Hello French Fries,
Since my top 10 list I did yesterday has appeared to be super popular, I’m going to do another one today. This list is a bit more thought out and based on the experiences of myself and people I’ve rubbed shoulders with, but I’m going list what I perceive to be the top 10 markets that are great for tech companies and tech employees to be located. I’m basing my criteria on market output, influence on the tech industry, concentration of workers and companies, livable qualities that make them productive for the tech industry, and the all important eye test. These markets are all nodes on the tech world’s network, where if one of them were to suddenly disappear, it’d throw the whole system out of whack. If you are a burgeoning young tech professional, these would be good markets to position yourself in.
1.) San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, etc.), United States
Obvious no-brainer. Silicon Valley is the heart, soul, and center of the tech world. Most major companies and many mid-sized and small companies have a presence, if not a headquarters, in the Bay Area. About 20 percent of the seven million residents there work in tech, that’s 1 in 5 people, including retirees, children, and other people not in the work force. Basically, the Bay Area is to tech as Broadway is to musical theater or Mecca is to Islam. The tech industry lives and dies on terms set by Silicon Valley and the Bay area. Not everything is rosy though. Cost of living is prohibitively and astronomically high. On top of that, the fact that UC-Berkeley and Stanford University are cranking out highly skilled tech employees at a regular rate and every wide eye’d tech worker from everywhere else wants to try their hand at working in Silicon Valley means that despite the global talent crunch, Silicon Valley is a surprisingly and highly competitive job market.
2.) Gush Dan (Tel Aviv-Yafo, Petah Tikva, Ramat Gan, etc.), Israel
Often dubbed Silicon Wadi, the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area’s output and advancement in the tech field has granted Israel the nickname ‘Start-up Nation‘. Israel is a small (but quickly growing) country with limited natural resources, which has lead to an economic policy focused on developing a very highly educated population, and well developed university research and venture capital systems. All these ingredients form a recipe for a great tech sector, and Tel Aviv, the commercial capital of Israel, does not disappoint. VMWare, Micron, Waze, Dapulse, Wix, and Sandisk are all examples of internationally recognized tech companies that originated and are based in Tel Aviv. Obviously, there’s cons to every locale. Tel Aviv is beholden to the politics and undercurrents that pervade the Middle East, and the Israel-Arab-Palestine conflict always has potential to erupt into violent outbursts, which has lead to a heavy security presence in Israel. This security presence means that Tel Aviv is actually much safer than what is portrayed in the media. With around 4 million residents in the Gush Dan (Tel Aviv Metro Area), an unemployment rate of under 4%, and a burgeoning tech industry that employs 17% of the regions residents (again, including children, retirees and others not in the work force), Tel Aviv is second only to the San Francisco Bay Area when it comes to tech output and industry.
3.) Stockholm County (Stockholm, Huddinge, Solna, etc.), Sweden
Stockholm has a reputation as being the start-up capital of Europe. With around 2.5 million residents, an unemployment rate a shade under 7%, and around 18% of the population working in tech, Stockholm is the powerhouse of Europe’s tech industry. With a strong high tech infrastructure, excellent education system and the famed Scandinavian welfare state safety net, there is ample incentive and little to hold back would-be entrepreneurs from starting up, meaning that Stockholm is home to over 22,000 start ups. Renowned and established brands such as Ericsson, Spotify, Skype, Axis, Paradox and MySQL AB have their origins and headquarters in the Stockholm area. The remarkable success of Stockholm in the global tech industry has lead it to become a beacon to globally minded millennials. It has also been reflected in pop-culture, with the Stockholm cyber security scene specifically being the subject of the late Stieg Larrson‘s best-selling cyberpunk and hacker themed Millennium novel series and their subsequent film adaptations. (Side note: I’m really excited to see how Claire Foy transitions from her role as Queen Elizabeth II in the Crown to Lisbeth Salander in the next Millennium film).
