The 50 Best Startup Cities in 2021 - [free ebook]

A startup is more than a business. Each unique startup brings innovation to industry and into the cities around the world. There are many ingredients that contribute to a healthy entrepreneurial startup ecosystem. But what makes a startup city attractive to entrepreneurs?

The ingredients of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem

Image A (1)The digital technology sector is exploding on a global scale, surpassing most business segments over the past two decades. This development is steady and continuous with the digital industry becoming an increasingly important growth sector for startups.

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In order to understand what makes startup revolutions possible, people focus on numbers, but they should also focus on the quality of life and unique specifics that each city can bring to a startup. Below we take a peek behind the scenes. We’ll search in depth to understand what makes each startup ecosystem so special.

 

The rise of the entrepreneurial countries around the world


The best startups in the world are spread across many cities, and the reasons for this are complex and multi-dimensional. As business dynamics represent a constant flux, the ratings below are approximated instead of fixed. Every city has the right to become a part of the global startup revolution and reap the benefits of job creation, innovation, and economic growth.

[Related article - 25 Up-and-Coming Startup Cities to Watch]

Below Valuer explains the vibrancy of the startup cities mentioned, what can be done to sustain the uniqueness of the existing ecosystem, and what makes them the best cities for entrepreneurs. 

This list is compiled from data collected from the Valuer platform in order to find cities with a high number of startups per capita. In addition to these new insights, we have used our previous startup city list from 2019 as a reference, while introducing new cities and rankings for 2021. If you are curious as to see what the 50 best startup cities in 2019 were, our ebook on the matter is free for download.

 

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50. Bengaluru, INdia

bengaluru at nightFormerly known as Bangalore, Bengaluru is considered one of India's most progressive and developed cities. The city is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of India due to the large number of information technology companies located in the city.

With an economic growth of 10.3% and being the second fastest-growing major metropolis in India, it will be no surprise you'll be seeing this city make it's way to the top in the near future. Government initiatives have helped made this possible. The city has incredibly affordable housing solutions and have grown into a dynamic city that is growing at a phenomenal pace.

Startups: Zoomcar, FreshMenu, OYO

Accelerators/Incubators: GINSERV, IIIT, Khosla Labs

49. hangzhou, China

hangzhou skyline from water at duskHangzhou is the capital of the Zhejiang province and its most populated city. It is also home to the ecommerce giant Alibaba. Becoming one of China’s international ecommerce cities has seen Hangzhou develop into a high-tech hub for startups.

The city's GDP growth rate was just under 4% in 2020 generating around 245 billion USD. The tech startup industry in Hangzhou benefits from governmental policies granting tax breaks to tech firms, housing subsidies, and support events to generate foreign investment.

Startups: Beidian, Tongdun, dtdream

Co-working spaces: Alibaba Innovation Center, Fenghui Consulting, Liangcang Accelerator

48. shenzhen, china

shenzhen, china and skyscrapers

Shenzhen has been referred to as the "Silicon Valley of Hardware", due to the sheer number of factories and resellers. However, the city itself has seen a massive transformation over the last 30 years. Now the city is a major center of innovative startups in China, with infrastructure and incentives put in place to support the startup ecosystem in Shenzhen.

The Chinese government in 2010 opened the city's special economic zones to encompass the entire city, allowing for the growth we have seen over the last decade and making the city a hub for hardware-based startups globally.

Startups: OnePlus, DJI, Orbbec

Incubators/Accelerators: ParticleX, Innohub, SOSV

47. Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon, portugal with a view over the harbor

Supported by the local government, Lisbon has become a heaven for startups, with accelerators and incubators scattered over the city. It is in part helped by Web Summit moving to Lisbon, which was previously held in Dublin, and by creating a national network of tech hubs and new companies in Lisbon through the StartUP Voucher initiative that gives more than 400 entrepreneurs a one-year fellowship to pursue their ventures.

Today Lisbon scores high on access to talent, affordable housing, and adequate public transportation. Should we mention the gorgeous weather?

Startups: Unbabel, Triller, Muzzley, Aptoide

Incubators/Coworking spaces: Startup Lisboa, Building Global Innovations, INOVISA, Beta-i

46. Santiago, CHile

overview shot of santiago, chile with mountains in background

The Santiago startup environment is accepting of failure, and they have adopted this attitude as a way to learn and grow. The Chilean ecosystem has been dubbed “Chilecon Valley”, but don’t be fooled by the name. It’s estimated that around 90% of the startups are housed in the country capital, Santiago. What made them so successful?

The wealth primarily comes from the copper and mineral mines. But they are making a name for themselves in the technology sector. Thanks to the adoption of the modern values of collaboration, they are booming. Equity free funding, cheap accommodation, and free coworking spaces are just some of the traits that have made this place so attractive for startups.

