4 International 'Start-up Cities' to Watch
While an enterprising spirit is a traditional aspect of the American culture, now it seems other nations are taking big measures to encourage innovators within their own borders.
Over the last few years, a handful of governments and international organizations have set up incubator metropolises dubbed “start-up cities.” These are locales that specifically promote and foster entrepreneurial ideas and networking.
Here's a look at four of the world's "start-up cities":
National University of Singapore
In 2011, the National University of Singapore built a Stanford-style dormitory on its campus. Its purpose is to house 90 of NUS’s entrepreneurial students there and sit back, waiting for the startup juices to flow. The 90 college students have weekly brainstorming sessions, pitch ideas to prospective investors, and have a steady lineup of successful entrepreneurs who come to speak and answer questions.
The devise comes as Singapore ascends among Asia’s advancing economies. The island of about 5 million people grew its software industry to $28 billion last year, according to Bloomberg, and its accolades are stacking up: it came in No. 2 in the Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Index, behind Switzerland.
With this pedigree, Singapore’s government has a five-year plan to foster technological growth and bolster the country’s status as an entrepreneurial hub.
In November, Startup Canada, a government-backed nonprofit led by entrepreneurs, announced its intent to create start-up communities dispersed across the North American country. The goal is to increase entrepreneurship and opportunities for them. The start-up communities will begin in test-mode in 10 cities, where participants will receive mentorship and organize local events.
It’s part of a larger push for entrepreneurship in Canada. Startup Canada conducted a national tour last year and incorporated input from more than 20,000 entrepreneurs to figure how to best serve them. Also coming soon is a national campaign to inform citizens of the impact entrepreneurship has on the economy and a social network for the demographic called Startup Canada Connect.
The Russian government dedicated $3 billion to set up a tech hub in Skolkovo in 2010. It will include a research university, a “technopark” to accommodate 1,000 start-ups, and 40 research and development centers for corporations. The Economist reported that the government wishes to lay a foundation for startup success, and the Skolkovo Foundation will provide an initial cash outlay, with the hope that venture capitalists will jump in as well.
Skolkovo also has a partnership with MIT, which agreed to initiate the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology to spawn tech-savvy thinkers. The hub is about halfway through development right now, with construction plans in the hands of architecture firms.
Aalto University, Helsinki
The Finnish government expanded its interest in national entrepreneurship in 2008. It set up a venture capital fund called Finnvera that helps early-stage start-ups get off the ground, and co-funded a series of business accelerators that act as advisors and investors for new companies with high growth potential.
To inspire young minds, Finland also established Aalto University outside of Helsinki in 2010. In an old warehouse next to the school, students created the Start-Up Sauna, a business accelerator with partial funding from the government where students can network, receive coaching, and plan field trips to Silicon Valley.
Success stories out of Finland include Niklas Zennström, founder of Skype, and Rovio Entertainment, the company that created Angry Birds.