4.) Santiago Metropolitan Region (Santiago, Maipo, Puente Alto, etc.), Chile
Santiago is very much under the radar, but it’s arguable the central tech hub of South America. With around 7 million residents, an unemployment rate of 6.5%, and roughly 11% of the region’s population working in tech, Santiago is an emergent power player in the tech industry. Chile is the only developed country with an advanced economy in Latin America, as demonstrated by it’s fait acompli of joining the OECD a decade ago. Chile also possesses Latin America’s best education system. Consequently, Santiago has the capital and the brains to build a tech scene in what is dubbed Chilecon Valley. Being the most competitive and strongest economy in South America has it’s advantages, including being the continent’s tech hub. Furthermore, the local government has fueled the growth of Santiago’s tech scene with transparent, easily navigated bureaucracy and venture capital funding programs to foster a tech-savvy workforce and kick-start the start-up scene. Known brands such as Sonda, Entel, Monte Alto, and Advanced Innovations all got their starts in Santiago. As Santiago grows and it’s deconstruction, break-the-mold start-up culture fosters further innovation, Santiago won’t stay a secret for much longer.
5.) The City-State of Singapore, Singapore
Being one of the four Asian Tigers, Singapore is an advanced, high tech and highly developed nation with a high income economy and one of the highest qualities of life on the planet. It’s one of, if not the largest, tech hubs in Asia, and it’s star is only rising. With a population of slightly under 6 million inhabitants, and an envious unemployment rate of around 3%, Singapore has a high demand for talented tech employees, and not nearly enough supply of workers to fill the demand. Despite the booming economy and highly skilled and educated workforce, Singapore has a big-brotheresque government which curtails certain human rights and constantly monitors it’s citizens and residents. While technically a multi-party state with free elections, Singapore’s government has been dominated by a single political party who uses the levers of state control to maintain power. While not great for human and civil rights, this high level of surveillance means that by the necessity of maintaining large quantities of records, Singapore has carved out a niche for itself as the go-to market for big data analytics. Companies such as VentureCorp, Creative Technology, Near, Broadcom, Carousell, and Flextronics have parlayed this knowledge into global and recognizable brands. Singapore is by most measures a great place to live for expats where the local politics will be of no concern. Singapore is also starving for talent which means that the large quantity of jobs and the high demand will lead to a great paycheck for anyone looking to work in tech in Singapore.
6.) Greater Boston (Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, etc.), United States
While Silicon Valley is indisputably the primary tech center for the United States, it’s a huge country. Boston and it’s 4.8 million residents form the largest and most important tech hub in the eastern United States. This is no small feat considering the eastern United States contains over 150 million people, slightly under half of the total population of the US of A, and other eastern cities like New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Atlanta are constantly trying to unseat Boston as the top dog in the eastern tech scene. Unlike many other tech hubs, Boston’s preeminence comes not from disruption, but by building off of it’s legacy of well over four centuries of commerce and mercantilism fueling a business-minded culture that fosters innovation on a continual basis. While shipbuilding and seafaring may have been it’s economic base in the 17th century, the 21st century’s focus on a tech economy has benefited Boston well. With the many esteemed and established universities that call the Boston area home fueling the tech revolution with cutting edge research and cultivation of a highly educated and knowledgeable work force, Boston’s strong mercantile legacy has provided the ecosystem for a more establishment based tech industry. With a low unemployment rate of just 3%, and nearly a quarter of the workforce involved in the tech industry, local companies such as Akamai, Wayfair, Mathworks, TripAdvisor, LogMeIn, iRobot, KAYAK and DraftKings, amongst others, have set themselves apart as major brands emerging from the Boston tech scene.
7.) Bangalore Metropolis (Bangalore, Electronic City, Bommanahalli, etc.), India
When people think of Bangalore, they generally think of outsourced phone banks and IT call support. What they may not realize is that India’s third largest city is the center of the tech industry for the country and South Asia in general. Bangalore is well positioned to be the preeminent tech hub of the future. India is the world’s largest democracy and free economy. It’s also soon to surpass the People’s Republic of China as the world’s largest country in the next couple of years as China begins to reap what it sowed with decades of one-child policies causing a population graying and decline, opening the door for India to supersede China as Asia’s and the developing world’s superpower. This means a lot of energy, focus and enthusiasm is being pumped into Bangalore’s tech industry. With a population of 12.5 million residents, an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, and an economy that is completely dominated by the information technology, start-up and the related space technology industries, Bangalore is the unheralded blue collar workman of the global tech industry. It’s also the fastest growing tech ecosystems in the world and is one of the greatest venture capital funded startup hubs on the planet. Birthing such companies as BA Systems, Quickr, Craft Silicon, AFTC, Applied Analytics and Cloudnix Labs, Bangalore, like Santiago before it, is one of those markets that if it isn’t on tech radar right now, it will be awfully soon.
