When we think of top European cities for start-ups. London and Berlin often spring to mind, yet, the tech start-up culture is spreading throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The cities on our list have growth opportunities evident by collative data, and you may be surprised by some of the cities listed!
5. Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest has long been an outsourcing destination for multinational tech firms such as Oracle, Intel, IBM, and Adobe. Among the Inc.5000 Europe companies, 91 are in the capital city. Three of them are in the top 50. Now, the commercial center is looking to grow its own entrepreneurial culture, which is still small. There were 300 home-grown start-ups in all of Romania as of 2016, up from about 250 in 2015.
Both city and country carry the potential of becoming a fully-fledged tech hub. The World Bank reports Romania as one of the fastest-growing economies in the European Union (EU), consistently performing at the top in the last two decades. It is also among the global top 10 with the highest number of information technology (IT) specialists. The country of 20 million has 95,000 IT specialists, about half of whom are software developers.
4. Riga, Latvia
As of this writing, there are 152 startups in Riga, the capital and largest city of Latvia. You might have heard of some of them: Walmoo, Swipe, Nemo, Mintos, Fabula, and Edurio. Startup funding has reached $97 million in the last 12 months. Latvia itself is poised to get out of the shadows of its better well renowned Baltic neighbours, Estonia and Finland.
In Riga, a city of 700,000, co-working spaces have sprouted, including The Mill, TechHub, Oraculetang Space, and DarbaVieta. The Red Herring reports that a former economics minister and start-up culture champion is on the board of the Latvian Start-up Association. Furthermore, there are many opportunities for growth in the country, buoyed by the support coming from the region.
3. Budapest, Hungary
The tech start-up scene is getting hotter and hotter in capital city Budapest. Some of its emerging companies have broken into the international market. Prezi, a well-known cloud-based presentation software provider, was born in Budapest. As a testament to the innovation potential of the city, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology chose it as its headquarters. There are several sectors that will benefit from more research and disruption here, such as IT, medicine, non-profit institutions, and universities.
Countrywide, a lack of capital is also not an issue. The European Commission, through the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises, or Jeremie program, has helped boost the upward trend of investments. Though it faces the challenges of bureaucracy and taxation, Hungary’s and Budapest’s entrepreneurial ecosystems are still going to see growth in the coming years.
2. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm has long been a rising star in Europe’s start-up tech scene. In some categories, the Scandinavian city has toppled London. The Telegraph dubs it as the world’s “second most prolific tech hub on a per capita basis, producing $6.3 billion companies per million people.” It is second only to Silicon Valley, which has $8.1 billion companies per million people.
Among its famous unicorns — tech firms founded after 2003 with at least $1 billion valuations — are Skype, King (Candy Crush maker), and of course, Spotify. And thanks to the intervention of the Swedish government in the early 2010s, its people are reaping the results now. The Swedes are equipped with the right tools and digital savvy to become a “nation of disruptors.”
1. London, United Kingdom
There is no surprise here. London has always been an international city and renowned financial hub. The access to capital has given its would-be entrepreneurs a head start in the age of innovation. Add to that the strong non-digital infrastructure and world-class talent that the great city keeps.
There are new movements to watch out for within the city. The vibrant start-up culture is no longer centered around Silicon Roundabout and Shoreditch in the East End. It has spread throughout the city, even to the West End.