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Ask HN: Best Startup City - Outside the USA?
158 points by lzw 2695 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 283 comments
I know the recommendation is that your startup should locate in the Bay Area or another startup hub for the best access to resources and networking.

But for many people, the US is not an option. These days you can't necessarily easily get a visa, especially if you're a young startup.

So, the question is, what location is the most like SF in all the ways that are beneficial for starting a startup but outside the USA?

We're a two person team. Founders have been together for a decade. One is engineer with deep experience, other is marketing and design expert. We're already slightly successful with our first product that has pointed the way to the Big Product for us.

We can relocate just about anywhere in the world, except the USA. Our passports will allow us to visit most countries without a visa and we should have little trouble getting work/residency visas in countries that welcome entrepreneurs.

So, where's the silicon valley besides silicon valley?

We've thought about: Toronto- seems to have a very strong startup scene, but this is just an impression.

Bratislava- Near vienna, but relatively low cost. Seems to be growing in leaps and bounds and has a well educated populace. Environment of low regulation and capitalism, so this could be the startup hub of the next decade. Might not be that now.

Big Cities in Asia- There are a number of candidates here, from Manila to Bangkok. Seems the creation of a middle class has unleashed a wave of creativity and desire to create internet startups amongst the youth in asia. Hong Kong is an obvious possibility.

But these are just impressions. We'd like to find a place where there is the possibility of having relatively low costs, since the access to venture capital will not be the same as it would be if we were in the Bay Area.

But access to talent, and more importantly, a startup culture seems like it would be really valuable.

But where can you find this best outside the US?

* Berlin is bursting with new ideas & startup culture, cheap, great people & scene (access to money less easy but changing fast). Scott Wheeler (http://www.directededge.com/) a HN alumnus is based there. The guys from Dopplr (@ Nokia now but it seems they are up to sthg)

* not just Bratislava but Vienna, I heard it is also great to startup there (Schnitzelconf. sept 7 there)

* Zürich (ETH university, many Google engineers there)

* and btw Chile offers you $40 000 to start there (not sure that is a very convenient location, but that's a bit of cash and the wine is good;) my2cts Good luck with your venture.

A vote for Berlin. I'd definitely pick Berlin over London at the moment.

London is really expensive to live and financial sector is sucking in programming talent with their lucrative pay checks. I lived in London for a year and I feel that many smaller cities in Europe have as vibrant startup scene as London.

Berlin on the other hand is the cheapest capital in Western Europe, startup scene is becoming more and more lively and it's location is great for moving around Europe.

Nordics are also an option: Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen all have quite lively startup scene. In Helsinki, where I live, early stage investing is improving with very fast pace. There are no VCs here, though, but almost anywhere in Europe, you have to take look for investors from abroad in any case. But granted, Nordics are pricier to live than Berlin, although not that bad as London.

FWIW, here's the information on the Start-Up Chile program that was mentioned:

http://www.thisischile.cl/Articles.aspx?id=4387 http://www.startupchile.org/

http://soup.io is also from Vienna

A very good article about Chile on techcrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2009/10/10/chile-wants-your-poor-your-...

Thank you very much for that info. I didn't realize Vienna was so active. Switzerland might even go on the short list if their residency situation isn't too bad.

I've been to Chile and I can say that the people there have a very can-do, capitalist attitude. I'll look into the startup program their doing.

Thanks very much!

I am shocked Tel Aviv is yet to be mentioned. Tel Aviv and the area are an incredible place. Israel is home to more publicly traded companies than all of Europe, 2nd to USA and Canada. More patents per capita than anywhere else, etc. Lots of young people right out of the army eager to organize with friends with the chutzpah to challenge the status quo and change the world.

See http://www.startupnationbook.com/ A fantastic read.

Though living there if you don't have Jewish family may not really be an option, visiting for business and pleasure is easy.

Out of curiosity, I looked it up -- Israel may even be harder to immigrate to than the United States. Background: I am a US citizen, but my mom's family is Jewish. Most of my mom's family came over from Hungary during WWII, while the ones who stayed behind were killed in the Holocaust. While I am not a practicing Jew (my immediate family is mostly atheist now), this should actually allow me to immigrate to Israel as an Israeli national.

Here's the tricky part. First, Israel has an acceptance of dual citizenship, so that is not a problem. However, an immigrated citizen is also subject to conscription in the IDF, just like every other Israeli citizen (and that includes women). It seems moving to Israel and then having to do 3 years of military service would put quite a damper on your startup plans.

If you're not Jewish and of Jewish ancestry? You're screwed. There is no easy way to gain a long term visa otherwise. So I would honestly have to put Tel Aviv at the bottom of the list, not the top, for international startup cities.

I think most immigrants past a certain age do a shortened military service, measured in months rather than years. And there are perks like certain tax exemption and free graduate studies (though even paying the full amount for grad studies would seem nearly free if you're coming from the US - Ivy League equivalent education costs about $5k/year or so last time I checked)

Israeli immigration laws in general are a mess because they are based on basic assumptions that were true when the country was founded:

1. In 1948 there were about a million of Jewish refugees in Europe, soon joined by about a million Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern nations. This made automatically granting citizenship for Jews a necessity at the time.

2. The concept of non-Jews (or basically anyone that had a choice) wanting to live in Israel, which was extremely poor and under real existential threat was almost laughable, and never seriously considered.

These aren't true anymore, and I believe will mean the immigration policy will need to change at some point. Unfortunately Israel is saddled with a barely-functioning parliamentary system which means no coalition government survived its full 4 year term in the past 20 years, making this level of changes extremely hard to push.

    If you're not Jewish and of Jewish ancestry? 
    You're screwed. There is no easy way to gain 
    a long term visa otherwise.
I personally know several non-jewish ex-pats living and working in Israel (and a ton of jewish ones), so it must be at least possible (although might not be easy).

If you know how they got their visa that could be very interesting. From what I read, the other major way to gain work entry is to have a company sponsor you (which your own startup doesn't usually count for that).

"Coming to work in Israel:

Migrant workers can work in Israel as specialists in one of the following trades: Nursing care Agriculture Construction Welding and industrial professions Hotel work Ethnic cookery"


I would really appreciate to work there. What are the special conditions for Jewish families?

I think that while there seems to be a very active startup community in and around Tel Aviv, I think it could only be considered a real option to people of Jewish decent (who can prove it and are willing to go through the "Aliyah" immigration process) or if you are married to an Israeli. With those barriers for entry, Tel Aviv (Israel) pretty much drops off the list. I must say, though, that there is definitely no shortage of talent in Israel, with fresh and eager graduates from Israels Technion, Tel Aviv University and the University of Be'er Sheva.

I would be more open to Tel Aviv if Israel was more open to us.

One of the operating hypothesis in this search is that the place that would welcome us with open arms will also welcome bright people from around the world, and will tend to thus accrue the bright people who seek a better environment.

Immigration is what built the US, for instance. Part of the decline of the US is going to be due to its immigration policies.


There are so many things happening here, every day, every night. The Anglo-Saxon cultural origins of England (which are shared by North America) mean people regard individualism and independence a lot more favourably than elsewhere which creates an ideal climate for starting up your own company.

As a leading global city, people are drawn here from all around the World every day so there's an incredibly large talent pool here. By definition, everyone speaks English here which can make things easier. As one of the main financial centres of the World, obtaining financing here is a lot more easier than at many other places.

England being an EU member, you can enjoy the advantages of being located within the EU (hiring, easy access to the European market, etc.); at the same time, there's considerably less government regulation than in other EU countries so you would have to deal with a lot less red tape.

From growing up in, and visiting London frequently, I don't really agree. London is as, or more expensive than, NYC. Programmers are expensive in London, and in dealing with the British tech culture, they don't seem to have the 'entrepreneurial spirit' I'm used to in the US, it seems less 'young, talented, take on the world attitude' and more about working at satellite offices for IBM etc.

If I was going to pick somewhere in the EU, I'd go for Berlin.

If you are not EU, London is just as hard to immigrate to as the US. Especially with the recent changes in immigration policy.

Sorry to be a pedant, but it's the United Kingdom which is a member of the EU. Also, London is probably one of the parts of England you're most likely to find people who either don't speak English well or don't speak it at all.

You're right about the UK, England and the EU, of course. About London: while I don't have data, I think it's safe to say that outside the US, London is the largest concentration of English-speaking people in the World.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I could go about finding out about active startups in London?

What is the cost of living like there? I've always gotten the impression it's very expensive to live there, especially for housing and rent.

I've also never been there, but want to visit someday.

The costs if living in London are similar to those in New York City. Some things are more expensive, some things are cheaper but it's generally the same "ballpark".

To give you an idea: 100 euros per week rent to share a room in a crowded flat 50 euros per week food 30-40 euros a week for transportation

That is for a basic existence

It is really difficult to get British visa (leave alone US) if you're from so-called third-world or ex. Soviet block. So, East Asian cities are much better.

btw, this century is the century of the Asia. To alter slightly a famous quote by F. Brooks - think for the future - it will be there sooner than you think. ^_^

You don't say where your passports are from, but if you're in Europe, there's London.

There are many startup and entrepreneur events on meetup.com, such as minibar, london bloggers.

Also, in terms of a geographical 'valley', there's Silicon Roundabout ( http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=silicon+roundabout&... )

Ah, relatively low costs - that could be the kicker. London is an expensive place to live. That said, one can still live frugally by cooking for yourself rather than eating out, and the GBP has fallen in value so it's become a cheaper place for those dropping foreign currency.

Finally, GOOD LUCK in your venture - keep us posted on your unnamed product, and where you're heading, in whatever sense of the word :)

I can recommend Brighton (100km south of London), which is great for new media kind of startups with huge pool of musicians, designers and such. It is also much cheaper than London.