8.) Île-de-France (Paris, Verseille, Neuilly-sur-Seine, etc.), France
Being the city of lights and romance, Paris has always been the gem of Europe. France is one of the most important global economies, and led by it’s dynamic young president. Emanuel Macron, the French government has been pumping a bunch of time and resources into raising Paris’s already strong tech scene into a global hub. Paris’s rising stature is further accelerated by Brexit. A large dearth of talent, resources and businesses are fleeing the uncertainty in London to plant their feet in Paris’s firmly entrenched European soil. What this means for the 12 million Parisians is their 9.8% unemployment rate will almost certainly improve in the near future. What is London’s loss is Paris’s gain. While London has traditionally been the tech hub of the EU, it’s self-harming decision to isolate itself from Europe and the world has allowed Paris to assume the leadership role in Europe’s industry. Startups are thriving in Paris, and young tech talent and entrepreneurs are flocking to the cafe’s along the Seine. Paris is further aided by government inducements to relocate talent to Paris from abroad and cash in on the discontent across the globe to rising right wing populism among educated, tech savvy millennials and other forward thinking intellectuals. Like nowhere else on the globe, Paris has done the most in recent years to increase it’s stock as a tech hub. Companies such as Atos, Dassault, Sogeti, Airbus, Airtag, Ubisoft and 360Learning are a testament to Paris’s forward thinking policies and ability to keep a finger on the pulse of attitudes across the globe.
9.) Metropolitan Toronto (Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, etc.), Canada
Since overtaking Montreal as the commercial and financial center of Canada in the 1970s, Toronto has been a hub of finance, innovation and technology. The startup culture is strong, and like Paris, Canada has a dynamic, young and economically invigorating leader in Justin Trudeau who is funneling attention and investments into Toronto’s burgeoning tech scene. Toronto is doing well for itself, with tech industry growth outpacing every other market in Canada as well as her two larger southern neighbors in the United States and Mexico. With 6.2 million residents, 5.8 % unemployment rate, and a large share of Toronto’s economy, the city is already well established as a tech hub. Like Paris, Toronto is also benefiting from political instability in it’s large and economically dominant neighbor. The number of American-based tech employees and entrepreneurs seeking to escape the right wing populism that brought Donald Trump to the White House is growing at a staggering rate. This is important for a city and a hub that up until 2016 used to see more tech companies and workers move south of the border than would settle in Toronto. The reversal of the tech brain drain is only going to cement and grow Toronto’s economy for the foreseeable future. With companies such as Diply, Wave, Tophat, Intuit, Geosoft and Angoss anchoring Toronto’s tech scene, and healthy domestic competition from the markets in Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver keeping innovation alive, Toronto is in excellent position as a hub in the global tech industry.
10.) Seoul Capital Area (Seoul, Incheon, Suwon, etc.), South Korea
I was at a wash as to if I should list Seoul or Tokyo here. While Tokyo was the first truly global Tech hub, and has contributed greatly to the foundations of the global tech industry, it faces many issues today including an aging and declining population, xenophobic attitudes preventing an influx of skilled expats, and a lack of energy and enthusiasm that is contributing to a startling decline in it’s once trendsetting startup culture. These are all issues Tokyo needs to address but Seoul lacks. While Tokyo is known the world over for it’s distrust of foreigners, the residents of Seoul have gone out of way to embrace them. While Japan is aging and it’s population is already in deep decline, South Korea still has time to learn Japan’s lessons and come up with policies to keep population growth in place before things start to break bad. While Tokyo’s startup scene is in free fall, Seoul’s tech industry is thriving and growing at an surprising rate. Buoyed by some of the largest titans of the tech world, the regions 25.5 million residents are in a market brimming with energy, potential and excitement when it comes to tech. Like Tokyo, Seoul is a city that feels like it’s 15 years in the future for North Americans such as myself. With a 3.6% unemployment rate, and a populace that is already very tech savvy due to the popularity of eSports and access to the latest and greatest tech toys, companies like Samsung, LG, the Sunkyoung Group, Kakao, Nexon, Softmax and Phantagram are thriving in the international markets. Like Singapore, South Korea is an Asian tiger, but unlike Singapore, Seoul is an open, free and fair society. Of all the cities on this list, Seoul is the city where I have the most friends and acquaintances working in tech, and every single one of them loves it. So beyond the statistical tests, Seoul passes the eye test for being a great international tech hub.
Do you agree or disagree with this list? Are there any tech hubs you think should also be named? Please discuss in the comments. Until next time…
…the ketchup is in the sauce.