The world is in flux, with old capitals in decline and new hotspots on the up. So we asked leading figures from the creative and financial industries where they would choose to base a new venture today. Here are the 10 cities that won their vote – from megalopolises such as Mumbai to cosy capitals like Ljubljana – as the best locations in which to launch.
The past year has presented us with a chance to re-evaluate our lives and reconsider how and where we work. For many of us, if research from the Centre for Entrepreneurs is anything to go by, that means taking the plunge and striking out on our own. The London-based organisation found that, in the UK alone, nearly 500,000 companies were launched during a six-month period in 2020 – almost a 10 per cent increase on the whole of 2019. Across the Atlantic, the Peterson Institute for International Economics also tracked a significant bump in US entrepreneurship. It recorded 4.4 million business launches in 2020, a 24 per cent year-on-year increase – by far the biggest rise on record.
Although it’s clear that starting your own business is an attractive proposition, success can only come when its foundations are strong. Not only does there need to be an appetite for the goods and services on offer but a supportive in-person network can be critical too. It means that it matters where you decide to put down your operational roots. So for those taking the plunge, here’s some inside knowledge from experts and entrepreneurs in various fields on the emerging hotspots in which to set up shop. Good luck.
Schibsted owns many of the Nordic region’s top newspapers, including Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet and Norway’s Aftenposten.
My vote goes to: Mumbai. India has huge potential in the news market. According to [media analytics company] Comscore, news is the number one content category consumed in the country. Last year, 96 per cent of internet users in India accessed a news site and news intake was higher during the lockdowns than anywhere else in the world. The country of 1.2 billion has a growing middle class, with more Indians being educated than ever before. Plus, English is read and spoken almost everywhere and 5G is on its way.
Modularbank, the latest start-up by Estonian entrepreneur and banker Vene, enables businesses to offer financial services to their customers.
My vote goes to: Tel Aviv. I set up my business in Tallinn because it has the crucial aspects that foster growth: a highly educated workforce, minimal bureaucracy and a supportive legal system. However, if you’re looking to scale up rapidly, Tel Aviv is the place to be. There you’ll find an openness to new ideas, a vibrant start-up ecosystem and a strong venture-capital presence, which makes it an attractive city for entrepreneurs. What Tallinn and Tel Aviv share is that they are both home to companies that, from inception, think globally.
Belgium-based Impala champions independent music production, with more than 5,000 companies, trade associations and artists as members.
My vote goes to: Ljubljana. There’s a bouncing vibe here that you won’t find in other cities, which is astounding given that it only has 300,000 people or so. It’s home to Ment, the biggest showcase festival and music conference in the Balkans, and it gets plenty of support from the government. There are also more music venues and record shops than you’d expect for a city of this size, which draws a lot of travelling European artists. Some very cool record labels have set up here as a result.
Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s contemporary art non-profit has two exhibition halls in northern Italy, totalling more than 1,000 artworks.
My vote goes to: Madrid. A big, global capital, Madrid is a bridge to Latin American culture and art, something that I am really interested in. Its growing art scene, Arco art fair and emerging talent are huge draws. I’ve been watching this brilliant city closely for a long time and I’d like to create a space where the Fondazione’s educational focus and inclusive ethos can continue. It would be a place where contemporary art by both Spanish and international artists could be experienced.
Burkina Faso-born Kéré founded his Berlin-based studio in 2005. Working across the globe, he still has a design presence in his hometown, Gando.
My vote goes to: Dakar. The population growth in West Africa and the need to find solutions to the economic and environmental challenges is the perfect nourishment for architecture that uses sustainable materials and is innovative without squandering finite resources. More permanent studios in West Africa would also mean a different quality of dialogue and exchange of knowledge between architects in the global south and north. When you have active day-to-day work in a given region over a prolonged period of time, an understanding of its particularities and place in the world can take shape. So I would encourage more creative minds from various fields to set up shop in Dakar in Senegal.
Perfumer H, a boutique brand, shop and laboratory in London, was set up by Harris after stints with Robertet and her own venture, Miller Harris.
My vote goes to: São Paulo. Brazil is one of the world’s biggest cosmetic and fragrance markets – in some parts of the country it is estimated that 90 per cent of the population wears fragrance. We have a big following in São Paulo but can’t send fragrance because import duties and taxes make it very cost-prohibitive. There is, however, a customer for more niche and luxury fragrances there. By investing in local solutions with the right partner, manufacturing in São Paulo would be ideal. And this is how the “big boys” get around the import cost issue.
After opening Red Rooster in Harlem, New York, Ethiopian-born Swede Samuelsson has launched more than 10 restaurants worldwide.
My vote goes to: New York. It’s got to be New York. I’m fortunate to live in such an amazing place; it has given me so much. It’s somewhere that allows you to reinvent yourself and become something else. That’s something I appreciate, having come here as an immigrant. But it also means you have to reinvent the food that you make and surprise your customers, who are always incredibly curious and demanding. They want better food, better methods of cooking, more environmentally conscientious chefs. I’ve lived in many cities but New York gives me drive, creativity and diversity. It’s that spirit that always brings me back.
Martin launched luxury-tea brand Yswara in 2012 and quickly gained a reputation as one of Africa’s leading businesswomen.
My vote goes to: Marrakech. If you were choosing the most cost-effective place to launch a speciality tea brand, it would always be Hamburg, due to a 300-year history that’s a legacy of colonial trade. So when I launched I wanted to challenge this arrangement and develop a new region – and I chose South Africa. It was important to be close to tea production and to be in a country with a large middle class that could afford and consume my product. Marrakech would be another good option for similar reasons. It offers key services for the speciality tea industry, is close to Europe and has reduced import and export taxes with the continent, which would allow any business there to trade easily.
Hong Kong-based luxury-fashion consignment retailer Hula has been growing rapidly since being founded by Fung in 2016.
My vote goes to: Tokyo. The ideal place for fashion retail, Tokyo is creative, crazy and cool. It’s one of my favourite cities, where almost anything goes. There are clear shopping destinations, such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku. But Ginza would be the ideal location, near Dover Street Market. [A brand like Hula] would be able to sell the most amazing consignment of fashion because recycling, upcycling and reselling has been popular in Japan for decades. As Tokyo is one of the most fashion-forward cities in the world, it would be a great place to collect unique items to sell.
Ad company Bartle Bogle Hegarty has more than 1,000 staff in offices worldwide, working with the likes of Google, Samsung and Marvel.
My vote goes to: Bangkok. Southeast Asia is an amazing region. It is somewhere that has the speed, the hunger, the diversity and the talent. A big city such as Bangkok has a creative community that is bustling, as well as a really strong design culture, friendly people, good food and architecture, and diversity. All of this results in a place that’s inspiring and offers a lot of inputs – and the more inputs that you have, thn the better the output. For creative businesses, working in a city that is a melting pot of activity is really important. Bangkok also has this great mentality that everything is possible. It’s amazing to go to a place where the attitude is always, “Let’s do it.”