Now that you're mentioning other cities in UK, I'm currently doing an internship at a startup in Oxford. From what the guys are saying, the city is a great environment for startups, with an active community and a number of VCs, but it's not that much more cheap than London.

(It also has beach, countryside within a mile or two, and a lot of nice pubs and restaurants. I'm in London now, but I'd be in Brighton in a flash if I was starting something with no ties.)

London is indeed expensive, salaries for jobs are very high too, and unlike other parts of the UK - where jobs are posted and filled almost instantly, I've noticed London based start-ups seem to advertise the same dev jobs for months, even years.

I can vouch for the expense of London :S

Singapore. The government seems hell bent on kick starting the startup scene.


http://www.spring.gov.sg/Entrepreneurship/FS/FS/Pages/young-... "This scheme provides funding support of up to S$50,000 for youths to set up their innovative startup."

However, the startup culture and network is not as vibrant as it is in Silicon Valley/Bay Area. Also, I hear top quality developers are difficult to hire. That being said, no strings attached seed grants are bound to help to some extent.

Singapore is great for startups looking for little-strings-attached funding (the government there is very liberal with its money) but not so good if you're talking about startup culture.

Things to look out for: a very myopic startup community (people there tend to have an unnatural focus on the tiny Singaporean market, particularly with me-too product ideas) and prominent members of the community who are not themselves entrepreneurs, but who spend a lot of time talking about it to the masses.

Singapore can and will be better. Just give it one or two more years. But in the meantime - funding alone does not a startup hub make.

I'm gonna say that's a slightly over-negative view.

I've worked in and around startups in SG for the past three years and am now starting my own.

Sure there are blowhards in every community but there is a real sense of a movement happening here in SG. The Hackerspace, good user groups for multiple languages, Pivotal Labs are setting up out here, Joi Ito's Neoteny Labs incubator, a founders institute class has just finished and universities that are churning out an increasingly startup friendly work force.

Plus the weather is great, you're in a regional hub for bringing in wider SE Asian talent, or hitting a beach (cheaply) for a couple of days to get some vitamin D.

There are negatives: if you are a pure idea person rather than technical founder you'll struggle to hire a good developer out here, not because there aren't any but because the community of good devs are sharp enough to smell bullshit a mile off and would be happy plowing their own furrow or joining a startup in which they had more stake. You can't outsource to here.

Broadband and wireless are cheap and plentiful, nationwide free wifi in most coffee establishments.

As an Brit entrepreneur bootstrapping out here there is a lot to recommend the place. For interest you might want to check our 'startup experience' blog, http://nakedstartup.com. Or hit me up on twitter (@andycroll) for a more detailed chat.

In short, I like it, perhaps others might.

How about the cost of living/cost of hiring? Can you elaborate a little on that?

Rents are highish, but if you're looking out of the city a room in a 2bed is about 1k SGD.

Food is as expensive or cheap as you make it. From $4 a meal. The cheap hawker food is generally excellent. Sadly booze is a bit expensive.

Dev hires from 3k / month for grads full time. Possibly a bit less.

I need to be a Singaporean or a permanent resident to be eligible for the grant. Anyone have an ideas how much hard is it to get permanent residency?

6 months with degree and a startup plan. Work visa while you wait. Revenue not made in Singapore and not banked/kept in Singapore is tax free.

Seconded Singapore. Been there once for the Barcamp. The community is awesome and their HackerSpace is happening as well.

Lots to recommend singapore, but getting a work pass looks like it will be fairly difficult.

Getting a work pass is bureaucratic but not difficult. Working in the tech industry plus degree is a shoo in for a work pass. If you can fill out a straightforward form and photocopy a certificate...

I've had work passes of three different types since I've been here and had little trouble. Gimme a shout if you want a fuller run down.

Montreal, Canada, for:

* Strong, diverse and friendly startup scene. From 2 to 5 startup events every week. see calendar http://63sq.rs/52c (View @mtlnewtech for more). Many local developer groups (montrealonrails, montrealpython, phpquebec, js-montreal,dotnetmontreal, uxmtl, etc.)

* Strong existing angel investors + new VC funds being created. You mention Toronto but actually there is more money flowing in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada

* Montreal is half european and half north american, half-french, half-english. Lots of diversity, lots of creatives. Literature : "Nearly a fifth of the Montreal region's workforce forms a super-creative core: techies & cultural & entertainment types ... Montreal also benefits from its dense, compact geography. Most experts agree that innovation and productivity are driven by density, and Montreal ranks third among all North American cities in average population density"

* Montreal is 2nd happiest city in the world http://bit.ly/dAWLW5

* 4 universities, plus engineering and business schools, such as McGill University, Hec Montréal, @SUPINFOMontreal or ETS

* cost of living is cheap. Not as cheap as Bangalore of course, but cheaper than Toronto, Boston and of course cheaper than San Francisco or London, U.K.

* lots of initiatives, one startup incubator (@bolidea), another one coming in September, blogs and publications dedicated to the community ( http://montrealtechwatch.com or also upcoming @nextmontreal), student/entrepreneur groups (@Startupifier), startup weekends (one coming in early October), conferences drawing hundreds of attendees (wordcamp, rocococamps, startupcamp, podcamp etc), big startup space soon (@notmanhouse)

* plus of course many technology projects launched every month, in average 1 or 2 new products launching every week. OstrichApp launched 10 days ago featured on apple.com, BeyondTheRack funding, statusnet, vanilla forums, Tungle etc.

there is more money flowing in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada

I'm curious what you mean by this (and if you have any evidence) -- VC deal flow, overall economic activity, or what? The impression I've got from others about Montreal's economic activity hasn't been nearly as positive.

I also wonder if you'd be at a disadvantage trying to do business in Montreal without speaking French -- the friends of mine who have prospered in Montreal are all very good French speakers.

I'm no expert on Montreal's economic activity overall, but Montreal and Quebec have fared relatively well during this recession.

"A look inside the April unemployment numbers of 8.1 per cent shows Quebec, at 7.9 per cent, below the national average, and nearly a full point below Ontario's 8.8 per cent. You don't see that every day. In fact Quebec added 35,000 jobs in April and 91,000 since last July. When the May numbers come in, Quebec will likely have created more than 100,000 jobs in less than a year."

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Canada+recession+bette...

The language issue is always there, but Montreal's startup community is pretty bilingual. It's possible to do business here as a non francophone. But, if you want to establish a long term presence in Montreal, it's a good idea to at least try to learn French.

Montreal Start Up is a seed fund started a few years ago by a group of angel investors / entrepreneurs. It's on its way to a home run with one of it's investments. They are raising a new larger fund - http://montrealstartup.com/

Teralys Capital is a new fund of funds that has "$700 million" in capital commitments". I think 50% will be invested in Quebec. http://www.teralyscapital.com/who-we-are

On a related note, it seems that Montreal didn't get the memo about the real estate crisis in the US. Prices actually rose in the past year. Housing is still cheap compared to major cities.

Can someone explain the Montreal craigslist apartment listings to me? What does the "4 1/2" in "2br - 4 1/2" mean?

When there's a listing that states "X 1/2", it means that there are X rooms in the apartment. A 4 1/2 is usually 2 bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen area - the ad will usually indicate if this is not the case.

The 1/2 means a bathroom. Not sure of the origins; perhaps it is from the days when some apartments did not have bathrooms.


Montreal is very much a renter's city. It is common for anyone under 30 to move once every two years -- some people move every single year.

Rents are not as cheap as they were in the 90s but they are still desirable compared to other major cities in Canada.

Odd, in the western US I'm accustomed to a "half bathroom" being a room with a toilet and sink but no bathtub or shower stall. Listings look like "2br 1+1/2ba" meaning two bedrooms and one full and one half bathroom.

Amsterdam has:

- The largest internet exchange in the world, which means very cheap and high quality colo

- Several large universities with CS departments in the vicinity should you need team members

- Excellent quality of life

- People speak several languages, including English

- A great startup scene

- Tax breaks on innovative (software) products

Downsides: not cheap and hard to get a working permit if you're from outside the EU. Don't go there if you get offended by a very liberal value system.

Can you elaborate on that great startup scene? I'm only aware of companies with relations to "thenextweb" and their founders, but don't hear a lot about other Amsterdam based startups that much. I'm not aware of any regular meetups or stuff like that.

With great startup scene, I mean there are bunch of cool startups within biking distance of each other (To name just a few http://www2.layar.com/, http://www.phusion.nl/, http://www.ebuddy.com/, http://www.supersaas.com/, http://www.guerrilla-games.com/). So you're bound to run into fellow entrepreneurs.

It also has a large number of headquarters of multinationals (Cisco, Philips, etc) so expat services are well developed.

I'm not really into generally accessible meetups myself, but I'm sure I've seen a few announcements come by of various functions.

There's STIKK (http://www.stikk.nl), and a bunch of Ruby/Python/Haskell/JavaScript meetups. What's maybe lacking are a couple of big companies that buy/invest in smaller ones (e.g., like Nokia in Berlin).

Regarding meetups I have been wanting to organize one for sometime, but I'm going on holiday for a couple of weeks, so I will think about it when I will come back.

Let's not forget the very talented folks at Sofa : http://www.madebysofa.com/

Layar is from Amsterdam

Hard to believe nobody has mentioned Tel Aviv. Definitely the #1 spot outside the USA. Soooo many startups coming out of israel lately.

Tel Aviv has many pluses:

* Good programming talent.

* Access to capital. (Yossi Vardi alone funds a lot of startups.)

* Great English skills.

And some downsides:

* Young tech people can be whisked away by the military in a heartbeat. (And the draft can go up to 40 years old I hear.)

* Not as cheap as it used to be. Talented people make only a bit less than they would in the US.

