Silicon Valley has long been known as the mecca for the start-up techs revolution. But with the vast size of tech start-ups in the big, big world we live in, several other flagships are emerging from the almighty U.S. West Coast’s shadow. Just as lively, just as bold, and surely just as vitally momentous as Silicon Valley, four hubs for tech start-ups are now pinned to our world atlas brighter than ever before. In New York, Berlin, London, and Tel Aviv, we find four cities that serve as frontrunners evening the odds to the original start-up California hub itself. In addition, we explore three further cities which investors should well start considering.
The frontrunners outside the Valley
New York City boasts a particularly important 2007 start-up in the company Tumblr. Created by a 21-year-old in his mother’s apartment, this social media Picasso of all things post-worthy has been so successful that Yahoo bought it for $1.1 billion in 2013. With other up and coming contenders such as Quirky, EmPowered, Lynxsy, BarkBox, and Kickstarter in the large pool of NYC tech start-ups, New York has the vigor to keep the fire going. But what exactly is the secret formula that has catapulted NYC right up to the very ranks of Silicon Valley? It might be way simpler than you would imagine—diverse social interaction. Technical genius and a logical knack for creativity go hand in hand to breed a great and lasting start-up, but as we are seeing in the tech start-up boom emerging from New York, those two ingredients just aren’t enough. The advantage that NYC has over Silicon Valley is that it’s not in a bubble. NYC engineers are right in the middle of an incredibly diversified city that never sleeps and this in itself makes for tech start-ups that have the potential to really mesh with what the mainstream wants and needs. Add in all the big corporations that call NYC home and you have a recipe for forming tech start-ups that can not only rival, but one day surpass even the brilliance that is Silicon Valley.
There’s no place on Earth that holds the title to biggest cultural melting pot as the great and timeless city of London does. Here, London grips the intellectual advantage of having techies from all over the world as residents. Whether it’s a cab booking service (Hailo), social analytics (Qriously), or financial prowess (MarketInvoice), London offers limitless possibilities when it comes to tech start-ups in any marketplace. But even with all the tools necessary to forge the way for diverse tech start-ups, London is not without its doubts. Tech City is a posh metropolis of start-ups in the east area of London, but its walls aren’t exactly made of steel. Valuations are still low, and entrepreneurs seem all-too honed in on instant financial gratification on start-ups instead of the long term successes. Flaws like these steady the fear that any promising start-ups will just sell out to Silicon Valley instead of adding to London’s Tech City. But even with this concern in mind, London’s tech district has grown almost three times faster than the business sect in the last ten years. These numbers are impossible to ignore and certainly point to a high possibility of London being a serious contender with the likes of New York and Silicon Valley.
Tel-Aviv, Israel is home to some 5,000 tech start-ups, making it second in the hub for tech development right behind Silicon Valley. With more engineers per capita in Tel-Aviv than anywhere else in the world, it’s no wonder that Facebook just bought one of Israel’s biggest start-ups, Onavo, or that Microsoft opened its first start-up accelerator there. Tel-Aviv is a city that never stops or slows down and is constantly churning out new and innovative start-ups across all boards of analytics, science, and research. But, like its other tech start-up contenders, Tel-Aviv has its share of hiccups that keep it just behind Silicon Valley for now. Mainly, this start-up hub may be growing too fast for what it’s capable of handling. Quite frankly, there are plenty of engineers yet not enough skilled tradesmen to become part of the staff of these businesses being started. When a company can’t seem to find quality executives and staffing for these start-up companies in figures under 100, the innovation comes to somewhat of a halt. After all, a business is only so good as those who help to carry out its mission. Until Tel-Aviv can diversify its portfolio, it’s sure to remain in second place.
Berlin’s start-up community (sometimes referred to as “Silicon Alley” owing to the main hub being around Schoenhauser Allee in between Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte) has grown exponentially over the past few years and should have the potential to be the tech hub for all of Europe. Though the number of current tech start-ups in Berlin may be small, each one of them packs a big punch. SoundCloud, 6 Wunderkinder, and Pipe are just a few big-deal Berlin start-ups that truly showcase what the city itself is all about. Providing an ever-evolving atmosphere of music, arts, and nightlife, Berlin paves the way for innovation that is easy to grab onto by the younger tech scene moving into the versatile city. But unlike New York and London, Berlin has a long way to go before catching up with the likes of Silicon Valley. Berlin is slowly coming back from a decades’ long dry spell of no entrepreneurship prosperity, and with that rebirth of success comes its challenges. Immigration into Berlin is still a tough hurdle for non-EU citizen, and this doesn’t make it easy when it comes to having a sufficient amount of multi-lingual speakers for business. Financial investments for tech start-ups are on the rise, but Berlin still falls short. Nevertheless, the German capital has made tremendous inroads into the tech startup scene over the last decade and remains one of the cities to watch in the field.
Three more cities which might surprise you
Not far away at all from Berlin – actually just over an hour by train – is Leipzig, often referred to as “The New Berlin”. Leipzig is much smaller – but, like Berlin, is witnessing a growing population, thanks to numerous, mostly young, newcomers from Germany and abroad. We have written extensively about this fascinating, up-and-coming city, in other blog posts.
Belgrade in Serbia is certainly one of the latest cities to experience a growing startup scene. A lively, buzzing and fascinating city with a long history and rich in culture and nightlife, Belgrade also benefits from a skilled workforce and many young, hard working Serbians keen to study IT, technology or sciences. Like in most of Europe, entrepreneurship is not yet strongly imprinted in the country’s culture, however one of the world’s most recognised incubator programmes, Seedcamp, already hosts events in the Serbian capital.
Leaving Europe and looking at Latin America, Bogota in Colombia is clearly emerging as one of the Continent’s most buzzing tech startup centres. The government has actively promoted innovation, new ventures and funding, which has led to the registration of 1,800 IT and software development companies in Colombia. Not many homegrown companies have reached a significant size yet, however these are early days.