OMERS Ventures didn’t exit Europe because of the market — but it had good reason to

A few weeks ago, Bloomberg reported that OMERS Ventures, the venture capital firm backed by the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, was calling it quits in Europe just four years after opening a London office, hiring a team and setting aside $332 million to invest in the region.

At the outset, it may seem as if the lackluster state of the European venture market may have motivated the exit, but it appears that wasn’t the case. Instead, OMERS’ exit was rather due to logistics related to being a solo LP operation, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch+.

OMERS Ventures did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Even though OMERS didn’t leave because of how things are in Europe right now, it wouldn’t have been that surprising if it did. The startup ecosystem in Europe doesn’t look that great at the moment, with lower deal and exit activity than the U.S., which itself is struggling.

Europe had only 1,332 deals in the first half of 2023, marking a decrease of 34.2% from the second half of 2022 and a decline of 60.8% compared to the same period a year earlier, according to PitchBook. The U.S. is the world’s biggest startup market at the moment, but the difference in deal count and activity is stark, even accounting for the general slowdown: The U.S. had 6,514 deals close in the first half of 2023.

European startups also seem to be finding it hard to exit, or are at least unable to land deals at valuations they might like. Through the first half of this year, startup exits only generated €3.5 billion ($3.8 billion) in total. If things don’t improve soon, the European market will not be able to surpass, or even match, the exit volume of any year from the last decade.

Investors from elsewhere in the world seem less interested, too. U.S. investors participated in 746 deals in Europe in the first half of 2023. compared to 1,704 a year earlier, according to PitchBook data. Given how much U.S. investors have pulled back from the region, OMERS wouldn’t have been out of place had it done so because of market conditions.

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