* The culture tends to be more argumentative than the US. You can find yourself spending too much time arguing about minor details and not building product.

* Design talent can be atrocious. They aren't as focused on aesthetics as Western Europe or the US.

* Ethnicity based immigration policies.

* Flying there is a nightmare for non-Jews (sorry to put it bluntly, but it's true, I know from first-hand experience). And if you hire a young male Arab in the US, they will probably refuse to go back after visiting the airport once.

Most Israelis get drafted at age 18. They get out of the army at ages 20/21 or so. People out of top quality computer related military units have a lot of experience both as hackers and managers. There's really no being 'whisked away by the military' once you've served your term (Other than reserve duty, but that's relatively minor).

I visited 11 years ago and still remember it being one of the most vibrant energetic places I've been fortunate enough to goto.

another plus point - awesome beaches

though you never hear of a non-israeli startup based in Tel Aviv

I recall a number of expat-ran startups in Tel Aviv when I lived there during the first dot com boom. US/UK presence is strong in the industry, and English often serves as a common language to Israelis, Russian immigrants, American expats, European sales reps etc. The TechAviv meetup, for example, takes place in English ( http://www.techaviv.com/ )


the reason that many tech events in Israel are in English, is not because of it's serving as a "lingua-franca" of our diverse population, but because almost always we have foreign guests or foreign speakers. It's enough to have one high-profile foreigner in the audience, so the entire event will be in English. The small meetups with only Israeli attendants are held in Hebrew. Even if the lectures or talk are in Hebrew, slides most likely will be in English. Also I would not call Jewish immigrants from North America - "expats". Thought there is a big Anglo-Saxon Jewish immigrant community (US,Canada,UK,SA,Australia,NZ).

I'm from Israel (temporary relocated to Europe), but thinking about moving to SF Bay Area for number of reasons. I contacted by our local VCs once in a while, but still it's not the same scale as in the Valley. Also my product based on Erlang/OTP with virtually no experienced people in Israel in Erlang or functional languages at all. The last reason, I work in Semiconductors industry and it's only logical to move to Silicon Valley ;)

Regarding moving to one of European countries: I would be careful, if you planning to hire people there. Most of the countries has strict labor codes, limiting number of hours employees can work and large vacations. So it might be not a good fit for startup. One of the reasons, Intel Larabee project is failed, because large chunk of the project was assigned to Intel Germany ;) VC frequently use word "hungry". Like: "I will fund him, if he is hungry enough". I think for your startup you need to choose a place were people are hungry. Hungry for success, hungry for money, etc. Unfortunately, Continental Europe is not such a place ;)

Good points. I remember how weekly R&D meetings at a startup I worked for switched from Hebrew to English when a single, junior level American member joined the team. I didn't give it much thought at the time, only after a few years living outside Israel I realized how non-obvious this is..

I think the hunger for risk & success is a good point, and perhaps the main characteristic of Tel Aviv, from business to art to nightlife. Though it takes a certain kind of person, especially if you grew up in much safer Europe/North America.

Good luck with your startup! Will be happy to buy you a beer if you pass by NYC, en route to SF :)

It could be because until recently, few people outside Israel thought of it as a place for a startup. That's probably going to change over the next few decades.

My understanding is that it can be pretty hard to get an appropriate visa unless you're jewish (although this may have changed recently).

yeah; I almost got a job at a startup there; the deal fell through because I found out they wanted to pay me half what I make here about the same time they found out I didn't have any jewish ancestry.

This has not changed.

True, but you have to take into account that Tel Aviv is one of the few places where terror attacks aren't just something politicians pull out of their bags to scare voters - their are an actual thread.

These days that's actually more of an issue in areas directly bordering the Palestinian Authority (such as Jerusalem).

Tel Aviv didn't really have much terrorist bombing recently - I wouldn't be surprised if more people (even per-capita) died in NYC, London or Madrid in the past 10 years than in Tel Aviv, and you'd never consider terrorism to be a reason not to move to either of these cities.

Regardless of where you decide to build your start up there will be local dangers. Not sure of the stats but you are probably more likely to get taken out by a drive-by in California, or a mugging/beating in New York than a terrorist in Israel. The stress of knowing there are terror attacks is probably what will get to you first. I don't think the OP mentioned stress/crime free environment as one of his pre-requisites, but if that place exists, please let me know about it.

Not just tel aviv but also hertzelia (a tech hub just north of ta).

That's my hometown :) A very high concentration of tech companies in the Herzliya Industrial Zone (almost wholly tech companies and fancy restaurants these days).

How hard is it to live there or immigrate if you're not Jewish?

I tried searching for this question and turned up a lot of alarmed newspaper articles about a rising tide of non-Jewish immigration, and even government promises to do something about this.

The problem they have now is illegal immigration - either people coming on a limited time work visa and staying after it expires, or East African immigrants coming in via Egypt.

Either way, it's tough to get a work visa, about as difficult as the US or Europe. If I were doing it, I'd go on a tourist visa. All in all Tel Aviv is a great place to hang for a while, but if you're looking to relocate somewhere for a year or so I'd look for a cheaper and easier places in South America or Asia. Even Vancouver might be cheaper. (Or if you're an EU member there's Berlin and possibly some Easter Europe cities?)

Vancouver might be cheaper

And Montreal is even cheaper (about 2/3 the cost of living).

can you work on a business/tourist visa? At least in America, if we catch you doing that, we throw you out.

Officially, certainly not - I don't know of any country where you're allowed to work on a tourist visa. But in reality, you're sitting in a cafe with a laptop. Who can tell if you're building a web app or checking Twitter? I mean, you go into most actual start ups' offices during business hours and you still can't tell ;)

eh, being able to openly, legally work is a pretty big advantage, I would think, especially when trying to get investors and stuff. were I an investor, I'd be much less likely to invest in something that was legally shady even if I thought it was morally okay.

I think in that case, it would probably be a problem in most countries (unless, say, you're from the EU and pick another EU nation etc). There are nations like Costa Rica that have an entrepreneur visa, but AFAIK you have to employ certain number of locals and show some upfront investment to get it.

If I were in the OP's position, I believe I'd incorporate (if I really need to at all) where I have citizenship, then work on the product wherever I choose.

If you're talking an office with employees etc, that's a different story, but if it's a couple ppl working from an apt or cafe, perhaps with other staff telecommuting from where they live, I can't imagine this would a problem anywhere.

Try Waterloo Canada! It's a couple hours out of Toronto, and has a pretty strong technology and startup sector. RIM is based here, and many large tech and software companies have their Canadian offices (the non marketing offices) in the area.

It has the University of Waterloo sitting there, which disgorges tons of CS and engineering students every 4 months looking for coop jobs. I'm currently attending UW, so I might be a bit biased, but I really believe that taking on waterloo coops is generally a good experience for any company. There are plenty of students there who enjoy working at startups (many graduates go on to form their own startups actually), and the university goes out of its way to encourage students to attempt startups.

Definitely worth looking into. (and more companies offering coop jobs is always welcomed)

Also, OpenText is there.

Hands down, Tel Aviv.

London, Beijing, Boston, Tokyo (all places where I have been and interacted with the entrepreneurial community, at least in consumer internet) have nothing on it.

There are naturally downsides to Tel Aviv, which are mentioned below and chief among which is the stupid immigration policy which probably makes it hell for non-Jews to get in to work on a start up.

However, if you can figure out a way to work there, here's what I think Tel Aviv has going for it:

1. High appetite for risk and hunger for success/opportunity among young people. Lots of the best people are technical, and many come from middle class backgrounds.

2. Highly entrepreneurial society/culture.

3. Strong presence of many US Firms, VC and technological (intel, google etc..). Very tight communication lines between the Valley and Israel (many entrepreneurs and investors spend time in both places during the year).

4. Lots of highly skilled engineers and somewhat lower costs (by US standards).

5. A city that never sleeps and has wifi everywhere.

I mean this quite literally. You can go out at 4am to one of Tel Aviv's many cafe/restaurant/bars, order a shot of Jager, a wiener schnitzel with fries and a side salad, and an espresso to top it off, all while enjoying great wi-fi and being only minutes (walking on flat ground!) from the beach (where as opposed to SF, the water is actually warm most of the year). Nobody will even give you a second look.

Try that anywhere but New York City (with its six months of crappy weather) and I guarantee you will want to shoot yourself.

6. Hot weather throughout the year. No need to deal with stupid externalities like snow storms or days where you get SAD because of the weather (see London...).

7. Great research universities.

8. Only hours flight from all major european cities. If you need to fly to London for a day or two, no problem. It would cost you a few hundred dollars - and it's shorter than flying from NYC to SF.

9. Tons of amassed experience in building tech startups.

10. Access to capital.

Sounds great in many regards. However, it looks like Israel is happy to have us visit for 90 days, but not interested in having us relocate there for an extended period, unless there is a local business who wishes to sponsor us.

That seems to be the case pretty much everywhere you'd go where you're not already a citizen.

I believe the OP said he has a European passport which would probably permit him to work in most parts of Europe. The US apparently is not an option because of it's immigration restrictions, so we probably could not consider Israel an option because of it immigration restrictions also.

Actually the rules seem to vary pretty widely. All of them require some sort of application, but while some countries really aren't interested in immigrants, others will approve anyone who is reasonably qualified.

London, UK. It's expensive, but it has a startup culture that's probably only second to the Valley now. You can pretty much go to a startup event every day of the week now. The scene's still developing but the growth's been huge over the last couple of years.

Another alternative maybe Cambridge, UK which is cheaper, has it's own startup community, has a good talent pool because of the uni, and is only 45 minutes away from London using the commuter train.