Startups: Junar, GoPlaceIt, ChileTrabajos

Co-working spaces: Start-Up Chile, Santiago Makerspace Spa, LAUNCH coworking

45. Antwerp, Belgium

top down view of antwerp, belgium

Antwerp sits in the heart of Western Europe and over recent years has seen growth in the startup ecosystem through various industries including health, smart cities, energy, and cleantech. Besides its diverse mix of culture and language, Belgium is also revisiting and re-working some of its tax laws to incentivize business with a tax shelter for SMEs of up to 30%.

Other than tax incentives, Antwerp has invested in concrete incubators and accelerators to support the startup community in the city and is introducing an initiative called the “city of things” as a real-life lab where companies and startups can test out innovative ideas for creating a smarter city.

In total, Antwerp is becoming an innovative and exciting place for startups, especially within tech and smart city applications.

Startups: Centrica, Cashforce, Unifly, FundRequest

Co-working spaces: Start It @KBC, Think with people, imec.istart

44. Beijing, China

cityscape of Beijing

The new Silicon Valley in the next 10 years? Here new businesses accomplish gigantic scale rapidly, in light of the fact that the residential market is around 22 million. That is almost four times the population of Denmark.

Yet, an expansive market alone does not imply that a place will turn into a startup hub. It is the mix of market size, combined with extreme consumer-adoption speed of all new services plus the entrepreneurial mindset and hunger for startups to scale. Here, founders use talent from the two best Chinese colleges — Tsinghua and Peking.

They are also considered as the largest entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world. Technologically, the city is advanced and the country is the leader in Ai. Beijing alone made up for 36 percent of venture funding in China.

Startups: Ao Graph, AirVisual, ABC Fintech

Incubator/Accelerator/Co-working: TusStar, TechCode, Garage Cafe

43. Lyon, France

Lyon from a bridge

With over 357 startups, the startup ecosystem in Lyon is starting to emerge. It has become a popular destination for seed stage startups finding their feet with bustling research centers, incubators, and accelerators.

And while the salaries are lower, so is the cost of living. Entrepreneurs are beginning to enjoy the less hectic environment of Lyon compared to Paris. It is considered as one of the top cities for innovation in Europe and brings business in life sciences, cleantech, digital and smart cities.

Not only does the city boast an incredible transportation infrastructure, but the digital infrastructure is also enviable. The city also has opportunities for mentorship, managerial assistance, and great educational institutes, around 40 to be exact.

Startups: Enyo pharma, geolid

Co-working spaces: Ecoworking, La Cordée Coworking Lyon

42. Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

Coming in at number 42 on our list is Moscow. Russia has a massive economy and is ranked as the ninth most populous country on the planet. Of course, there are clear drawbacks of business in Russia that are always revolving around the political climate.

However, there have been efforts made in recent years to make Moscow increasingly inviting to startups, such as increasing co-working spaces and a national tax rate that is lower than the U.S., making Moscow ever more attractive to startups going forward and the reason why there are over 1900 startups in the city currently.

Startups: Fura, VisionLabs, YouDo

Incubators: Global Venture Alliance, IIDF, Waves Labs

41. cape town, south africa

downtown cape town, south africa

Cape Town aims to be Africa’s technology hub with Silicon Cape continuing 'to promote and grow Cape Town’s tech startup community' and to represent the idea of startups in South Africa and the community. The biggest obstacle to the startup ecosystem today is mostly regulatory, such as Exchange Control regulations that affect investment and venture capital.

Cape Town offers a number of co-working spaces such as a Wi-Fi lounge on top of Table Mountain where entrepreneurs meet and work on Tuesday's for free. Cape Town’s unparalleled diversity, infrastructure‚ world-class universities, and vibrant environment have given the region a competitive edge to reach beyond other startup ecosystems on the continent.

This makes it one of the best examples of businesses choosing vibrant locations for their headquarters.

Startups: Kuba, WeFix, Luno

Co-working spaces: Mest, Workshop 17

40. Seoul, south korea

seoul from a rooftop

South Koreas startup scene is solid and it is continuing to develop. More than half a billion dollars a year goes towards subsidizing startups. FinTech and IoT are key research and development territories for Korea, and it is becoming a tech hub for entrepreneurs.

Especially relevant is the increasing number of young Koreans who are starting to become interested in startups. But there are issues. The startup culture is still not developed as industry high-ranking jobs are associated with honor, rather than starting your own business. And large corporates are not fully embracing mergers and acquisitions with startups.

