10 cities across the globe to launch your startup in 2019

9 min read
04 Feb 2019

ilicon Valley, New York, London or Berlin aren’t the only places in the world to get your business ideas off the ground. If you’re looking to launch a company in 2019, here are ten cities across four continents that are emerging on the global stage for their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Startup Guide will be publishing books in these ten cities in the upcoming months, starting with Singapore in March and toward the end of the year, Amsterdam and Tokyo.

Amsterdam. Photo: Unsplash/Jace & Afsoon

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

While the startup ecosystem in Amsterdam hasn’t matured to the same extent that other European capitals like Berlin or London have, it’s showing no signs of slowing.

New figures reveal that startups based in the Dutch capital raised more than €400 million in investments last year, according to I amsterdam.

A 2018 report by research institute Startup Genome, which looks at the state of the world’s startup scenes, placed the Dutch capital in the top 20. The report also found the city to be a top ten ecosystem for local connectedness.

With upbeat net salaries, high standards of living and fast mobile internet speeds, it’s perhaps not surprising that the city – home to successes like Booking.com, TomTom and the fintech unicorn Adyen – is attractive to entrepreneurs.

Of the nearly 600 international tech companies based in the Netherlands, almost a third have set up their headquarters in Amsterdam. Deemed a fintech ecosystem to watch by Startup Genome last year, payments and cybersecurity are areas in which Amsterdam is doing especially well.

Bangkok. Photo: Unsplash/Florian Wehde

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is “not yet a mature ecosystem,” but it has the potential to become “dynamic and strong” if it addresses some of its weaknesses, a 2018 report by non-profit organization enpact states.

Lagging behind Singapore and on a competitive level with Bengaluru, Bangkok ranked second in the report’s Startup Friendliness Index (SFI) for emerging economies.

Accessing qualified talent at fair rates and well-developed infrastructure, especially in information and communications technologies, are some of the Thai capital’s strengths.

But its entrepreneurial scene is still quite young; startup initiatives and events would give it a boost. Further areas for improvement are the need for more accelerators, incubators, VC firms and later-stage investment opportunities.

The Thai government meanwhile has made efforts to support the country’s tech ecosystem via the Thailand 4.0 roadmap which aims to drive innovation. Tech in Asia reported late last year that under the model, “benefits like incentive packages, funding options and smart visas are made available.”

Set to open in March 2019 is True Digital Park, which claims it is Thailand’s first and Southeast Asia’s largest campus for startups and tech entrepreneurs. As a Bangkok-based hub for multinational companies, startups, R&D centers and investors, it aims to accelerate growth of the country’s ecosystem.

Cairo. Photo: Unsplash/Alejandro Garcia

Cairo, Egypt

Egypt’s capital and largest city is home to a talented, youthful population and a quickly changing tech industry. In a country with nearly 100 million inhabitants, a fifth of this number call the greater Cairo area home – many of them hungry techies and up-and-coming entrepreneurs looking for work.

“Entrepreneurship has been growing like never before in Egypt since 2011,” Essam Sharaf, regional manager of Egypt and Jordan at enpact, told Startup Guide. “There’s been increasing interest among international investors and startups to move to the Middle East and Cairo in particular.”

In spite of Cairo’s central location at the tip of Africa and between Europe and Asia, which boosts its competitive edge, there are still some cons startups should be aware of.

Difficulties when it comes to obtaining funding and governmental bureaucracy are a few disadvantages, according to Flat6Labs, a regional accelerator based in Cairo.

Cape Town. Photo: Unsplash/Tim Johnson

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town not only boasts a relatively low cost of living and diverse talent pool, it is also one of the most productive startup ecosystems in Africa and has the continent’s highest number of coworking spaces and accelerators.

Cape Town is moreover South Africa’s leading tech startup center (nearly 50 percent of tech startup founders call the Western Cape province home). Notable sectors in the Cape include ecommerce, SaaS and fintech.

As one of the most active hubs for startup investment in Africa, over half of VC transactions concluded in South African companies are headquartered in Cape Town. Investments are on the rise in areas such as education, housing, health, blockchain, agriculture, transport and energy.

Silicon Cape, a nonprofit which supports tech-enabled startups, has partnered with Startup Guide in an effort to get the story of its local ecosystem out to a global audience.

Set to be published in August 2019, Startup Guide Cape Town will be the first-ever entrepreneurial handbook dedicated to the city’s startup scene, according to Kerry Petrie, general manager at Silicon Cape.

Johannesburg. Photo: Unsplash/Keenan Constance

Johannesburg, South Africa

While Cape Town might come to mind first for many people when it comes to the South African tech ecosystem, Johannesburg is carving out its own niche startup scene, according to Disrupt Africa.

“Support for startups in the Johannesburg market is improving all the time,” Abu Cassim, founder of angel investment group Jozi Angels, told Disrupt Africa.

“There’s never been a better time to be a startup here,” Abu says, adding that the ecosystem in Johannesburg is growing and on par with those in Nairobi and Lagos.

Some tech firms are opting to set up shop in Johannesburg instead of Cape Town, CEO and cofounder of a startup called Giraffe, Anish Shivdasani, told Business Insider South Africa. Anish said he chose to launch his company in Johannesburg last year because he wanted to sell his product where the businesses are.