Elsewhere in Europe, Berlin and Stockholm both have startup communities. I'd look at Talinn in Estonia if cost is a major issue, the government offers grants for companies hiring developers which can be of significant help in reducing labour costs.

An additional point: If you're starting in the EU, it's probably a good idea to incorporate your limited company in the UK even if you're in another country. Most EU countries have less company-friendly laws and more regulatory hassle.

You can pretty much go to a startup event every day of the week now.

Even worse... there are overlaps between events now. You can go to several startup events every day of the week some days...

Which is, actually, awesome. Yay.

Heh I never realized you were actually in London ! - did I ever bump into you at one of those events without connecting you with your HN/irc nick ?

Possible... I go to DrinkTank on occasion, and some other events every once in a while. Usually you can recognise me by the name tag that says "Daniel Tenner" (or just check my photo on my blog...)

Warsaw Poland!

I live in San Francisco, but I have to say: Warsaw is a super cosmopolitan city (though half of that is Turks), still relatively affordable, very high level of education, and it's the fastest growing economy in Europe.

Not to mention, the amount of foreign investment pouring into Warsaw is just ridiculous.

I'm very glad that you have such a good opinion this city deserves. I'm from Warsaw, If anyone wants tips or grab a beer while here, just ask.

While we don't have lots of international startups, we have quite a lot local ones, and lots of talented people in the IT field. Internet connection is quite cheap, and a westerner also should not have any problems with rent (you can find sth small in a nice location for about 400Euro/mth). Youngsters generally speak English, elders not so much, but you won't have communication problems in popular places, malls and offices.

Thanks, that's the kind of unexpected answer I was hoping for to some extent.

How's the cost of living? How much would a 2Br 2Ba apartment in good proximity to mass transit go? Would it be super expensive to get broadband to said apartment? Or would it be something like the US where you just ring up a provider and they turn it on?

How much is english spoken there? I'll look into the residency and visa issues and put it on my list though.


English is common among educated people of our generation, rarely spoken at all by elders. In malls, business locations, or downtown pubs/clubs you won't find any particular problems. In terms of public service there's a pressure in this field due to hosting Euro2012, municipal police takes courses for that, etc. There's lot for improvement but it's constantly getting better.

Depending of the available provider in the area 6-10Mbps is about 15-20Euro/month, if building is covered by a nice cable network for the same 20 you can as well have 20Mbps+. You sign 1-2yrs contracts. Public wireless coverage is poor.

Real estate - rent? take my prices only inicatively, I'm not into real estate, they're from a quick search ~~80m2 in the city centre goes from 700Euro/mth in an average building to 1000-1500E for a more fancy location. Places uptown with good transit (20-25min subway to centre) are a bit cheaper and there's more to choose in quality, f.ex. a modern building or an old one in a cosy quiet place. I'm talking about west riverside, eastside is much cheaper, but offers less in terms of neighborhood quality or transit.

Public transport is 20Euro/mnth, gas is currently 1.1-1.2E/liter.

If you consider moving here and got any questions, u got my email in my profile, feel free to drop a line.

So I've not done business in Warsaw myself (as I said I'm in the Bay Area), I've been there and I know of quite a lot of activity going on. Internet is ubiquitous, everyone I met there had Internet, and it seems most cafe's did too.

I'm not brave enough to drive a car in Warsaw, public transit is "European class" (which is to say, there is more of an expectation that public transit works, and that it will get you anywhere... anywhere... even remote areas of the country. I cannot say that of the Bay Area where I can't even get to most of Marin, or Napa).

English is pretty ubiquitous as well. How ubiquitous you may ask... well, even the strippers spoke English. ;-)

IMHO the only place in Europe where there's been real innovation - and not just copycats of American startups - is Scandinavia. Think Linux (Finland), Opera (Norway), Skype, MySql, Spotify etc (Sweden).

Yes, come to Scandinavia! It's happening a lot here, there's some great iniatives to become a real innovation hub for tech companies. And most importantly - we have competence and willingness to make great inventions. Stockholm is the natural hub, but both Helsinki, Copenhagen, Oslo & Malmö is great. The South of Sweden have become a great place with many iniatives, companies and events.

I know, we have higher taxes, but it's a lot cheaper than UK (for example).

Hi, are there any links you can share about the South of Sweden? Many thanks! :)

Move to a place you are familiar with. It would take too much time learning the language, learning the culture, getting used to the local way of doing things, building your network, having support from friends/family. I don't think that the place where you found your startup is really that important.

It surely depends on the kind of startup you are building, but knowing the local industry / companies (names, people, market shares) has helped me a lot more then the actual (lack of) regulations/startup "feeling", cost of rent, size of town.

I see your points, and they are valid in many cases. But if you're from morocco or south africa or vanuatu or fiji, etc it may well be the case that finding others to work for your company is near impossible or there are external factors like lack of security or rule of law, that make relocating reasonable.

Our business is a consumer internet play and so local industry isn't a big help, but the language barrier might be an issue. We'll certainly be taking these things into account.

I would guess Vancouver or London.

I second Vancouver (not only because my wife and I who are both in the US are _desperately_ trying to get there ASAP).

* The tax breaks for software/web/tech-type startups is huge, not only the federal SR&ED tax for tech & biotech research startups, but KPMG also rated Vancouver #1 for "tax competitiveness" because of all the breaks the city (and province) provides to businesses, particularly startups.

* The mix of Hollywood, Video Games, and little tech businesses gives the tech atmosphere a really eclectic mix to draw strengths and pluck skilled people. The energy is "west coast" paced (meaning fairly swift but casual).

* Along with the "young" startuppy atmosphere and skillset is the commensurate payscale. It's cheaper than other cities and provinces to hire people, especially programmers. From everything I've read so far about the city, I think starting out is around 45k, then sr. positions is 60, and tops right out at around 70k for level IV guru coders. So, it's definitely not the Valley in terms of developer salaries.

* The climate is 7 months of never seeing the sun ever + 5 months of the most gorgeous weather you'll ever see. That gives you a space of 7 months to hunker down and _seriously_ work on your startup and hacking and 5 months to play as if you're a kid outside in the forest, mountains, AND ocean. It's a one-of-a-kind place for outdoor recreation, unmatchable really.

* The cultural mix is one I've never experienced before. The racial breakdown is ~50% Caucasian, 30% Chinese, then a 20% mix of mostly South Asian (Indian, Indonesian, Pakistani, etc.), Filipino, SE Asian (Vietnamese mostly), African, and Caribbean.

* You will _never_ blank on exotic cuisine restaurants, and most of them are inexpensive (well, aside from 12% "harmonized" sales tax that was recently implemented). In fact, Vancouver was named by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as having the greatest Chinese food in the world (yes, better than China and Hong Kong). And, it seems every immigrant to the city has opened up a restaurant to hawk their native cuisine.

> The climate is 7 months of never seeing the sun ever + 5 months of the most gorgeous weather you'll ever see.

Hey, I vividly remember going outside on the day after Christmas in a short-sleeve shirt and sunglasses. Like many West Coast locations, the weather can be very random. Although it's dominated by drizzle and mist most of the year.

> The energy is "west coast" paced (meaning fairly swift but casual).

Have to disagree with you there. If you're from the east coast or the Bay Area you are going to feel like you're wading in molasses. People from Vancouver usually don't have that sense of urgency, perhaps because the lifestyle is so good. The startups I know that had real ass-kickers on staff tended to import them. ;) I'm not saying you couldn't build a team that moved quickly, but you'll have to spend time inculcating that as a value.

Upvoted for using "inculcate."

Along with the "young" startuppy atmosphere and skillset is the commensurate payscale. It's cheaper than other cities and provinces to hire people, especially programmers. From everything I've read so far about the city, I think starting out is around 45k, then sr. positions is 60, and tops right out at around 70k for level IV guru coders. So, it's definitely not the Valley in terms of developer salaries.

The corollary is that the great programmers in Vancouver all move to the USA so that they can get paid effectively double what they would make in Vancouver. If you're good, it's also very easy on a TN-1. (I've worked with a couple dozen programmers from BC (Vancouver, Victoria) throughout my career)

I live in Victoria and still don't understand why salaries are so low in Vancouver. My only guess is that it's some kind of "quality of life" tax. Companies can pay less because it is a desirable place to live.

(Currently I work remotely for a US company because I haven't found a decent job opportunity here)

Good Points. One thing Vancouver has going for it is that I've been there several times, and am pretty familiar with the city.

You're absolutely right about the weather, though I consider the winter to be playtime as well. At least when the slopes are open.

Vancouver is on the shortlist and will get further investigation.

I've lived in Vancouver and SF, and worked for tech companies and startups in both places.

Is Vancouver really second best? Vancouver feels like it's got one twentieth the hacker/startup scene that the Bay Area has. If that's second best I'm not sure what third best would be. Or is that just a testament to how much of an outlier the Bay Area is?

Edit: Actually, now that I think about it, while there are home-grown VCs, a lot of investors were from the West Coast of the USA. So in a sense Vancouver, for startups, is just a really distant suburb of the Bay Area that has more liberal immigration and visa policies. And snowboarding.

London is a rather expensive place to be bootstrapping a startup. What would make it more appealing than Birmingham (nearby, pretty big), Edinburgh (medium-size city, with one of the best UK universities) or any other of the big cities with universities?

If you care for frequent flights to US/Asia, but don't mind the language barrier, Amsterdam or Berlin would be good choices as well. (Living cost in Berlin is relatively cheap yet it's attractive enough to live in for people - Amsterdam is expensive but small enough to commute if you want to live someplace cheaper).

Are there a lot of engineers or programmers in amsterdam? Web designers, or marketing people? I think that is the kind of infrastructure we need.

Amsterdam would be a very nice choice in many ways, and living in the country to save on costs would be a reasonable compromise.