Startups: ProtoPie, Lunit, Carry Protocol

Incubators/Co-working spaces: Seoul Space, WYATT SPACE, WeWork Samseong Station

39. Milan, Italy

picture of shops on a river in milan, italy

It is a city of abundance, with beautiful rolling hills in the distance, fashionistas, and finance giants roaming the streets. But there still remain barriers stopping this wonderful city from topping the list. Young entrepreneurs are finding it increasingly difficult to grow their ventures.

How can Italy improve its startup scene? Easy. First of all, learn from Israel – create a more open and sharing community, focus on building success stories so entrepreneurs and investors recognize their economic potential. Furthermore, analyze data on unicorns – understand the reasons behind their success, create hubs, co-working spaces, and entrepreneurial media.

Ever caught yourself wondering why do incubator facilities remain very popular with start-up businesses and entrepreneurs? Look no further than Milan with its innumerous incubators and accelerators to accommodate startups. 

Startups: Iconium, Pelty, Yolo

Co-working spaces: Impact Hub, PoliHub

38. Hong Kong, China

hong kong skyline

While it's been rated as the most expensive city in the world for expats, it's also become a booming hub for startups. 'Recent funding rounds demonstrate that HK is able to produce scaleups i.e. SenseTime raising $637 million in rounds B and C and LalaMove raising $100 million in series C.'

Hong Kong also has an excess of over 200 Fintech companies, according to Hong Kong Cyberport. Then there's Launchpad (SULP), Asia's largest hardware trade fair with over 2000 participants. It is a base for strong partnerships and network building among startups and other industry players.

Startups list: startupr, pickupp, easyship

Co-working spaces: WYND CO-WORKING SPACE, the Hive, playground.work

37. brussels, belgium

brussels from a city square

Belgium is home to a dynamic and quickly developing startup scene. The capital city Brussels houses not just the EU Parliament, EU Commission, and NATO, it's a booming hub for entrepreneurs.

It’s the center of European politics and for European businesses, this provides an excellent opportunity, especially for startups. It’s proximity to entrepreneurial hubs in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the UK also make Brussels a favorable location for entrepreneurs.

R&D incentives are common in the capital, but for many, the average cost of living is simply too high. But this doesn’t stop tech entrepreneurs from sharing accommodation. With initiatives like Startupweekend, Health TechFintech Hackathons, and IoT seminars, Brussels has become an active player on the global startup scene.

Startups: Citizenlab, eFounders, Medicheck

Incubators/Co-working spaces: eebic, Sirris, Co.station

36. budapest, hungary

budapest, hungary river photo

This beautiful city with an intriguing history is a major startup hub. It is a top city for tech startups in Europe, especially due to its strategic location on the river Danube which is a major trade route for Europe, and the wide range of educational institutes.

The government has recognized its rising popularity with young companies, introducing a monitoring program, and funding local incubators and startups. But the success of these programmes are debated as entrepreneurs have abused the funding and instead created incubators close to the capital, but work outside of the city.

Budapest has appeal, but the problems are apparent and with a lack of proper mentorship, entrepreneurs are left to figure out the startup landscape for themselves. But the capital is still flowing with investment from the government. Some entrepreneurs are quite wary of this and instead search for private funding.

Startups: Antovo, AIMotive

Incubators/Co-working spaces: Impact Hub Budapest, Digital Factory

35. cologne, germany

view of the church in cologne from a bridge

Cologne has an advantage in the startup scene in comparison to Berlin. It is not as stressful and overpopulated as Germany's capital. Many giant corporations find a home here, like Deutsche Telekom, Electronic Arts, and Deutsche Post.

The city has a history of heavy investments in media and tech. In terms of trying to attract global investments, the city can follow Berlin's example and make an effort to enable networks among entrepreneurs, as well as connections among investors and founders.

Local startups: flowtifyenvelio

Co-working spaces: CoWork-Lab, STARTPLATZ, Ehrenspace

34. washington d.c., usa

washington dc capital

The Washington D.C metro area boasts well for startups in 2021. It is one of the most tech-diverse cities in the USA and it is no wonder when you consider the location and incentives of setting up shop in D.C.

D.C. sits at the heart of the U.S. government and intelligence communities, which is probably why the city boasts a large concentration of federally funded R&D projects. Washington D.C. also boasts a rich VC environment, as in 2020 VC’s invested just under 2 billion USD into startups within the metropolitan area. If you couple that with favorable tax incentives, it’s no wonder why so many startups call D.C. home.

Startups: Optoro, Mapbox, Virtru

Incubators/Co-working spaces: Halcyon, Global Development Incubator, Fortify Ventures

33. bucharest, romania

bucharest arial view

The local startup ecosystem is stable and growing, cementing Bucharest's place as one of the top tech hubs of the world.