However, Johannesburg’s ecosystem would look even brighter if it tackled hurdles having to do with global connectedness, funding and the lack of startup experience, according to the National Small Business Chamber.

Los Angeles. Photo: Unsplash/Dillon Shook

Los Angeles, the USA

While other cities in California, such as San Jose or San Francisco, have long since been a magnet for startups, entrepreneurs are increasingly turning their attention toward Los Angeles.

Last year, an annual study by credit resource Biz2Credit ranked LA in fifth place in its list of the top 25 American cities for small businesses. VCs invested some $4.2 billion to support over 200 tech companies in the LA area in 2016, according to a CNBC report.

“From cutting-edge engineering and technical innovation (rockets, cars and medical research) to complex public policy issues (affordable housing, congestion and inequality), the future is happening in Los Angeles today,” Michael Kelly, executive director of The L.A. Coalition for the Economy & Jobs, told Startup Guide.

Home to a large entrepreneurial community, Los Angeles is a base for major companies like HBO, Facebook, Netflix and YouTube.

“Los Angeles has a special mix of creative and technical talent,” Michael Dubin, CEO and founder of a grooming service called Dollar Shave Club, told CNBC. “The tech community here is very supportive of one another and eager to help.”

Olympiapark in Munich. Photo: Unsplash/Christoph Keil

Munich, Germany

For the first time, Munich made it onto Startup Genome’s global ecosystems report in 2018. The report analyzed startup ecosystems in 45 regions across the world and found that the sectors posed for notable growth in Munich are healthcare, fintech and mobility.

Flixbus is a well-known company that was born as a startup in Munich. Since 2013, the intercity bus service has taken 100 million passengers to over a thousand destinations in 26 countries.

With a population of almost 1.5 million, Munich is not only Germany’s third largest city, but also the country’s third largest in terms of startup investment. Over 17,000 new businesses (excluding freelance startups) were registered in the Bavarian capital in 2017.

Interesting to note about Munich’s ecosystem is that the city’s prominent universities support its entrepreneurs. The Technical University of Munich (TUM), Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) and the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (SCE) are among these institutions.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Photo: Unsplash/Rodrigo Kugnharski

Paris, France

In recent years, Paris has been changing course from its rather inward-looking attitude in the realm of tech and startups, according to Tech Republic.  

The number of startups launched in France increased by 30 percent per year from 2012 to 2015. Now, there are more than 9,400 startups across the country, over a third of which are based in the French capital and the surrounding region.

In 2017, the Economist reported that Paris was leading the way in Europe for its number of venture capital funding rounds.

With the goal in mind of becoming a leading capital for entrepreneurship, Station F was officially opened by French president Emmanuel Macron in June 2017. It is located in a former railway station in Paris’ 13th arrondissement.

Station F, which claims it is the world’s biggest startup campus, is home to some 1,000 tech companies. Between 20 and 25 percent of the 3,000 people working at Station F on any given day are internationals from as many as 50 different countries, according to the Financial Times.

In spite of this initiative, some aspects of the ecosystem in Paris to be aware of include bureaucracy, difficulties dealing with trade unions and high levels of taxation. Moreover, aspiring entrepreneurs would be wise to familiarize themselves with French culture before doing business there.

Singapore. Photo: Unsplash/chuttersnap


While the city-state of Singapore is known as one of the world’s major financial and tech centers, it’s also emerging as a hub for startups. It’s also widely considered a launchpad for entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.

Global real estate services company Colliers last year ranked Singapore as the second best place to start a tech operation in Asia. Despite its small size as a country of 5.6 million people, its ecosystem is dense and it has an international outlook, given its unique geographic location between India and Hong Kong.

Due to strong educational and research institutions based there, Singapore is considered a main source of talent in Asia. Business-friendly tax policies, advanced technological infrastructure and plenty of government funding schemes to support entrepreneurs are further advantages for the city-state.

Setting up a business in Singapore is also straightforward, cost-effective and can be done digitally, unlike in many other nations.

Tokyo. Photo: Unsplash/Riccardo Chiarini

Tokyo, Japan

If you’re a daring risk-taker with an entrepreneurial idea that’s ready to take off, you’ll be happy to know that Japan’s startup scene has a lot of cash. While VCs and banks are interested in investing in entrepreneurs, it’s not that easy to find them, the Seattle Times reported in 2017.

After the financial crisis, money raised for ventures in Japan was about 50 billion yen ($450 million) annually, according to Japan Venture Research. But in 2016, this reached a record 276 billion yen ($2.5 billion).

Unlike Singapore or Korea, Japan has a large domestic market with major players, meaning there’s less incentive to venture into global markets and less entrepreneurial initiative, Benjamin Joffe, investor and partner at HAX, an accelerator in Shenzhen, told event company Slush.

A 2016 report on Japan’s startup ecosystem by design researcher Ajay Revels found that the country’s talented young people are more keen on getting stable jobs with corporates rather than starting their own business.

In spite of the rather risk-averse entrepreneurial mindset in Japan, Tokyo came in 43rd place in a 2018 list by research company Valuer of the top 50 best startup cities across the globe.

The Base, Tokyo Otaku Mode and Campfire are among some of the promising startups in the Japanese capital, according to Valuer.

Main photo of Cape Town by Unsplash/John O'Nolan