Their residency permit requirements are reasonable as well.

I didn't think of Berlin as being cheap. Will have to look into that. Berlin is very appealing for a number of reasons as well.

Holland has some very good tax breaks for start-ups. To encourage innovations income from innovations is taxed at 10%. Also if you a foreigner living there, there are some over tax breaks. You can also get tax breaks on employing people.

Berlin is cheap, but hiring people is expensive, but there are loads of start ups there. German Tax laws account for 2/3rd of all tax laws in the world. Somewhere there are tax incentives for R&D investment.

For corporate structure you should look at using a Irish company, as this is far simpler than starting a company in the Netherlands or Germany.

Thank you. Good news.

There's actually more money flowing in Montreal (as mtw points out in an adjacent thread) and the cost of living is about 2/3 what you need to live on in Vancouver (and almost half that of Toronto).

That said, it's a lot easier to maintain an exercise routine in Vancouver.

Toronto is more expensive to live in than Vancouver? I think you have it backwards. Real estate, rent, food prices are all significantly higher in Van-city.

I grew up in Vancouver and lived in Toronto more recently, so it's possible things changed significantly. You're probably right about real estate, but that's generally not a factor for startups. Food is definitely not more expensive (unless you're shopping in Yaletown). You can find all you can eat sushi for $10 (that's decent) and for $13 that's better than the $20 places in Toronto (and Montreal). Also, there's japadog and delicious korean / indian food.

There are other factors at play: you can bike regularly because it's much more prevalent and safer in Vancouver. In Toronto, you need to have a car or at least a TTC pass ($121.00 vs $81 in Vancouver, $70 in Montreal).

I would agree with Vancouver for North America, and London for Europe area.

If you love the beach, super cheap to live, eat (fresh food) and really good devs but hard to find, consider Manila.

I am from Silicon Valley but have been here for almost 7 years. Downsides: traffic, small startup scene and hard to raise money. But there's a new local fund focused on local tech going after the world. They just funded my startup. I can make intros.

Subscribe to http://thestartupdigest.com Philippines to get a feel for the local startup events.

Vancouver - great startup scene and one of the nicest places to live in the world. Plus it's a quick flight to SF, a 2 hour drive from Seattle (an amazing startup area) and you are in Canada.

No-one in this thread has even talked about macroeconomic conditions. A lot of the places mentioned (especially US) are going downhill in a hurry for most professions. Yes, high-tech exists in a bubble that is excellent for startups, but debt is debt. Just consider the future before you move to that place.

This is a good point. One of the things that is going to really be hurting California, and probably Portland and Seattle over the next decade is the poor way the state governments have managed their budgets. This means high taxes, on top of the increasingly highly regulated and business hostile environments there.

I can't speak to how Vancouver is in terms of taxes, as it is another west coast city. But is the BC government in a fiscal emergency?

This is something to be concerned about for England, Germany and Spain as well.

While I think I would love to live in Berlin and will consider it as a location if the visa investigation looks promising, I probably wouldn't domicile the business there due to the very real expectation that Germany will be having a crisis like Greece in a few years.

Vancouver had a big housing bubble, and now their sales have plummeted, so I would imagine the state government might struggle a little bit. http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/07/vancouver...

However, overall Canada is in good shape financially compared to the other G20. Not alot of public/external debts. Here are the stats, as well as the other countries mentioned in the thread

Canada - 833 Billions external, 75.% GDP public

US - 13 Trillions external, 52.9% GDP public (~70T owed in social security/medicare uncounted)

England - 9 Trillions external, 60% GDP public

France - 5 Trillions external, 77% GDP public

Germany - 5 Trillions external, 72% GDP public

Israel - 84 Billions external, 78% GDP public

Netherlands - 3 Trillions external, 62% GDP public

Chile - 60 Billions external, 6.0%!! GDP public

Poland - 201 Billions external, 46.5% GDP public

Singapore - 19 Billions external, 113% GDP public

China - 340 Billions external, 16.5% GDP public

India - 223 Billions external, 58% GDP public



Dalian, China. Oil spill there recently but China has designated the entire place a tech zone and is working to make it the "Bangalore of China." Super-low living costs is a plus for entrepreneurs. Only main problem I guess would be language barrier -- while many do know English, it isn't like India where most people actually can speak it (with an accent but hey that's the least of your worries when you're trying to find the bathroom).

Does this also mean that they have visa/residency programs for entrepreneurs? Or is it just focused on chinese nationals?

One concern for china is the level of bureaucracy necessary. But in every other regard China would certainly be a hoot- it is an amazing country.

Berlin, Germany. Tons of startups, low costs for renting.

I had an unexpected two week stay in Berlin due to the volcano stopping air traffic. I fell in love with the place. A physically beautiful city steeped in high culture, but due to the communist experience, half the city has cheap rents. There's a long tradition of hacker culture here as well, spilling over into the artist and anarchist/radical politics scenes as well. Transit is ridiculously good.

It was very surprising how cheap everything was. Also, Doner Kebab (Turkish/German fusion street food) is a reason to stay all in itself.

I can't speak to the availability of startup capital though, if that's important to you.

> Also, Doner Kebab (Turkish/German fusion street food) is a reason to stay all in itself.

If this is a major concern, it can also be found in Vienna :)

I was perplexed as to why berlin kept coming up. Last time I was there everything was expensive.

However, the last time I was there the soviet union was still in existence.

I'm glad to hear that reunification has resulted in cheap rents, even if it is only on the eastern side of the city.

I think think that means Berlin might be close to ideal.

+1 Berlin is getting a lot of traction and has become the prime location for internet/software/media-based startups in mainland Europe. It's got everything you would expect for starting your company: low cost of living (cheap rent, cheap food, cheap transportation), good transportation infrastructure, vivid startup scene (with larger events happening almost every month and many successful startups), international culture, and an active capital scene (most VCs travel here in no time and there are plenty of resources available to get your startup off the ground with governmental support/loans/funds).

Seconding Berlin. Even though it's in Germany, the lingua franca in the startup community there is English. Quite a few London-based VCs swing through Berlin regularly. Off the top of my head, Soundcloud is a Berlin-based company with a London-based VC backer. (Disclosure: this one's always the top of my head because my friend Sitar sourced this deal for her employer, Doughty Hanson.)

Just curious -- why is Berlin rent cheap? Seems like capital cities (or large cities in general), in wealthy Western countries, are generally really steep.

Because normally the financial, cultural, and governmental centres of a country are in the same city. In Germany that's not the case as the financial capital is in Frankfurt which means in Berlin you don't have the high-end of the market driven by bankers, executives and professionals like you do in other capitals.

Throw in high-unemployment, a city which is huge physically compared to it's population (it's bigger than london with a third of the population), lots of low-income self-employed artists, writers, etc.

All of these factors combine to make it a cheap city. I'm currently staying in a 4 star hotel in a nice fairly central area for £35/night. You'd pay more than that for a smaller studio flat in london.

Berlin has a lot of unrented office space. Sometimes in bad shape, but a weekend of painting and you have a nice office. Berlin is cheaper than other german cities because of many reasons. One is the high unemployment rate compared to other german cities.

Berlin population was 4,338,756 in May 1939 and now it's 3.4M. Another reason is it's a subsidized new capital, lots of incentive for real estate investments in hope that the business/employments take off.

You have to take into account that in the earlier days more people lived in an appartment then nowadays.

And you can't compare WW2 Numbers with today. A lot has happend since than.

Sure you can. Berlin had no chance to really grow all through the Cold War, even worse, part of it was walled off and frontline at the same time. That’s why Berlin’s population plummeted even when Germany’s population grew.

It’s not easy to rebound from that (after 45 years), even when you become capital, pretty much all of Germany’s successful post-war industry established itself in western West Germany. And not just industry, Post and Telekom are both still in Bonn and will probably be forever.

Berlin is also in the middle of a huge sparsely populated area. If there are no companies in Berlin that have jobs to offer not many people are going to move there.

(By the way, looking at lists with the biggest German cities is a bit misleading. Sure, Berlin handily comes out top, but look at this map: [+]. That’s not a zillion different cities like those silly natives with their tradition would want to make you believe, that’s just one city with five million people in it.)

[+] http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Ruhr_area-ma...

Similarly, London is a mass of connected towns with suburbs in between, and perhaps two "cities" of Westminster and the City itself.

There is a lot of space, not so many people, and an efficient transport network means that people don't need to live all in the same area, which would drive up rents.

Depending which part of the city you want to live, it is far from being cheap. But there are a lot of places where it quite affordable, but I am not sure if this suits everybody (travelling distance, "neighborhood").

I am partly living in Berlin for 4-5 years now and now moving there with my startup completely.

Probably because it's position during the Cold War. It was not a good place for "Old Money" and big industries and financial institutions of West German were located in safer places.

berlin is the exception because it has had one side of the city living in poverty until the fall of the berlin wall

And besides of the low cost the atmosphere in the city is great. A lot of art and music people from whole europe move to berlin now to feel the vibe of the city. Visit berlin for a week and you will love it :)

Nearly everyone is able to speak english.

Small disclaimer: I am living in cologne, germany

Berlin is certainly the big surprise for me here. I am very happy to find out it is inexpensive and it has so many other qualities to recommend it. I was completely unaware.

It's going to be high on the list.

Come to Shenzhen. It's beside Hong Kong but without the terrible rent prices. See my latest blog entry, link in profile.

I live in Shenzhen and work in the IT myself (Tencent/QQ), but I cannot fully recommend it for startups: 1. GFW, you absolutely NEED a VPN to get access to Facebook, Twitter many blogs, YouTube etc etc 2. There are very very few Western IT people in the city. There is no community with meetings etc. 3. Though more and more people speak English, many people speak still very little English. Especially all official documents, all practical matters... all in Chinese 4. House prices are very very expensive, offices also. You say rents are cheap,... not really. Perhaps compared to Western cities, but even then the gap is narrowing quickly.