Key industries in the area are ecommerce, Cyber Security, Hardware, Games, and Social Media Marketing. In addition, the most successful startups are within SAAS, Fintech, Healthcare, Aggrotech, Consumer Apps, Big Data, HR Management, VR and AI.

There's a lot riding on the opening of additional hubs and accelerators. With so many talented specialists available in one region, Bucharest is ready for a surge in startup funding.

Startups: Froala, UiPath, Creative Tim

Co-working spaces: TechAccelerator, Carbon

32. madrid, spain

arial view of madrid, spain

During the last few years, the Spanish startup ecosystem demonstrated that it can hold its own on an international stage. But is “fine” good enough? Although the bonding between founder and investor is starting to pay off, the process is slower than it should be.

Why? A few unique elements hurt the local business ecosystem. Local young talents shrink in the face of fear and have no confidence in the powerful force controlling their professional destiny. Individual success in Madrid is confronted with mistrust and suspicion, instead of being supported, respected and celebrated.

As a result, when local entrepreneurs engage in startups they focus on risk minimization instead of innovation. This mindset prevents them from executing ideas on a larger scale and scope.

Startups: billin, tewer, nyuron

Co-working spaces: FLAG COWORKING, Spaces, Utopicus Colegiata

31. warsaw, poland

warsaw skyline at night

Poland is becoming a hotbed for great tech startups. Warsaw can be proud of its large startup community, but it is not united. The local startup ecosystem offers a ton of Eastern European development talent. Local people are open and helpful, and the diversity in this city will leave you breathless.

From architecture to people there is something for everyone. Shops working 24/7. Good public transport. Cheap cost of living. Competition for talent. Polish law and local taxes could pose a problem for entrepreneurs along with the local currency.

Startups: Minebest, Telemedi.co

Incubators/Co-working spaces: AIP Warsaw, Twój Startup, Mindspace

30. Melbourne, australia

melbourne from a bridge

To say that Melbourne is startup-friendly is an understatement. According to Medium, the city has seen a massive increase in incubators and accelerators, with a 900% growth in available coworking spaces.

This has resulted in one accelerator for every 41 tech-based startup and 15 coworking spaces for every 100 tech startups. Melbourne has long been viewed as a tech startup hub in Australia and has consistently been in the top livable cities in the world list for a couple of years, all of which make this city a great option for startups.

Startups: Waddle, CanYa

Incubators: YBF Ventures, Mktplace Ventures, Hatch Quarter

29. Prague, czech republic

picture of prague rooftops

Prague is an extraordinary place for entrepreneurs and investors. It is mainly due to modest living costs and low wages, making it less demanding to start a business. Prague also offers the best transportation system on the continent.

The city is beautiful, rich in culture, and safe. Plus, most people speak English. The education system is great, providing a plethora of talented individuals. Its popularity among travelers has added to its vibrant and diverse expat community, bringing valuable ideas and global experience.

Startups: Supernova, Budgetbaker, Angee

Accelerators/Co-working spaces: Locus Workspace, CoWorking Prague, Impact Hub Prague

28. Vienna, Austria

vienna skyline at dusk

They have consistently been labeled as the city with the best quality of life, and they are gaining the interest of “early-stage investment capital”. With Vienna winning the most liveable city under the Mercer quality of life survey, it is little wonder why 30.8% of the cities population are foreign nationals.

The door to a wide marketplace of ideas and innovation will open as more and more entrepreneurial-minded expats decide to call the city their home, making Vienna the beneficial winner of brain drain.

Startups list: Byrd, JobRocker, Zommsquare

Co-working spaces: Impact Hub Vienna, Frequentis, A1 Startup Campus

27. Paris, France

picture of arch de triumph

Startups and innovation have gradually become an important segment of France's business culture. With excellent venture capital networks, financing options on the rise, plenty of incubators, co-working spaces and improving regulations, they have a lot to offer.

Startups and innovation have gradually become an important segment of France's business culture. With excellent venture capital networks, financing options on the rise, plenty of incubators, co-working spaces, and improving regulations, they have a lot to offer.

Something to look forward to for startups in Paris is that the French taxation rate for businesses will drop from 33% to 25% by 2022, further incentivising why you should set up shop in Paris.

Local startups: Qonto, Feed, Alan

Co-working spaces: Ventech, AGORANOV, PARTECH SHAKER, Station F

26. barcelona, spain

view from park in barcelonaAccepting and facing challenges is a part of any startup ecosystem. In Barcelona, founders and investors are trying to play it safe and miss out on opportunities. Still, the startup economy here is strong.

It employs almost 12,000 people within industry sectors like IT, Mobile Software and Services, ecommerce, Big Data, and Tourism.

