7 Startup Hubs From Around the World to Watch in 2014
BeijingLondonBarcelona, SpainAmsterdamStockholmTel Aviv, IsraelMoscow
Silicon Valley isn't the only place to launch a successful startup. Between transforming rundown warehouses and providing much-needed startup capital, cities all over the world are helping encourage local entrepreneurship. Here, in no particular order, are seven cities that are quickly becoming go-to startup hubs.
Beijing’s Zhongguancun district has made a study of the style, personality, management and financing systems of Silicon Valley, says Zhang Rui, CEO of Spring Rain Software Co., a Beijing-based health-advice app maker. With China's enhanced emphasis on entrepreneurs, a growing number of investors are turning their attention to the world's most populous country. Aid from local officials offering startups subsidies--normally sparse in China--has also helped. The downside to launching in Beijing? The still-young entrepreneur scene can't claim the dynamism of U.S. hubs.
Like various U.S. cities from New York City to Detroit, London is transforming its rundown warehouses into office spaces for new businesses. The city’s growing interest in technology is partly the result of government efforts to minimize reliance on financial services. In the last four years, the number of tech companies in East London has reportedly nearly quadrupled to about 1,400.
If nothing else, Barcelona.IO, a nonprofit community of startups that hosts pitch days and startup fairs, is an example of Barcelona's embrace of startup culture. In July, the organization hosted a sold out event at the Antiga Fabrica Estrella Damm brewery where angel investors and business leaders met and mingled. Still, investment in the city is limited, in spite of serving as home base to budding companies such as eyeOS, an open-source cloud desktop that launched in 2005, and Mobbeel, a maker of biometric alternatives to passwords.
Amsterdam may be leagues away from Silicon Valley, but its close proximity to other European countries, liberal tax laws and the city's overall vibe of tolerance and adaptability make it a natural startup environment. Recently, the city opened its arms to data centers and cloud computing companies like Digital Ocean . Don Ritzen, co-founder and CEO of RockstartAccelerator , a business accelerator based in the city, credits Amsterdam's success to its storied past. “It starts with our history. Being a small country with a wacky language forces many Dutch entrepreneurs to be fluent in English and look beyond our borders to create business of meaningful size," he recently told Wired .
Some notable Stockholm-based companies include Skype, Spotify and SoundCloud, plus 700 other high-tech companies located in the nearby neighborhood of Krista, also known as "Wireless Valley." Venture capital firm Creandum reported in 2011 that Nordic companies represented 9 percent of all global billion dollar technology exits between 2005 and 2009, and 33 percent of exits in the European market. Caroline Walerud, co-founder of 3D scanning startup Volumental, notes that despite Sweden's startup vigor, her countrymen tend to be risk averse.
According to the Startup Genome project's latest tally, Israel's Tel Aviv ranked at the No. 2 startup ecosystem in the world in 2012. Dubbed "Silicon Wadi," which means "valley" in Hebrew, Tel Aviv claims to have more startups per capita than any other city in the world, in spite of its low acceptance of technology trends, notes the report. To view the startup boom, check out this map, which attempts to pinpoint all of the startups in Israel.
Though education in this city lags, its startup growth is strong. Moscow opened a huge business park last spring that's reportedly been built to house more than 1,000 homegrown Russian startups. The park was also created to house the research and development arms for some of the world’s largest technology companies including Intel, Cisco and Samsung. Facebook also looked into building an R&D facility there when Mark Zuckerberg visited in 2012. The goal of the park and the R&D push is to create a VC friendly environment that positions Moscow as a key place for foreign companies to invest.