On the plus side: - many Chinese study Computer Science and there are many very bright young students eager for a job. - salaries are still relatively low (though higher than you perhaps would expect) - weather ain't bad if you can stand the summer heat :) - food is cheap, I eat in restaurants every day. - Shenzhen tries to focus on innovation and high-tech, I think you can apply for some subsidies

You'd need to set up two companies, one in the Mainland and one in Hong Kong, when doing it in China. Use the Mainland one for stuff involving low costs, and the Hong Kong one for when you start making money, for the legal protections.

Overall, what's the cost of living like in Shenzhen?

Rent - 3000rmb, each meal 15-20rmb, coke 8rmb for the big bottle, taxi fare - 30rmb average distance, nice dinner at restaurant for 5 people - 300rmb.

I wrote an article about the cost of living in Shenzhen a while ago: http://www.startinchina.com/shenzhen/life/cost_of_living_in_...

What's the visa situation like? Can you get a visa to stay there for 6 months or more? What I'm seeing online is that it is a large amount of red tape, requiring a local business, for instance, to sponsor you. Which is probably pretty hard to do if you're not their employee.

Would appreciate a specific link or name for the visa you're using and how you went about getting it...

I'm reading your blog post and you talk about the level of regulation in germany... but my impression is that in china it is worse, and further it is impenetrable. Of course, I've never been to china.

Actually, it is likely we will domicile our business in another country. What we're looking for is a location where costs are low and the spirit is high and where the infrastructure we need -- namely a good connection to the internet-- is available.

I'm glad to hear that renting is easy. I would have assumed that foreigners were unusual and thus it would be hard to find someone interested in renting to one.

It sounds like my preconceived notions about mainland china are wrong. Thanks!

Getting a visa for China is much simpler than getting a visa for Europe (and I imagine for the USA). I get a 1-year multiple-entry visa every year without problems, though with help of my employer.

Is getting a Canadian visa to start a startup actually that easy?

When I looked into it, it seemed that I had to have arranged employment, or a net worth of CAD 800,000.

I'm a citizen of an EU country.

I've never heard of anyone getting a visa to start a startup.

Getting a visa to work for an existing Canadian company is generally not a problem, and Canada has a points system for accelerated naturalization if you decide you want to stay permanently.

This is all based on hard data we have collected from my company StartupDigest. direct link: www.thestartupdigest.com

The strongest 5 cities outside of the US for us (60% of our issues are outside of the US) based on subscribe size, growth, and click through rate are in this order:

1. London 2. Paris 3. Tel Aviv 4. Beijing 5. Toronto

Granted I haven't lived in any of these cities long enough to know whats it really like but these are the top cities from our data alone.

My advice would be to get in touch with with founders, hackers, and VC's in these areas to get the real feel for what these cities are like. Then visit your top choices, and cowork there for 2-4 weeks.

Hope this helps!

Thanks, that's good advice. We'll probably do tourist visas for 60-90 days initially.

I appreciate seeing the results from your subscriber base. I also see the list of cities for which you provide info as an interesting shortlist ot consider. For instance, one city in France and Japan but three in Germany!

If any Canadians disagree with this post, just keep in mind these are my own impressions based on incomplete data. If you have an opposite opinion I would love to hear it to expand my knowledge.

Toronto, Waterloo, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal. All have their pros and cons.

Toronto: My town. People who say there isn't money here are full of shit. I know someone who is raising a million without revenue or a finished product (in a solid space, and the team is awesome, but still).

Benefits of Toronto: Lots of money, especially when you consider MaRS funding and all the angel networks around. Solid Rails and JS scene. Solid mobile app scene.

Problems with Toronto: Too much social media focus. Half the startups here are twitter clones (sprouter) or twitter add-ons (crowdreel), groupon/other coupon tools (can't remember the groupon clone, but there is: clip mobile for location based coupons and pinpoint social (by orange rhino media) for coupons to help track your facebook/social media campaigns), multiple "we make it easy to find a place to rent" apps (zoocasa), there is a eventbrite clone (guestlistapp (FD: my roommate is one of the founders)). I can only think of a few startups that really invented anything in Toronto (like FreshBooks, my former employer, or Bumptop, I guess). There is also a lack of really hardcore hackers. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong events, but when I was studying at Waterloo, there were so many people soldering together circuit boards AND writing their own operating systems for them. In Toronto I've only really scene someone program together a computer driven laser cutter. Oh and the banks eat up a good portion of really smart hackers with their 20 year old data warehouses.

tl;dr: too much social media & finance, too little hard core hackers outside of the mobile and webapp space.

Waterloo: I studied engineering at U of Waterloo. Some insanely smart people. Smarter than you can imagine. If you hang out in the right places you'll find guys that were patching the kernel at 14. Amazingly smart and connected profs too, only too willing to help you hire alumni and coop students.

Waterloo pros: Extremely talented hackers. With two premier universities, as well as a world class research center (perimeter institute) and a focus on education the whole city feels smart. CHEAP rent. Extremely cheap. I knew a guy that rented a room for $200 a month, utils included.

Waterloo cons: The public transit isn't the greatest. Doesn't really matter because the town is small, but a pain to get groceries. Definitely a car town. I've never really seen anyone get funding for anything, besides university expansions. $50k here or there until they are good enough to make the trek to Toronto (about 1.5 hour drive away). No where near the community of Toronto. In Toronto I could find somewhere to go every single week. Rails night every third monday, JQuery night once a month, Democamp, Podcamp, hacklabs, Open Web standards night, Toronto Hacker News Night (by yours truly). There is nothing like that in Waterloo.

Ottawa: My mom's side of the family is from there. I've spent many summers hanging out near or in Ottawa.

Ottawa pros: It is fun. Clean. Well laid out. Enough hackers, no where near as good as Toronto or Waterloo (or Vancouver for that matter), but damn are they cheap. Most of the coders I know there make between $30k - $60k. Contrasted to Toronto where a really, really good rails hacker can make about $130k and where most fall in the $60k to $100k range.

Ottawa cons: Tons of political contracts and work. No real innovation. A couple really good startups though, like Shopify.

Montreal: Some family lives in Montreal, but I don't know that much about it. Been there many times, almost got engaged to a girl that is fairly influential there, but she wasn't in the tech space.

Montreal pros: Money. Game dev community, so you get some really talented coders.

Montreal cons: Everything feels run down. People can call it European, but that is ONLY in the historical and art district. Everywhere else feels halfway between Toronto and Detroit. Their highways are so bad (gigantic potholes) the speedlimit has been lowered to 60km an hour, for what clearly should be a 100km/h road. Make sure you speak French (or at least TRY, they want to see you try) if you want to go to certain areas, otherwise you just get bad service from the hardcore separatists. Also, compared to Ontario drivers, Montreal drivers are really mean.

Vancouver: Lived here for about a year and a half. Was too young to work at the time so I can't comment on much besides the non-startup factors.

Vancouver pros: Extremely lax. Feels like Seattle, but prettier and with more weed. (I list weed as a pro, despite the fact that I do not partake strickly because to most people it would be). Very beautiful. Just amazing mountains and valleys and rivers and fish and bears. Everything is nice about nature in Canada is there.

Vancouver cons: Expensive. Try buying a livable place there. Almost NY prices, without the NY salaries to compensate. Highly regulated government, Ontario is much more business friendly.

Overall I recommend Toronto if you are a web startup or Waterloo if you are in a different startup space. You say you want low costs? Go to Waterloo and if you need to get capital you can always drive to Toronto.

> There is nothing like that in Waterloo

There probably wasn't while you were there, but things have gotten a lot better in the last few years. Between StartupDrinks, StartupCamp, BarCamp, Dev House, Ignite Waterloo, and topical meetups, Waterloo has a pretty active startup community.

Good to hear. I've been to one BarCamp at Waterloo, about 20 people there, but the presentations were fairly technical. Reinforcing all my beliefs. Glad to hear it is developing though.

True, the BarCamps tend to be more technical where the StartupCamps are more business-oriented. Attendance varies but I've noticed that the turnout is much better lately than it was when I started attending them in 2007.

Thank you for the very extensive writeup! I've added Ottawa and Waterloo to the shortlist. I had never even heard of Waterloo before. I'm well familiar with Vancouver and agree with everything you say about it.

Thinking about Vancouver makes me question whether conserving burn rate and finding a cheaper city is a tradeoff I shouldn't make, as it would exclude cities like Vancouver which has probably everything one could ask for in a startup hub.

Don't write Vancouver off quite yet. There's Vancouver and then there's Vancouver. Vancouver proper can be expensive or not so expensive, and then there are the numerous very closely-located suburbs which are less expensive and situated well enough that you can take advantage of everything the Vancouver area has to offer. Heck, in many cases the things Vancouver is known to offer are not in Vancouver itself but rather in those very suburbs.

This area certainly isn't the least expensive in which to live, but it isn't the most either. I can only speak for myself but I find that the view that it is too expensive has been largely blown out of proportion, especially given the benefits the area provides.

For someone bootstrapping it does depend largely on your budget and support system, so if you have any ballpark budget numbers it would be relatively easy to give you an idea of what the Vancouver area would be like on that budget.

As a poster mentioned down further, Waterloo is where RIM (of BlackBerry fame) is headquartered, in addition to having one of, if not the best, computer science/engineering programs in Canada. A great area to find smart, young minds.

And if you're bored on weekends, you can come up to Toronto, only 2 hours away.