In conclusion, with investment in startups hitting over $700 million in 2017, Barcelona takes its fair place on this list.

Startups: CornerJob, wesmartPark, Coverfy

Incubators: Betahaus, MOB, Talent Garden Barcelona S.L

25. frankfurt, germany

Frankfurt skyline

Although Berlin is the unarguable center of the German startup ecosystem, there is another underdog looking to climb the ranks of the German startup ecosystem and that city is Frankfurt.

It is a training ground for entrepreneurs with its vast number of corporate headquarters in the finance industry. Still, when it comes to the number of local Venture Capitals, Angels, and Investors, startups in Frankfurt are facing difficult times while trying to find funding.

Even so, here entrepreneurs can find excellent conditions. And it is home to a growing number of expats, making it a friendly place for internationals. You’ll also find a number of prestigious universities, like the University of Mainz.

Startups: Clark, covomo, Flixihub

Co-working spaces/Incubators: Unibator, CoWo21, BEEHIVE

24. Chicago, USA

downtown chicago

What makes Chicago so unique is that it is one of the most diversified economies in the world. The diverse nature of the cities industries has allowed startups to sell across sectors, which is one reason why the startup landscape in Chicago has flourished.

It is the midwest hub of the United States and has more fortune 500 companies in the area than anywhere else in the country. This poses a great spot for startups and corporations alike looking to innovate through collaboration and for startups looking for acceleration. Making Chicago one of the best cities for entrepreneurs.  

Startups: Tempus, VillageMD, Uptake

Co-working spaces: TechNexus, 1871, mHUB

23. Atlanta, USA

arial view of atlanta at night

Atlanta's affordability and access to resources is what makes the city grab the number 25 spot on our list. Access to VC funding is in no shortage as in 2019 VC investments in Atlanta-based startups reached 1.8 billion USD.

Quite simply, your dollar goes further in Atlanta then compared to other major U.S. cities. This is also helped along by favorable tax breaks startups receive in the state of Georgia, such as the Angel investor tax credit, which grants investors a 35% tax credit incentive to invest in companies.

However, the increased competition rising in Atlanta's startup hub could make it harder for new startups to take advantage of the favorable entrepreneurial landscape the city has produced.

Startups: Greenlight Finacial Technology, Popmenu, Bakkt

Co-working spaces: ATDC, Atlanta Tech Village, Atlanta Ventures Studios

22. sydney, australia 

picture of sydney, australia from the bay

Australia is a vibrant country with exciting energy, and the local startup scene is booming. Australia’s economy is strong. It’s the world’s 13th-largest economy with the ninth-highest income.

The job market is solid, salaries are high, and the minimum wage is higher on average comapred to most countries. Amazingly, the country hasn’t had an economic recession in more than 27 years.

Sydney is the largest of the Australian startup hubs with 35% of the nation's startups, followed by Melbourne. The area is filled with incubators and accelerators with one spreading 11 floors and 16,722 square meters. Best of all, it's right in the heart of the city.

Startups: Hivery, Veromo, SproutStack

Co-working spaces: Coworking Space Sydney, Fishburners Sydney Coworking Space, Work Club Sydney

21. copenhagen, denmark

nyhavn in winter. copenhagen, denmark

The Danish ecosystem is incredibly interconnected and if you are a startup in the city, there is no doubt that you’ll be on a first name basis with most of the founders in your area. Businesses in Copenhagen are receiving fewer investments from business angels.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. The investments are getting bigger! There is government support available to newly formed businesses too. The “Danish Startup Fund” uses government funds to loan, fund, and give VC financing to startups. Workers receive high salaries too.

But there are some changes that need to take place for the city to dominate. There’s limited access to early-stage funding, and it’s difficult for foreign talents to thrive professionally in Denmark.

Startups: Valuer, SOUNDBOKS, OrderYoyo, Peakon

Co-working spaces: Thinkubator, Go Grow, Accelerace

20. tel aviv, isreal

tel aviv coast line

Tel Aviv is the business capital of Israel and it is considered one of the top entrepreneurial destination for innovation. Many US-based companies have moved their research offices to Tel Aviv because of their notorious pool of talent and renowned startups in technology.

As far as cultural differences go, Israeli businessmen and women are fierce negotiators and taking risks is part of their culture. It is both highly appreciated and encouraged, especially within the startup environment.

The city is a unique mixture of highly advanced startup ecosystems with the Mediterranean culture on the side. Everybody speaks perfect English and many world-famous venture capitalists are located here.

Startups: Fabric, LawGeek, Lemonade

Incubators/Co-working spaces/Accelerators: 500 Startups, 8200 EISP, By The People

19. los angeles, usa

Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles is its own startup beast with over 10,000 startup businesses, according to the Valuer platform. Venture capital is readily available, businesses have a lot of freedom, and the education is exceptional, but also incredibly expensive.

