2022, the total dollar amount of Series B+ funding increased 190%, with the number of deals going up 20%.
  • From H1 2021 to H1 2022, the median Series A deal size increased 47%.
  • From H1 2021 to H1 2022, the median Series B+ deal size grew 112%.

In August 2022, the United Nations’ Sustainable Blue Economy Investment Forum saw governments, banks, and corporations gather at the UN Ocean Conference and commit to investing billions of dollars in the Blue Economy. There is undoubtedly growing global interest in developing technologies that restore marine health, make more responsible use of ocean resources, and fight climate change.

However, in the startup world, there is currently a huge amount of untapped potential. As a sub-sector that intersects with Cleantech, AI & Big Data, Agtech & New Food, Transportation, and others, the Blue Economy has ample room for innovation and room for investors to both drive change and reap fair returns.

The product categories seeing the most VC deals and amount of VC funding are aquaculture and marine transportation. Due mainly to inflation, they have also seen increases in total funding from H1 2021 to H1 2022 — aquaculture at 3% and marine transportation at 27% — while water treatment and marine energy experienced a drop.

Europe is the leading region for producing Blue Economy startups, with 39% of the global share. It has also produced the highest number of early-stage deals each year since 2020. Europe’s relative success may be tied to the region’s dedicated Blue Economy policies. In May 2021, the European Commission published its strategy for a Sustainable Blue Economy, which includes a goal of closing knowledge gaps and stimulating innovation for increased climate resilience for coastal areas. The strategy also commits to helping Blue Economy tech startups and early-stage companies access private capital.

Funding & Investment

To date, most investment in the Blue Economy has come from the public sector. But while it is still a relatively small sub-sector for startups, there are signs of increased interest. From the lows reached in H1 2020 to H1 2022, the number of Series A deals has increased by 100% and the median deal size has grown 133%.

In 2020, total Series A funding in the Blue Economy leapt 147% from 2019, and while total funding was down every half-year since, this is due to the trend being skewed by the presence of one oversized funding round in each of the earlier periods. For context, total Series A funding across all tech startups declined 19% from H2 2021 to H1 2022.

Singapore’s place at #1 is partly due to the ecosystem’s early-stage funding rounds, which contribute to its high Funding score. Shiok Meats, a cellular aquaculture and cell-based meat company, raised $12.6 million in Series A funding in 2020 and an additional $10 million in 2021. Umami Meats, which also develops cultivated seafood, raised a $2.4 million seed round in March 2022.

The Blue Economy also shows steady growth in later-stage funding. From H1 2020 to H1 2022, while the count of Series B+ deals grew only 9%, total Series B+ funding increased 190%. From H1 2021 to H1 2022, the number of Series B+ deals grew 33% while total funding was up 93% and median deal size was up 112%.

Silicon Valley-based Saildrone was one of 2021’s notable late-stage deals. The startup, which develops autonomous surface vehicles to collect ocean data, closed a $100 million Series C round in October 2021. Cellular aquaculture startup BlueNalu, which is headquartered in San Diego, raised $60 million in a January 2021 convertible note.

Singapore’s Umitron, a data company for aquaculture, raised a $10 million late-stage round in H1 2022, which contributes to the ecosystem’s high Funding score. In the same period, San Francisco’s Wildtype, which develops cellular agriculture technology, raised a $100 million Series B round. Michigan-based SkySpecs, a developer of autonomous drone inspection services for onshore and offshore wind turbines, closed an $80 million Series D round in May 2022, and Bangalore’s Captain Fresh, a B2B platform designed to help farmers negotiate deals and find buyers, raised $50 million in a March 2022 Series C round.

From 2019 to 2021, the number of recorded Blue Economy exits grew 66%, from 21 to 35. H2 2021 saw an 122% increase in exit value from H1 2021, but H1 2022 then saw a drop of 48% in exit value and continued a trend of decline in the number of exits as the financial market entered correction. The count of exits in H2 2022 was -57% compared to H1 2021, although exit value in H1 2022 was 14% higher than in H1 2021.

Gigante Salmon was 2021’s largest Blue Economy exit. The Norwegian fishery’s $696 million IPO helped boost 2021 numbers. Swedish startup Hexicon, which develops offshore wind turbines, also exited in a $135 million IPO.

Other notable exits in 2021 include the February $114 million M&A of French offshore wind platform developer Ideol and Norway- and Singapore-headquartered oil and gas services provider BW Offshore to become BW Ideol. Finnish aquaculture startup Fifax, which has developed large-scale fish farming with reduced environmental impact, IPOd at $76 million in October.

In H1 2022, M&As are leading the large exits. Canada’s Deep Trekker, which manufactures remotely operated underwater vehicle systems, was acquired by Halma, a global group of technology companies, for $60 million. Keppel O&M and Sembcorp Marine announced a $367 million M&A in April 2022 with a stated goal of focusing on offshore renewables, new energy, and cleaner solutions in the offshore and marine sector.