I'm going to go ahead and recommend Bangalore (Disclaimer - I live here right now). While popular belief and stereotypes might have you believe that the city only has Call Centers and Outsourcing companies - it has a pretty bright startup community, which I'm only beginning to discover.

While I was born and brought up in Bangalore, I moved away for five years to College. I decided to start up after and moved back here, only to discover a very vibrant culture around technical startups. Due to the very strong proliferation of the internet, a lot of people have been picking up some pretty good technology and development stacks, and are not afraid to network and interact.


Most of the population you run into have a basic working knowledge of English, and as far as communicating with potential employees goes, it's not going to be a problem. You're going to have to put up with the funny accent though :)

Government/External support:

While there aren't fast-track routes to quickly get started, and there'll be a bit of paperwork involved, for which you'll need to get a local's help (heck, even _I_ am finding it a little hard). But as for bootstrapping and for staying in stealth mode, there's no place like it.


It's incredibly cheap here. Maybe not China-cheap, but cheap. I am staying with some friends in a very large luxury apartment in the center of this very large city, and the overall cost is near 480 USD a month(for 5 people). Programmers are cheap and widely available. The Experienced ones aren't as economic, but pack more bang for their buck. If you're willing to be a little flexible, it's surprisingly comfortable to bootstrap on <$400 a month.


There are meetups and networking sessions almost every weekend [ for example - http://www.meetup.com/Mashable/16063/?a=bn5_l1 which is tomorrow). Within a month, I'm starting to meet familiar faces, and a lot of people are looking for co-founders or someone with a good idea.

I recently attended the Yahoo Open Hack Day, which attracted over 500 hackers - and was amazed at the number of people who worked nearly 40 hours nonstop to come up with some very impressive hacks.

Another great example is "Startup Saturday" - a monthly networking session held by Headstart - a company to help people startup. I went to the June 12th Meet:


And found nearly 180 people cramped into a little auditorium. Plenty of people from abroad, and lots of people moonlighting - trying to make connections.

Examples of startups:

Just off the top of my head. There are tons more but these are from people I know personally.




If I can be frank...what do you think of the work culture in India, and would you really recommend it to a foreigner? I've heard that people are frequently dishonest and unreliable, that agreements are often not honored, etc. (And I've heard this from Indian friends.)

If you're caucasian, yeah - there will be a few people who will try to take some kind of advantage of your naivety. If you're a little careful and take some time getting used to it, you should be fine.

OP was asking for relatively cheaper, still plausible cities to start up in (he/she mentioned Chinese cities), so I just pitched it as a viable alternative.

I wouldn't recommend it straight out, as the last thing you'd need to worry about while working on your startup is to fit in with the local culture. Still - if you stay indoors you should be fine.

Spend a lot of time during the interviews. That's the surest way to get rid of these kind of people. If you depend on your HR to hire for you then you WILL end up with an unreliable and mediocre bunch of people. (My company has a HR team but I never ask them to find me candidates. I do all activities including resume filtering and pre-screening. As a result I have a much better group of people.)

I am very curious about this, too. Realistically, I might have to go to India if I want to keep coding.

The Indians/Bengalis I know locally are really nice people (if a bit square :-). On the other hand, I've heard in third hand that people moving to work in India said it was no fun at all.

What gives?

As someone who has lived in Bangalore for the last decade (and also in the USA for a while) and knows the local tech scene pretty well, I find the idea of putting Bangalore up as a candidate for "Best startup city outside the USA" amusing. There are a lot of people talking about startups, reading and quoting PG's essays, attending meetups and "networking events" and so on - but not too many companies with world beating tech or validated and scalable business models - which is what one would expect from a "best startup city outside the US". (Notion Ink is something of an exception in that they are at least trying to build something world class, but the jury is still out on their eventual success, but I thought they were based in Hyderabad not Bangalore. I could be wrong).

Sure, the programmers are cheaper than in the USA (I could say the same thing about say Rio De Janeiro or Beijing). There are hundreds of thousands of programmers in Bangalore but the majority are numbingly incompetent and work for body shoppers of various kinds. The good ones are rare and expensive and already have very well paying jobs. Good luck persuading them to work on your unfunded startup ;-) Nutshell: The entrepreneurial and technically competent hacker is very much a rarity in Indian society.

If you don't already know the devs you are going to work with in your startup before you come here I for one would not recomend that you try to build a company here and hope to hire good people after you land.

Also, there are no government incentives or tax breaks for startups (vs yet another bodyshop/outsourcing centre/ call centre).

Minor factual error: C42 (quoted in the post above) for example is a Rails consultancy (Yes I know the people who work there too. Ex ThoughtWorkers mostly). They might be a software startup (as the term is understood on HN) some day, but they are not one today.

There aren't any universities doing pioneering/cutting edge research (no not even the IISc, their research quality is at best mediocre) which might form the basis of a successful startup.

"There are tons more" (startups)

No there aren't. At least not as startups are understood on HN. There are a few startups and a lot of frothy talk. The number of people attending "startups meets" are not a good metric for "best city for startups outside the USA". Successful startups that have changed the world/been acquired for large sums of money, extensive angel funding and VC funding networks, top class universities doing cutting edge research etc, are. Bangalore lacks most of these or have only rudimentary stubs of all the above.

That said, the parent post makes some good points. Bangalore is cheaper than the USA (hardly surprising) and it has the potential for some good startups to emerge. That potential is, as of today, deeply buried. Vancouver or London or Tel Aviv or even Vienna blows Bangalore out of the water as a "city for startups". Things are changing in Bangalore but (a)very slowly and(b) under the radar of such things as "startup meetups"

My 2 cents. I write this to add a bit of counterpoint to the rosy picture presented above.

YMMV. As always Caveat Emptor.

EDIT: A blog entry written by one of the founders of Riya.com when he wound up his Bangalore operations - http://munjal.typepad.com/recognizing_deven/2007/04/episode_... .

I am not saying his observations are valid. I think Munjal did everything wrong about trying to operate in Bangalore, ("We tend to only hire folks from IIT or other top schools." is almost guaranteed to ensure that you end up with a mediocre dev team for e.g.) but that is a post for another day.

OP was inquiring about opportunities in Asian cities, so I just pitched the positive sides. Sure there are tons of negative sides (some of which I have to deal with as well) and isn't exceptionally friendly to non-locals. But if you're looking for requirements as "cheap place where you can find some degree of labor", I think Bangalore can match up to some degree, atleast.

Still, if you can infer from my post, I'm still fresh out of college (read: naive and somewhat ignorant), and you should really do your homework. While there's much more talk than work (that's a fundamental Indian trait, almost), there is some minor degree of work happening. Unfortunately the people who are doing some serious, innovative work (like our small team) are exceptionally quiet.

I got the chance to watch Bala Manian [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bala_S._Manian ] speak, and he's currently on his latest venture here as well. It's not impossible to make things work here, but it's certainly not easy. The frank opinion is the ends nowhere near justify the means unless you have a co founder who is Indian, or you're on a near zero budget (I met an American founder who travels with a Mac Mini and a keyboard in a suitcase).

tl;dr - Don't book your tickets yet, but it never hurts to keep your options open.

You actually give a buried but excellent reason to see Bangalore as the perfect place for your start-up. Amongst the large number of 'talkers' there have to be a number of 'doers', and a newcomer might just be the catalyst required to unlock some of that potential by giving these people the chance they've been waiting for.

Sometimes attitude is more important than on the spot capability.

Tax breaks are not that relevant for a start-up, most of the first couple of years you'll be making relatively little profits.

While I agree with your general premise and Bangalore isn't "Best startup city outside US", there is some good out there.

Entrepreneurial and technical competent hacker is a rarity anywhere. Obviously you won't find it in a under-grad who took up a job in IT, just so that he/she can prepare for MBA. But there are programmers out there, who are good and are in programming for fun of it. But then, are they entrepreneurial? Will they work for a salary cut? From what I have seen that depends.

"There aren't any universities doing pioneering/cutting edge research (no not even the IISc, their research quality is at best mediocre) which might form the basis of a successful startup."

Again for a lot of startups this might not matter. How many of startups in US spring from Basic Research? Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot, Six Apart... agreed that some of them had hard engineering problems to solve, but they wouldn't even fall into border line case of Basic research.

Riya example might be bad in someways because for a startup, it is bad idea to stretch yourself just for being cheap. Apart from IT services sector, if one is looking to start something great here, keyword isn't cheap. Inmobi started here and from what I have heard they are doing good. Zoho runs from Chennai. My previous startup marketsimplified runs from Chennai and is doing good.

I agree with lack of support system, Government, VC et.el, but if there is a problem it primarily lies with us, programmers.

NotionInk relocated to Bangalore recently.

What about immigration? How hard is it for a foreigner to move there. I gather from the OP that that's one of the major problems with the US.

I have met a good number of people who have immigrated without any problem. The policies are sufficiently liberal last time I heard.

Thanks for bringing up Bangalore. It is the kind of city that seems worth considering when you think about it, but that had never entered my mind initially. That's exactly what I was looking for when I posed the question.

My impression of India in general and Bangalore specifically is that it is very dense. How is the public transportation system within the city? Is it difficult and slow to get around? There seems to be a subway.

How about broadband infrastructure? Is it convenient to get broadband to an apartment? We'd likely rent a larger apartment rather than both an apartment and office space.

" How is the public transportation system within the city? Is it difficult and slow to get around? There seems to be a subway."

The public transportation system is pretty decent (lots of Air Conditioned buses to most places these days) but the roads are creaking under the influx led by the software boom and often gridlock during rush hours.