There is no doubt that this city is a popular destination for startups and job seekers. If you are a Software Engineer, you would be enticed by the average salary over 97,000 USD. 

A massive drawback is Los Angeles's sprawling city scape and transport congestion. However, this hasn't stopped the overwhelming masses of exciting startups flooding the startup scene in LA.

Startups: Inspire, TaskUs, Clutter

Incubators: Opodz, Blank Spaces, Bixhaus

18. Munich, germany

arial view of munich

Entrepreneurs have access to resources for every developmental stage and a community supported network system. The city offers accelerators, training, builder labs, feedback, and inspirational events.

Munich hosts startups related media channels, workspaces, pitching, and demonstration events. The launch of the online platform munich-startup.de, brought all actors and activities in the Munich startup community together in a single virtual space.

The Munich Technology Center (MTZ) provides premises for technology start-ups, as does Werk 1 in the east-end Werksviertel district. Munich is experiencing constant growth. With its current population of 1.5 million, the city is expected to reach 1.8 million by 2030.

Increasing urbanization is changing people's lives and confronting cities with a series of major challenges like networking, mobility, renewable energy, the power supply in general, and the design of public spaces. As a result, investor networks, business angels, venture capitalists, and infrastructure are blooming.

Startups: EGym, Userlane

Incubators: Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship, Munich Technology Center, Werk1

17. singapore, singapore

singapore from the water at night

Singapore has a lot to offer, from modern infrastructure and an educated workforce to strategic proximity to many emerging and developed markets. It is also one of the most innovative cities in the world.

Remember the recent competition between Singapore and Hong Kong? Singapore won by earning recognition among investors as the best place for expanding or starting a new business in Asia. The two are former British colonies, with well-structured governments, free-port trade to foreign investors.

The two have a city megapolis and reach between 5-8 million citizens. Both expanded after World War II, surpassing even Japan’s GDP per capita.

Today Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world and has become a startup hub for entrepreneurs, tech companies, and investors. 

Startups: Active.Ai, Liquid, OSOME

Incubators/Co-working spaces: AccelerAsia Pte. Ltd., Clearbridge Accelerator, SG Fintech Bay

16. toronto, canada

toronto skylineToronto is building on its strengths. First of all, it offers a healthy and diverse society for multiple collaborative initiatives, and programs that support startups' ability to commercialize, as well as a fantastic network.

Furthermore, smaller and medium-sized enterprises have been recognized as the building blocks of the Canadian economy. In addition, Toronto's Economic Growth Division supports entrepreneurial efforts with multiple innovation infrastructure programmes. It has Business Incubators, Hubs, Accelerators, and Shared Working Spaces.

Startups: SoapBox, Top Hat, Rumie

Incubators/Accelerators: TheNext36, Creative Destruction, ideaBOOST

15. boston, usa

arial view of boston

It has been an intense decade for entrepreneurs in the area. It is odd considering that Boston is home to MIT, Harvard, and other prominent colleges, and have a long history of software engineering and innovation development.

Most of the startups in Boston are, in some way or another, tied to those institutions. This can be a blessing or a curse for many founders and investors in the area. Consequently, the Boston startup ecosystem is trying to make a comeback but they have to overcome their key weakness – the absence of shared driving power.

They are different from Silicon Valley in regards to socializing and building networks along with focusing on communication and building trust. These differences change the macro dynamics within numerous organizations.

Startups: Veo Robotics, Alyce, PathAI

Incubators/Accelerators: MassChallenge, Techstars, TiE ScaleUp

14. seattle, usa

downtown seattle with mt. saint helens in the background

Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boeing are among the many former startups who have found a home in Seattle. The culture here is “what are you working on and how can I help”.

And they level it up and appreciate people who are eager to contribute to their startups and the ecosystem as a whole. Seattle is a city rich with talent and that sustains a leading startup ecosystem.

Startups: Skilljar, Glowforge, Gigamon

Accelerators: ATLAS Workbase, CoMotion Labs, SURF Incubator

13. New york, usa

new york at dusk with view by the brooklyn bridge

New York is home to many of the best startups in the world, housing many unicorns (Vice Media, Buzzfeed), and startups that have exited the market. This, in part, is attributed to the ever increasing and present VC investments.

It is both a cultural, financial and media hub making it an all-around gem for businesses no matter the size or maturity. This also means that the city attracts talent from across the globe. And best of all, startups and corporations collaborate with one another.

It is an ecosystem that is worlds apart from Silicon Valley. But one major downfall is the extraordinarily expensive housing market making it less than affordable for young entrepreneurs.

