Tech is booming across Europe and new startups have become the norm rather than the exception in many cities. London leads the way but Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona are not far behind. With better legislation and financial rewards, as well as access to top quality IT talent, many cities are now becoming home to innovation and entrepreneurial excellence. Here are the top 5 tech capitals in Europe.
London benefited strongly from the Tech City programme which came into effect in 2010. Since then, the East End in particular has seen a rise in tech startups that delivered £18 billion in 2015 and provided jobs for over 200,000 employees. The city has attracted far more investment from international companies because of favourable legislation and a growing reputation for creating a great research and development environment.
With co-working spaces such as The Office Group and Google Campus, London has plenty of infrastructure in place to facilitate startup technology. Combine this with numerous incubators and accelerators including Level 39, and you have a strong recipe for success. The adaptability of London has been one of its major selling points and the infrastructure continues to evolve. Of the 17 billion-dollar unicorn startups in Europe, London has 12 including ASOS and Skrill.
Berlin has been climbing up the rankings as a tech capital over the last decade or so. While London may have the most successful eco-system for startups, Berlin certainly has the fastest developing. Innovators are attracted by the relatively low cost of living in the city compared to areas such as London or America’s Silicon Valley and office space is not at premium levels. What has hampered progress to date has been the bureaucratic interference and paperwork that many startups have to face. In hubs such as London all you need to do is go online.
Despite this, Berlin has seen a big increase in investment for startups, although things are still pretty tough for hardware development which have greater risks associated with their products than software tech innovations. The low cost of living and access to a rich pool of tech talent has given Berlin and Germany a boost and you’ll find the world’s biggest incubator with Rocket Internet on your doorstep here.
Lying behind London and Berlin, Paris has all the attributes you could want for a high-tech city, including great transport infrastructure that puts it at the beating heart of Europe. The introduction of the auto-entrepreneur program in 2009 saw tax breaks for startups but there are still some issues to overcome if you want to set up your business here. First, there are relatively high levels of personal taxation compared to London and Berlin and there’s plenty of bureaucracy to contend with (not to mention trade unions which seem more rampant in France).
If you find the right product and get it to the right market you can make a big success in Paris, though it often takes time to convince the French that what you offer is worthwhile. With help in place for SMEs to succeed, and access to some pretty big international corporations, Paris is a prime location for tech startups. Beware though – you’ll need a good standard of French and employment law in the country is a lot more protectionist than in other parts of Europe.
Amsterdam has been promoting the benefits of doing business and starting a new company for a few years now. High on the agenda is the quality of life you can expect from living in one of Europe’s most progressive and open societies. There’s access to great transport connections and the government’s StartupAmsterdam initiative is certainly making a difference.
They’re not simply focussing on Dutch entrepreneurs either, the city is hoping to attract top talent from all over the world. Advocates say the fact the city is a lot smaller and less spread out than areas such as London is an advantage and there’s certainly plenty of talent to draw on.
While there are numerous startups developing their products in Amsterdam, they’ve yet to see the big players to come through that other tech hubs have. This could change in the future as the government puts in measures to retain IT talent combined with the development of businesses such as AR company Blippar which could well go global in the next few years.
With its innovation hub Barcinno, the city is fast becoming a draw for tech startups who want to mix business with the pleasure of working in a location that has plenty of history and sartorial appeal. This tech hub has begun to thrive since the financial crisis which left levels of unemployment at around 50%. The city has been able to attract a number of incubators, accelerators and investment opportunities that is appealing internationally, not least because of English speaking hubs like Barcinno and networking opportunities such as the Mobile Web Congress.
Poblenou has been transformed from a rundown area of the city to a tech hub and the city is now home to some interesting startups such as second hand seller Wallapop and foreign exchange platform Kantox. Expect big things from Barcelona in the next few years.