Europe as a whole has long been a driver of innovation and entrepreneurship. Cities such as London (UK), Berlin (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Copenhagen (Denmark), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Paris (France) are renowned startup hubs, nurturing some of the continent’s most creative and forward-thinking minds. . Business However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, around 40% of citizens began to consider moving from Europe’s big capitals to smaller cities.
So, what are the best alternative European cities for aspiring or budding entrepreneurs? We’ve gone beyond the obvious to explore some of Europe’s least-expected cities with dynamic startup scenes great for new businesses. Here’s what we found:
Slovenia is in the early stages of developing a startup ecosystem. With its vibrant economy, entrepreneur-friendly regulations, and affordable living opportunities, it’s a great small town to transition into a post-Covid world. Located a short distance from the Croatian, Austrian and Italian borders in Eastern Europe, Ljubljana is known for its clean air, low crime rate, proximity to the “sunny side of the Alps” and bustling art scene.
The country’s small size and location make it very accessible to support and investors from other EU countries, and the Slovenian government is making public sources of funding easy for entrepreneurs.
Europe’s best startup city, Barcelona is a world-renowned tech startup magnet. The city is full of startup success stories, and nearly two-thirds of the city’s startup founders come from abroad. And it’s really no wonder why—with its reasonable cost of living, attractive seaside lifestyle and famously high quality of life, it’s not hard to convince talented professionals to relocate.
There’s a strong startup community with lots of incubators and accelerators looking for the next big thing (and you don’t even have to speak Spanish to do it). There are regular tech and startup networking events, from relatively small to large, like Mobile World Congress. Although Madrid is the legal capital of Spain, Barcelona is the undisputed leader in the world of startups.
Prague, Czech Republic
Due to its advanced infrastructure, highly skilled and educated workforce and fairly low cost of living for a capital city, Prague is a great place to relocate for aspiring entrepreneurs. Often seen as the gateway to larger startup hubs like Vienna or Berlin, Prague is a great place to get your foot in the door of the European entrepreneurial scene.
The country’s stable economy creates a dynamic business environment that attracts local and international professionals. The work mentality and attitude there offers a great work-life balance opportunity for anyone looking to relocate. Often cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Prague has been attracting digital nomads since the early 2010s. With the number of expats settling in Prague it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll be able to speak English wherever you go!
Overall Switzerland has recently been named one of the best countries to live in globally for its quality of life and, importantly for entrepreneurs, its business-friendly environment. In fact, Swiss startups will earn more than CHF 2 billion in 2021 thanks to the availability of capital, talent and customers in the market alone!
Zurich is a charming city with green spaces, riverside promenades, an exciting art scene and close proximity to several ski stations and hiking routes. The city is highly livable, with an efficient public transport system, excellent schools and an international presence. What’s more, its unique location in the center of Europe puts it at a distance from other key entrepreneurial centers such as Munich and Milan.
Ready to fall in love with azulejos, windy streets and pastis de belem? Then Lisbon is the place for you! It’s a great city to relocate to if you want to work with some of the continent’s greatest development minds. Lisbon’s universities are renowned for the quality of developers they produce each year, with 53% of graduates with STEM degrees!
Foreigners flock to Lisbon for many reasons, one of them being the extremely favorable financial conditions offered by the Portuguese government. For the first 10 years of life there, foreigners working for strategic industries can qualify for habitual residence status where you pay a 20% flat rate on income tax and nothing you earn abroad is taxed.
A cradle of philosophy, culture and technology, Greece has always been a center of innovation and knowledge. In recent years, the Greek government has offered a series of incentives to local and international entrepreneurs to help them get their business ideas off the ground – and what’s more, it’s working! Every year more startups come out of Greece, currently there are 800 startups operating in Athens alone.
The country’s largest city, Athens has year-round sunshine, an incomparably vibrant cafe culture, nightlife that seemingly never stops and a large ex-pat community. The city center is full of restaurants, bars, shops, galleries and more – not to mention that it surrounds perhaps one of the most significant historical monuments – the Acropolis.
Trendy Stockholm has recently become a hub for entrepreneurship with an increase in venture capital and government funding. It’s the place to go for startups and small business owners looking to make a positive social or environmental impact!
The cosmopolitan city is teeming with healthcare startups, focused on eliminating food waste, and EdTech to name a few. It’s a great place for entrepreneurs hoping to secure seed funding, enter an accelerator program, or attract investors. Not to mention that Stockholm is famous for its great lifestyle, tolerant society and strong focus on environmental protection.
When you think of Florence, you often imagine a beautiful old city, a Duomo, and a rich history of art and architecture. And while that’s absolutely true, did you know that it’s the ideal place for e-commerce, retail, leisure and marketing startups to set up shop? These industries thrive in Florence, and there are plenty of coworking spaces to network in startup incubators to get your venture off the ground. A short, hour and a half train ride from both Rome and Milan, this small, safe city is perfectly located for anyone looking to explore Italy while building the next big thing!
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Best known for its world-class university, Cambridge also has a thriving startup scene. The self-proclaimed “Silicon Fen” (the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley), is home to a number of high-tech businesses and ecosystems ready to support startups at every turn.
It’s a great place to recruit the best and brightest freshers from Cambridge University, enter a reputable business incubator, or collaborate with peers in coworking spaces that are pocket-friendly compared to London. It is a great alternative to London for entrepreneurs looking for a quiet lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Just make sure you read up on settling in properly after Brexit.
Hamburg has the second highest concentration of startups in Germany, with around 10,000 new companies founded every year! The local government poured a lot of resources into entrepreneurs here, building its reputation as a leader in services, gaming, technology and commerce. The city is also the chosen location for the presence of Airbus and Google in Germany, while the city attracts top talent thanks to its globally respected universities.
It is ranked as the most livable city in Germany for its great educational opportunities, strong healthcare system, stability and infrastructure. Not to mention it will be a unique opportunity to learn German and explore neighboring Austria as well!
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