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Blockchain in Europe
2020 Review

Despite its inherent decentralised and non-localised nature, blockchain has spurred a growth of European ecosystems in the past years. Gravitating towards traditional tech startup hubs and locations with favourable regulation, the European blockchain ecosystem shows familiar patterns. We have analysed the different ecosystems with the help of local experts for our 2020 review.

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To read our full overview of 16 countries in Europe, with information about regulation, a pan-European analysis, and our outlook of the industry, please download the full report.

We reached out to more than 60 experts and reviewed some 1200 organisations in over 20 countries. Although we tried to maintain an equal and diverse set of opinions and include all organisations in each ecosystem, we don't expect to have achieved complete coverage.

In our report you will be able to read on more about blockchain regulation in Europe, other countries not mentioned in this overview, and more information about the ecosystems that we did cover here.

If you are interested in our reports, sign up for our newsletter or reach out to us for future collaboration at partners@dGen.org.

France

Clear regulations and a healthy startup scene, but like other countries in need of better funding

Corporate adoption of blockchain in France is relatively high. With the passage of the PACTE Act, blockchain has become even more friendly, as the oversight creates greater security in a market that has attracted some bad actors. Simon Polrot, President of ADAN, points to how ‘[n]ew projects are announced each month and big companies are leaning into the space’. This is representative of the strong grassroots blockchain network in France that has helped to shore up and drive forward corporate adoption. ‘Since 2017, [France has] seen an influx of serious actors enter the ecosystem’, according to Sebastien Couture, host of Epicenter podcast. And, while the country's generally encouraging view towards startups has aided in fostering a strong ecosystem, the introduction of the PACTE Act is seen to be the next step in setting France up to a leader in blockchain by providing clear guidelines for businesses and protecting investors. Polrot continues that ‘France is one of the most friendly [countries] for digital assets-related activities, with great know-how and motivation’.

Switzerland

A world leader for capital and regulation, attracting businesses and foundations, but a smaller local community

Zug, or Crypto Valley, is seen as the European, if not global, blockchain epicenter. Initially known as a tax haven, the broad adoption of blockchain by the city has brought widespread recognition of the city both in and outside the blockchain community. According to Emi Lorincz, Founder of Women in Blockchain Switzerland (WIBS), there are ‘still many projects[...] considering setting up shop in Switzerland and the ecosystem is certainly healthy’. While the country is ‘seeing less projects’, Lorincz continues to say that the projects currently setting up are ‘higher in quality, more solid business models, competitive teams, and rarely an ICO’.

Germany

By far the most startups, but little enterprise involvement and an unfriendly fiscal situation leave room for improvement

Often whispered to be the unofficial birthplace of Ethereum, and with a history of counter culture and desire for self-governance, Germany is an attractive hub for blockchain startups. With the second highest amount of blockchain startups in the European Union (EU) at 8%, the majority of Germany’s blockchain community and companies are located in Berlin. While Germany’s government caught the attention of many with the release of a blockchain strategy that outlines plans for innovation, adoption, and legislation, the ecosystem is still largely driven by organisations from the ground up. This ground up approach is fuelled by a steady influx of talent into Berlin, and has led to several large players in blockchain registering in the city. However, while Berlin is still attracting talent, it may have reached the tipping point, with some startups looking into drawing on wider, global teams to find talent that they cannot easily source in the country. Like most blockchain ecosystems, crypto and finance dominate Berlin startups.

The United Kingdom

A stronghold for DeFi, with access to talent and funding, but a need for entreprise adoption and inclusive regulation

The UK housed 48% of European Union (EU) blockchain startups in 2018, and London had the world’s second largest amount of early stage funding for blockchain companies, securing its place as one of the most prominent blockchain ecosystems. As an existing global financial power, it is prime for a similar adoption of cryptocurrencies as Switzerland is currently experiencing. The blockchain scene in London is already dominated by the financial sector, but due to university courses and other thriving markets, has broader reach. Monolith’s Mel Gelderman points out that London’s position as a global leader in FinTech helped attract attention towards blockchain and the subsequent decentralised finance (DeFi) space. ‘Good universities and an interest in finance means that there is plenty of talent and funding to go around, even though startups aren’t as prevalent as in places like Berlin’. He also points out that there is an active Ethereum community which resulted in sprouting DeFi projects in the city.

Malta

Pioneer in regulations and crypto currency tax, but very little startup presence

Also known as Blockchain Island, Malta has pushed to be a major player in blockchain, both for companies and innovation. Malta’s blockchain frameworks, which although not legally binding, came on to the scene very early on, giving companies some level of guidance and certainty, while still allowing the government to remain malleable in regulation. With relatively low taxes and EU Membership, Malta is situated at a very favourable place to register a company, and when factored in with the semi-lenient framework, has placed itself as a top country for registering blockchain startups. However, Alex Dreyfus, CEO of Socios.com and Chiliz, says that ‘[w]hile Malta is a strong EU country with a proper regulatory framework for companies [in blockchain], it may be too small to build a proper ecosystem’.

The Netherlands

Some interesting initiatives, a decent fiscal situation for traders, but in need of better regulations to nurture startups

The Netherlands’ blockchain ecosystem is somewhat unique in that there is broad interest from the residents, potentially due to an initiative by the Dutch Blockchain Coalition to provide free blockchain courses. While the government is struggling to keep up with regulation and has deep concerns about predatory behaviour in the space, it has also backed innovation, supported pilot projects, and formed influential partnerships. Sebastiaan van der Lans, founder of WordProof.io, lists ‘Blockchain Netherlands Foundation, Dutch Blockchain Coalition, great ambassadors like Olivier Rikken and Marloes Pomp, [and the]Lisk Center Utrecht’, as some of the initiatives driving growth in the ecosystem. However, Bart Mol, Satoshi Radio’s Host, says that ‘the ecosystem is healthy, [but] not necessarily growing at the moment’. This is not entirely a bad thing though, as he continues that a ‘lot of startups are focusing on tech or applying blockchain tech. Not [...] ico’s [Initial Coin Offerings]’, revealing a focus on bringing projects to fruition, rather than the beginning of a host of new projects.

Blockchain in Europe

To read our full overview of 16 countries in Europe, with information about regulation, a pan-European analysis, and our outlook of the industry, please download the full report.

We reached out to more than 60 experts and reviewed some 1200 organisations in over 20 countries. Although we tried to maintain an equal and diverse set of opinions and include all organisations in each ecosystem, we don't expect to have achieved complete coverage.

In our report you will be able to read on more about blockchain regulation in Europe, other countries not mentioned in this overview, and more information about the ecosystems that we did cover here.

If you are interested in our reports, sign up for our newsletter or reach out to us for future collaboration at partners@dGen.org.