Startups: General Assembly, Leaflink, Easyship

Accelerators/Incubators: The Farm SoHo, Workville, Croissant Coworking

12. berlin, germany

berlin skyline at nightCoupled with a vibrant cultural scene, dynamic economic development, and a maturing technology ecosystem, Berlin is one of the top startup cities in the world.

Living costs and rental prices for offices are quite affordable, and the atmosphere is ideal for people with an entrepreneurial spirit. If you start a business in Berlin, there is a good likelihood of gaining support from investors.

The public sector also offers additional initiatives to entrepreneurs and businesses in an effort to foster economic growth and employment. Furthermore, you don’t need a local passport or some fancy diploma to live here - Berlin welcomes talent from everywhere.

A startup hub for entrepreneurs, tech companies, and investors.

Startups: chatterbug, N26, Coya

Accelerators/Incubators: Project A Ventures, Hubraum, Betahaus

11. amsterdam, the netherlands

view of houses in amsterdam from the canal

If we compare the local startup scene to other leading startup cities, Amsterdam has the highest average net salary, the fastest mobile internet speeds, and the highest standard of living.

Other factors like the cost of rent, beer, and a cup of coffee, Amsterdam appears around the middle among other startup EU cities, with London and Dublin coming out as the most expensive.

According to I Amsterdam, the Dutch capital has it all: high-tech, scientific R&D, and an innovative mindset which naturally lead to a vivid startup ecosystem

Add to that the Netherlands remarkable ability to front run early adoption of tech and you have the perfect environment.

Startups: SkinVision, Picnic, Bux

Incubator/Accelerators: 15KM, Amsterdam Innovation Arena, ACE

10. vancouver, canada

vancouver from the waterVancouver is the third largest city in Canada and is often called the ‘Canadian Seattle’. This is for good reason as almost 3000 startups per year flourish here thanks to unlimited access to world-class talent pools.

Slack, Hootsuite, and Unbounce are a few names that you might recognise. They have a solid entrepreneurial culture, a reasonable rental market, and a global network of clients. The drawback for startups in Vancouver however, is its access to abundant VC funds, like you would see with its neighbor to the south, Silicon Valley.

The startup ecosystem in Vancouver benefits from its sixteen leading universities in the area, generous grants from the government, and a startup-friendly tax system.

Startups: Spare Labs, Procurify, Progressa

Accelerators: Spring Vancouver, Victory Square, Futurpreneur

9. oslo, norway

oslo architecture

Oslo’s fast development is no coincidence and it didn’t happen overnight. It is the fastest growing Nordic country in terms of investment, and Oslo is leading the way.

It is one of the best places for startups. The startup revolution was recognized by the local government and is heavily supported, especially during the last few years, through collaboration and cooperation.

The government has created an entrepreneurial haven with early-stage financing, education, and technical support.

Startups: Yearbase, Capassa, Knosus

Incubators/Accelerators: Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator A/S, Oslo International Hub, Antler

8. Dublin, ireland

walkway in dublin

Dublin is fast becoming a tech startup must with its low corporate tax rates and central location. It's become home to many large American corporations headquarters and popular startup businesses.

With a strong and growing startup sector, Dublin can offer hubs, accelerators, and incubators along with generous funding and seed capital.

Government support through the Enterprise Ireland Agency has has helped prop up the startup ecosystem in Dublin and a reason why the city has a strong technology industry. 

Startups: Genomics Medicine Ireland, Jobbio, Pointy

Accelerators: ARC Labs Waterford, Dogpatch Labs, Ignite Programme

7. Istanbul, turkey

istanbul from the water

Istanbul has a very unique location. Nestled in between the European and the Asian continent, the Turkish capital is an attractive location for starting a business. If you’re strapped for cash like the majority of entrepreneurs then you will find very reasonable and affordable housing.

The city draws talent from around the globe as foreign entrepreneurs are able to start their own private company. They also have favorable FDI laws meaning that foreign investors have the same investment rights as local investors.

Startups: Kolay Randevu, Iyzico, Spirohome

Accelerators: Beyond Ofis, Impact Hub Istanbul, Workinton

6. stockholm, sweden

photo of stockholm from the water

Stockholm is often called a unicorn factory. Even with its relatively tiny population of 1.65 million citizens, Stockholm has been recognized on a global level to be among the strongest startup ecosystems today. It is also known for producing whopping success stories such as Spotify, Skype, King, Mojang/Minecraft, and Klarna, just to name a few.

The startup ecosystem in Stockholm is spurred on by the government's investment in innovation and implementing a low corporate tax infrastructure within the country. This is in part why Sweden also has the second-largest concentration of billion-dollar companies per capita, behind Silicon Valley.

