Top Five Places to Launch Your Startup Outside of the US

01/11/2018 09:26 pm ET
iakov / 123RF STOCK PHOTO

When people talk about tech entrepreneurs and internet startups, they usually end up talking about Silicon Valley and the surrounding areas. After all, the world’s press seems to have its eyes on Mountain View, Menlo Park and Palo Alto at all times, just in case something happens that will help them to sell newspapers or online ad space.

It’s certainly true that as recently as five to ten years ago, if you didn’t have a head office in the Valley area then you were taken less seriously as an entrepreneur. But times have changed, and it didn’t take long for major cities from around the world to start to develop their own tech scenes by providing incentives and infrastructure or by encouraging venture capital firms to develop a presence in the area.

In fact, more and more people are looking to move away from the Valley because of its high cost of living and the fact that it can be so difficult to find talent. After all, how are you supposed to hire the best engineers that money can buy if they’re all busy working at Google and Facebook? But this raises another question: If you’re not going to base yourself in the US, where should you set up your headquarters? It’s time to find out.

1. London

London is by no means as tightly-packed with techies and founders as some parts of America, but that’s because they’re spread out across the sprawling city. Rent can be expensive in the city center, but there are plenty of sub-communities on the outskirts and in the suburbs where tech talent is thriving. There are also fantastic transport links to Europe and America, as well as plenty of financial incentives and co-working spaces. Better still, some of the biggest conferences and trade shows in the world at the 100-acre ExCel London.

Thanks to the city’s financial district and its history as a hub for international trade, London is particularly popular amongst financial startups, although there’s plenty of room for everyone and a number of more niche industries on the rise. But despite this, it’s up against some stiff competition as you’ll see from the other entries on this list.

2. Berlin

Berlin is a cultural hub as well as a startup hub, and it’s no coincidence that TechCrunch holds an installment of its Disrupt conference there. Germany benefits from a strong position at the center of European politics while simultaneously acting as a melting pot for creativity. In London, you’re more likely to see a startup that specializes in offering secure cryptocurrency transactions, while in Berlin they’re more likely to target publishing and the arts.

Another benefit of basing yourself in Berlin is that the city offers a mixture of culture and nightlife, and so it tends to attract a curious mixture of older ex-pats and younger digital nomads who give the Berlin scene an electrifying edge that’s unique to it. You just never know who you’re going to meet and what their story will be.

3. Toronto

The Toronto startup scene might be a little smaller than the scenes in London and Berlin, but it’s rapidly establishing itself as a contender on a global scale and as one of the top innovation destinations in Canada. It has its fair share of venture capital money and it’s becoming the go-to destination for new startups in a number of different industries.

Toronto is particularly noteworthy for its artificial intelligence (AI) scene and the exciting new ways that the technology can be harnessed to process data and improve our lives. AI, and its counterpart technology machine learning, is changing everything from healthcare and finance to the way that our traffic lights work and how we decide what to watch next on Netflix. Toronto is helping to lead that charge.

4. Guadalajara

This Mexican city might sound like an unusual place for tech startups to gather, but it’s been quietly developing its high-tech industry over the last twenty years or so, largely through manufacturing and heavy-duty industrial technology. Now it’s starting to establish itself as the next hot location for new startups, too.

Sure, Guadalajara might be less developed than the other cities on this list when it comes to its infrastructure and the overall scene. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – after all, it means there’s plenty of space for newbies to come along and to make their mark on the scene.

5. Singapore

Singapore is often called the gateway to Asia, and that’s just one of the many reasons why it’s a popular place for startups of all shapes and sizes who are looking to crack the lucrative emerging market. It’s also a cultural melting pot, which means that it’s a great place to pick up new ideas and new ways of thinking.

The downside is that it’s surprisingly expensive to live and do business in Singapore, and there are specific cultural quirks to learn if you want to fit in. Still, it’s a popular destination for financial startups and high-tech innovators in particular.

Conclusion

As you’ve probably seen from the diverse list of locations on this list, there’s a lot of choice for wannabe entrepreneurs and a lot of pressure on them to make the right decision when it comes to deciding where to base their business.

The good news is that different countries and different cities come with their own subtle nuances, which means that there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the question of where’s best. All of a sudden, founders have a choice – and that means they can weigh up the pros and cons for different cities and figure out what works best.

The location that you choose has a profound effect on everything from company culture to your overall reputation in the industry and the networking events you’ll have available to you. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, and it often makes sense to spend some time in a few locations, scouting around and getting a feel for the different startup scenes. When you find your new home, you’ll know it. Good luck.

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