International startups cities

Top 10 cities for international startups

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Sophia Ellis
Jan 23, 2018

What are the top cities for international startups?

Now and particularly in the next few years, developing an international mindset is going to be paramount to the success of companies, no matter what size. The internet has made it so that no matter what you sell, where you sell it, or who your true market market is, you are still an international brand. The world’s eyes are on you.

It’s funny because going “international” used to be a lofty long term goal for larger companies only. Now, even the smallest tech teams can go “international” from the very beginning. There are no barriers to entry to the global market.

With this in mind, essentially anywhere can be homebase for an international company. Silicon Valley isn’t the only home available for tech companies. Berlin, Singapore, and Melbourne are all experiencing mini tech hubs popping up that are attracting top talent. Companies are now free to set up homebase in different, experimental cities. It can be strategic, even, to do so. Differing levels of competition, talent, infrastructure, business legislation, and culture even can be beneficial to a company’s overall strategy. An international team is a huge strategic advantage in itself.

We’d know a bit about this at Hibox. After first setting up shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we opened up a new HQ in Barcelona, Spain for many of the reasons listed above.

From our own experience and that of other similar companies around the world, here are the top 10 cities for international startups (in no particular order):

1. Stockholm, Sweden

With a track record like Spotify and Skype, Stockholm is not doing bad on the international disruptive business scene. Stockholm’s open-minded culture, efficiency, and good business climate created by a supportive and progressive government has set it up to be a perfect city for budding startups and international firms alike. The quality of life and good education system both attract and create a brilliant (and happy) workforce.

2. Zurich, Switzerland. Go explore the international startup landscape there!

Similarly efficient, Zurich boasts some of the best international business schools, making it a perfect place for turning out innovative companies with an international presence. With an extremely multicultural demographic, it’s a great test market for international brands and products as well as for hiring educated, multicultural professionals. I don’t think we even need to mention the Swiss government’s business-friendly attitude.

3. Barcelona, Spain. An incredible environment for international startups!

This isn’t just here because we’re here and love it. Even Business Insider agrees.

international startups
Barcelona is different from also business-friendly Madrid in the fact that it’s more diverse, in a better location, and arguably is just more attractive for both employees and tourists. The government is actually quite supportive of startups and international companies. There are grants available as well as visa programs to import new professionals with companies. Barcelona is also the choice location to some of the largest tech and business conferences in the world. It helps to have them in your backyard.  

4. Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s transformation from communist stronghold to open-minded and efficient business hub has been quite interesting. It’s still making a name for itself on the business and tech map, but it’s not disappointing. The attractive quality of life and world class education attracts a strong talent base while government policies make moving and setting up shop in Germany for companies of any size favorable. Post-Brexit, it’s set to be the default for business HQs and a new startup hub in Europe.

5. Amsterdam, Netherlands

This one makes a lot of lists, but many don’t realize how business-friendly Amsterdam is. Primarily English speaking and with a very international population, Amsterdam is a great place to grow an international team or to gain international experience as a young professional. Amsterdam has some international recognized business and tech programs at it’s universities and the local government is supportive of startups and innovative companies similarly to Barcelona. There is a strong network of tech talent, investors, and multinational companies such as Uber and Tesla here. The quality and ease of life and efficiency make it a really attractive location for foreign professionals. Very few are upset about relocating here.  

6. Melbourne, Australia

A new Silicon Valley of the south pacific, Australia has never had a bad living standard reputation. It’s a dream destination of many worldwide. Melbourne provides the big city feel combined with Australia’s trademark laid back attitude. The living cost and business set up costs are still relatively low. The international universities makes it quite diverse in both market and workforce demographic. The government is supportive of business with plenty of programs to foster growth and international talent immigration.

7. Santiago, Chile

Home to Start-Up Chile, a leading accelerator in Latin America, Santiago is a growing hub for startups outside the US. Chile’s government is known for its enthusiastic support of the startup scene, legally and financially. There are plenty of incubators and accelerators with strong government backing that are churning out interesting startups catching the world’s attention. Successful startups like Fresh Water and Portal Educativo that have a world-helping element to them are making Santiago a hub for social entrepreneurship as well. It’s startups like these and countless others that have given Santiago the nickname “Chilecon Valley”.

8. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Despite being a naturally beautiful and also a diverse and metropolitan city, Buenos Aires has a proven track record of a great place to start up in Latin America. The government is inherently supportive with low costs of doing business and local city grants for startups. Buenos Aires is also on par with most US time zones, meaning business with the US economy is not difficult. Top talent for software development and design make Argentina a rival to India for tech work, yet most companies are arguably easier to work with and more reliable. Numbers aside, the unique lifestyle and low cost of living make all the other factors of work/life a breeze.

9. Paris, France

Paris is close to overtaking London as the startup hub on the other side of the pond. A growing ecosystem is attracting foreign talent from nearby neighboring countries after Brexit’s dramatic business backlash. This last year, France received more VC funding that Germany even, who is always a tech front runner. The government is joining in the push as well by offering French startup visa programs and funding initiatives just for startups. Recent successes like BlaBlaCar have swept Europe in revolutionizing everyday life.

10. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Labeled Latin America’s largest startup ecosystem, Sao Paulo is home to the vast majority of Brazil’s startups. It’s called the most “mature” startup scene in Brazil likely because the city is also home to international headquarters for Uber, Google, and Airbnb. There is money, talent, and support available in this metropolitan city. US companies such as IBM are dumping literally hundreds of millions into Brazilian startup accelerators all concentrated in this city. The connectivity alone is enough to make it a perfect startup hub, incredible weather and lifestyle aside.

So there are our picks for the top cities for international startups! Clearly, Silicon Valley prices aren’t necessary for a successful and impactful international business. Maybe if we ever decide to move from Barcelona, we’ll pick another one of these incredible locations. If you’re considering opening up a business or you’re looking for international work experience, consider a few of these unique locations.

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