As such, Stockholm shows how a tiny domestic market can shape global mindsets, building unique business models, and engaging with entrepreneurs across the globe.

Startups: Karma, Hedvig, Kry

Incubators/Accelerators: STING, SU Inkubator

5. Helsinki, finlandhelsinki from the water

Helsinki’s startup ecosystem has it all: talented entrepreneurs, investors, hubs, accelerators, and key influencers, and there are lots of startups receiving early-stage funding. They offer strong government support to newly formed business.

The “Finnish Startup Permit” (formed in April 2018) is one such initiative that gives high potential entrepreneurs the opportunity to build a startup and integrate into the local ecosystem. With companies like Nokia, Rovio, Supercell, Clash of Clans, Linux – Helsinki has a rich entrepreneurial legacy.

And as a result of the Finnish smart city development, multiple new city exits were built, a tactic that benefited the business environment. Yet, the greatest feature is its global connectedness and its significant and meaningful relationships between entrepreneurs in different ecosystems.

Startups: Enevo, Sulapac, Oura

Accelerators/Incubators: NewCo Helsinki Accelerator, Gorilla Ventures, XEdu

4. tallinn, estonia

view of tallinn, estonia

It is little wonder why Tallinn is referred to as a startup paradise. What Tallinn offers is the digitalization of almost everything, as you can open a bank account in Estonia without going to the bank, or for that matter, even be in the country.

Its tax system is also entrepreneurial friendly, having competitive rates at 21% with no double taxation on dividend income. This is coupled with an affordable cost of living and ranks above average in education, social connections, environmental quality, and work-life balance according to the OECD index.

There is even free public transportation and public wifi in the country. As Tallinn is on the smaller side of the European capital cities it ranks high in per capita ratio of startups to population, making it little wonder why it ranks at number four on our list.

Startups: Bolt, Paxful, Veriff, Starship Technologies

Accelerators/Incubators: Tallinn Creative Incubator, Startup Wiseguys Tallinn, EIT-Cimate-KIC

3. austin, usa

view of downtown austin from a bridge

The capital of Texas was named the #1 place in America to start a business by CNBC, the top city for “small-business vitality”, and the top city for launching a technology startup by Sungard Availability Services.

Locals are altruistic and often make time to help entrepreneurs and the city is continuing to build self-supporting networks with over 10 startup incubators, accelerators, and hubs.

There are also special services provided for seed stage companies. Furthermore, Austin scores higher than Silicon Valley in terms of the cost of doing business, a better microenvironment for startups’ success, excellent quality of life and safety, as well as a diverse and skilled labor force. In addition, people here are extremely hospitable. You will fit in no time and why some of the hottest startups are popping up in Austin.

Startups: Diligent Robotics, Threatcare, StoryFit

Accelerators: SKU, TechRanch Austin, Austin Technology Incubator

2. london, The united kingdom

picture of big ben and westminster abby

London isn’t just famous for its royal family, they have a booming startup scene too. They are excelling in the technology sector and are considered the world’s leading financial center, as they are Europe’s technology capital.

What makes London stand out is its access to funding with an average seed round 150k USD higher than the global average and in 2020 attracted 10.5 billion USD in funding.

What also makes London one of the best startup cities is that it offers a startup visa program to entice entrepreneurial expats into the city, creating a larger talent pool. London also has some of the highest numbers of co-working spaces globally. 

This leaves little to the imagination as to why so many startups call London home.

Startups: Trouva, Talentful, Syft

Accelerators/Incubators: Hatch Enterprise, JLab, SeedCamp

1. san francisco, usa

the golden gate bridge

There is little surprise that San Francisco makes it to the number one spot on our list. Yes, the overall cost of living has increased over the past years in the bay area, but there is a reason why the San Francisco metropolitan area has the highest amount of per capita startups on our list of the best startup cities. 

With 600 unicorns globally, over 170 out of the San Francisco Bay Area. The abundance of VC capital and top VC firms in the area would make anyone looking to own a startup consider the city as a potential home. Out of 123 billion USD that VC firms invested in 2020, 46 billion of that was invested in the startup ecosystem in the San Francisco area. 

Home to some of the biggest fortune 500 companies and offering the highest paid salaries for jobs in tech, in total, makes San Francisco the best city for startups in 2021. 

Startups: Rentberry, Apptimize, Anchor

Incubators: Founders Space, Matter, AngelPad

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startups and innovation

Startups are innovation and job machines. The pioneers of this movement are numerous business visionaries. They don't consider a 9 to 5 in a conventional organization as a feasible option. They tend to produce generous incomes for those who have invested time, talent and trust in them.

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