The power, and often the perceived duty, of the Internet is to decentralise. This is a common thread that runs from Tim Berners Lee through to MaidSafe and Bitcoin. It is paradoxical, then, that this technology with the power to upset and displace has actually been driven by, and given rise to, an enduring concentration of established companies, infrastructure, startups and talent in just one place.
In the Shadows of the Valley
Silicon Valley still casts a long shadow over other tech hubs. Increasingly, however, there are other significant hubs emerging all over the world. Some, like London, Paris and Munich, are by now firmly established, but more and more are developing all over the region. None look like they will challenge the dominance of California, but several look like they are about to move from a steady simmer to a rolling boil.
What Makes Things Boil?
The prerequisites for tech hub growth and development vary, but common threads can often be picked out. These might include:
- A preponderance of cheap office space
- Dedicated local or national government initiatives
- The availability of grants and tax incentives
- Easy access to a pool of native or immigrant young talent
- Proximity to well-established universities
- Technological infrastructure, usually established by large multinational companies
- Availability of investors willing to fund both the initial startup stages and the later stages of efficiency and scale
Here are the 5 tech hubs in EMEA that look set to remain red hot over the next few years and beyond:
1/ Tel Aviv
Silicon ‘Wadi’ is already a well-established tech hub, but it doesn’t look like it has finished growing yet. Tel Aviv has the highest density of startups in the world, but it’s not all speculative projects. Nearly 40% of Israeli hi-tech employees work for a subsidiary of a large multinational such as Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, or Google. Funding, infrastructure, stability, and vibrancy make a compelling mix for growth.
Istanbul’s developing economy offers untapped market opportunities and contains a young, entrepreneurial, and tech-savvy population. Ideal conditions, perhaps, but its growth has so far been constrained by a volatile political climate, an onerous regulatory framework, and a bureaucracy whose visa requirements for foreign nationals make it hard to maintain the talent that other cities benefit from.
Its steady growth as a tech hub could start to boom if these latter conditions just ease up a little. At the moment, Istanbul still waits for the gates to its tech city to spring open, but little can stand in its way once they do.
The only thing that could hold Dublin back is its own popularity. Office space in Dublin 2 and Dublin 4 areas is getting thin on the ground, which is a testament to its success. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and LinkedIn have established their European headquarters here, and Dublin boasts lower taxes and living costs than London, its neighbouring capital across the water. The Irish Venture Capital Association’s proclivity to invest helps lubricate the engines of commerce, and a vast pool of talent helps develop innovative, cutting-edge solutions.
Amsterdam may be attracting a lot of the press, but Eindhoven should not be overlooked as a Dutch tech hub. It has been called the most inventive city in the world, thanks to the sheer amount of patent applications that are registered here. Hardware design and high tech innovation characterise its businesses whose fields range from medical research, 3D printing, online learning, and advertising platforms.
5/ Cape Town
A recent World Bank report located over 90 tech hubs in Africa. What’s more, it identified that these are homegrown, unlike other African industries, such as mining or agribusiness, where much of the know-how is imported and the wealth exported.
Cape Town is positioning itself to be the most successful example. The Silicon Cape is rich in tech talent, abundant in investors, and heaving with eager entrepreneurs. Many startups have already made their mark, such as gyft, Yola and GUST. Helping them to grow are projects like the Silicon Cape Initiative, which supports startups to lure talent to the region and develop their innovative ideas. There’s fertile ground for more than quality wine in the Cape.
The Next Silicon Valley?
Tech hubs are areas where talent, investment, technology, and innovation cluster and coalesce. Whether any of these hot hubs will challenge Silicon Valley’s dominance is beside the point. The fact is that tech hubs have never been so globally dispersed. The point is that the opportunities for EMEA has never been so exciting.