You can get decent internet connections in most places. Airtel is the best ISP. I wouldn't call it "broadband" but more than enough for dev purposes. Unless you plan to watch movies online or something you should be fine. Oh yeah get an apartment with power back up. Makes a HUGE difference.

shame, no mention of china, at least from what i scrolled through. china has a relatively low cost of living (food, housing, etc) and excellent infrastructure in 2nd tier+ cities. the talent pool can be somewhat mixed, i don't think you'll find very many rails or django developers, but each year there are over half a million university graduates in engineering/computer science.

in terms of living here, english doesn't go very far so if you've got any chinese speaking ability, this would be a great place for you to start something.

i'd recommend setting up LLC and so forth back at your home country and just running the show remotely.

but like the poster says, the environment is probably the single most important aspect, for that i would say that nobody beats the valley.

if language is an issue, hong kong/singapore are options, though they're too costly, but the infrastructure is first rate.

i hear in china that you can get special funding from the government to open offices here where the benefit for china is that it produces more jobs for the high tech industry. sometimes free rent + utilities. anyway, some things to think about, i know when i worked with dextrys, they mentioned that to me, i'm not sure how they arranged this though.

Beijing by a country mile. The seat of gov't is here, top universities are all here, dozens of NASDAQ-listed companies which were once startups themselves are here, terrific world-class infrastructure with relatively low-cots are to be found here in the Northern Capital and - most importantly - on top of that foundation is found the same kind of virtuous cycle found in Silicon Valley and Boston's Rt. 128. That virtuous, self-perpetuating cycle is built around industry insiders peeling off of existing companies and starting out on their own with the support of a burgeoning angel funding ecosystem along with scores of world-class int'l and local VC firms.

On top of that multi-layer cake add a nice coat of all-natural entrepreneurial frosting and Beijing is simply unstoppable as a startup hub.

Up to now the vast majority of the startup effort has been spent on addressing the domestic market spawning literally dozens of publicly listed companies in the internet and wireless space (are there more than 4 or 5 countries in the world that have dozens of listed companies in the consumer internet/wireless space?). In fact, the 3rd largest internet company in the world, after Google and Amazon is China's Tencent/QQ. Up to now, China's market has grown from basically zero in 1995 to by far the largest wireless subscriber base in the world and the largest internet subscriber base in the world.

What's next? Chinese companies will start to aggressively expand via acquisition and geographical expansion and it's already happening. All those market opportunities and forces are combining to make China, and Beijing specifically, a powerhouse in creating new startups and innovative business models. The west likes to think that China is neither creative or innovative, but within a decade it will be clear that that's just not true.

For those of you that have been through startups that involved investors. How important was the cost of living, office rent space? How does that importance compare to how easy it is to hire the right people? I can see how "lifestyle startups" prefer cheap places.

PS. I visited Vienna this summer and really liked it. A one-hour train trip to the east and you're in Bratislava (i.e. daily commute possible) which also was a nice city. Prague, Venice, Budapest, all reachable in over-night train trips or less with ÖBB (austrian railroads). The whole area is interesting.

Myself I'm from Stockholm and I doubt we have anything else to appeal startups with than well educated people and a beautiful place to live.

Surprised to see no mentions of Barcelona. I was under the impression that it was one of Europe's startup/tech centers.

Seoul, Korea. I know I am in a minority when suggesting this

Some Amazon competitors like NexR http://nexr.co.kr/ are coming out of here

Can you tell a bit more about the startup scene in Seoul? In my experience Korean web companies are very focused on the local market or they make computer games (but don't hire international people).

You are right. Its highly local but the scene is changing slowly as the local market is fairly saturated.

I'm currently in Seoul. Do you have any pointers to things happening here?

Check the local listings in Bundang and Gangnam as the startup scene is very concentrated in those areas

Is it difficult to get residency permits for foriegners? what is the cost of living like in Korea in general? How is transportation?

Its not very difficult for foreigners as the government is slowly encouraging the startup scene.

Transportation is very good and cabs are very cheap ($3.00 min). Housing is pretty expensive where the concept of rent is thrown out. You pay the owner $200K and forget paying rent for 2 years. After 2 years you get your $200K back.

It seems there are many other who are looking for a good new location. Maybe we should go together, anyone interested in cooperation?

I'm interested in relocation & cooperation. I'm a contractor working for SF-based startup while bootstrapping my own company. My problem: time-zone shift (10hrs). I like to get somewhere non-us and time-aligned with SF. Panama, Chille and Canada sounds good in this respect. Vibrant startup community and low cost of living is a plus. I don't necessary need to hire locals, because I work mostly over the Skype anyway.

I think Panama City and Panama in general is the city of the future in this hemisphere. It is strategic to the chinese who are modernizing the canal, and the canal provides funding for the government. They are getting the best and the brightest as they seek to escape Venezuela and Chavez. They had a housing boom and bust, but Panama City is likely to replace Miami as the center of Latino commerce.

Costa Rica is right next door. They are very laid back. Both countries have 90 day tourist visas. So you can live in one full time by taking a weekend vacation to the other every 89 days and getting your passport stamped.

If you've got anything to do with hardware, probably Cambridge (UK).

I'm interested in Chinese, Malaysian and the Philippine cities, anyone familiar with a startup scene in these countries?

I'm in Manila and running my startup here. Email me.

Yep, the SEA startup scene is in full throttle in the past few months. The recent buyout of Koprol by Yahoo, Octazen by Facebook is definitely a sign.

IMO, you can't go wrong with Manila :)

I'm interested in the Philippines. Is there a startup culture in Manila or Cebu, and what does that look like?

The startup scene in the Philippines is concentrated on Manila. Friendster, Insync, ProudCloud seems to lead the pack. I suggest you mail @terpua since he can introduce to the details.

IRELAND, loads of tech companies have set up in Dublin, and also with the recession Ireland has become cheaper.

I live in Galway is an amazing city loads of creatives around and a HUGE hackerspace and many festivals all year round.

Irish are cool and laid back, anglo-celtic culture and everybody loves the irish around the world.

We're based in Reading, Berkshire, UK. On the one hand London is great, really great for certain things. It is up there with NYC. On the other hand it's easy to end up paying a massive premium. Reading and the surrounding area (known as Thames Silicon Valley) is a tech incubator. You've got Oxford Uni to the north, Reading Uni in town and Holloway to the East, all good for tech grads. There's cheap office space going all the way up the M4 and you're 20 minutes from Paddington.

Is it the best outside the US? Possibly not, Cambridge might be better, but you get all the advantages of London and Oxford without the failings.

Not Milan and definitely not Italy.

Just wanted to say this is a very interesting and helpful post (+comments) - I don't have any experience working in cities outside the US, though some travel / extended study - but it's very interesting to see so many perspectives. Clearly the fact that there is so much disagreement points to the fact that you can find good success in many different places!

Plus a lot of talent is wasted in IT consulting jobs. There are very few pure software development companies around (and no Google/MS/IBM dev centers around), yet there are plenty of good hackers!

4 schools in Lisbon pumping good graduates. There's a small scene building up around the town.

It's a really a nice kept gem. Give it a few more years and it should hit the headlines.

Some important projects have decided to be located in Portugal http://living-planit.com/aboutus.htm

-- MV

Interesting, had not considered lisbon. Amazing broadband connectivity.

Any thoughts on what a 2BR 2BA apartment would go for?

Between 500€ and 1000€

-- MV

@lzw This is very interesting, please keep us informed. Can you post your shortlist / decision when you have made it? Thanks.

Chilean Startup Scene

On Chile, since 2007, the startup scene has been initiated at Santiago with two most highlighted products developed by Chileans, those are Needish.com & Bligoo.com.

Needish is like Redbeacon.com while Bligoo is like Blogspot.com for chileans. I have to say that Needish launched the service before Redbeacon, so Cheers for the chileans.

On 2008, I went at differents events, like www.FirstTuesday.cl and www.Webprendedor.com, doing networking with local people (investors & developers) and it was great to feel that finally the chileans are currently working developing startups. On these conferences, there were people like:

- Pedro Pablo Fuentes Schuster who is a developer, and who's the Director of the website http://www.chileayuda.com specially developed to help people find information after the last Feb 27th Earthquake. He also organized the last RHoK [1] event at UChile. He haves two web development companies: http://diDigital.cl and http://OXUS.cl with a good portfolio on both companies.

- Daniel Undurraga http://twitter.com/eldani Is the founder of Needish, what's Needish? Please read this article: http://blog.needish.com/content/view/4/About.html Also this year, Daniel with the team behind Needish, launched http://clandescuento.com on March and on June, Groupon acquired Clandescuento [2]

- Cristián Sepulveda http://twitter.com/crsepulv is the founder of http://Ubiqq.com (real time conferences)

- Paolo Colonello http://twitter.com/colonnello is the founder of http://Bligoo.com

- Tomás Pollak http://www.bootlog.org http://twitter.com/tomaspollak One of his projects is Prey Project, a lightweight application that will help you track and find your laptop if it ever gets stolen http://preyproject.com/ [3]

- Leo Prieto http://leoprieto.com/ http://twitter.com/leoprieto He's the founder of Fayerwayer ( http://www.fayerwayer.com ), the most visited blog about technology on Latin America.

- Juan Francisco Diez http://twitter.com/jf10 He's the founder of Chile Hardware http://www.chw.net , the same thing that Fayerwayer, but on Hardware things..

* Leo Prieto and Juan Francisco Diez founded BetaZeta.com, a network of Blogs.

- Nicolás Orellana is the guy behind Webprendedor or the Chilean Startups Conference. This year is going to be held on November 19th & 20th See http://www.webprendedor.com/conferencia-2010/

These guys didn't went to Webprendedor, but they are also involved on the startup environment:

- Javier Salcedo http://twitter.com/JavierSplitcast He's on the team of Splitcast.net, their product is a new P2P Multicast Streaming technology, which reduces the bandwith consumption on 70% and can increase the people already connected up to 70 times. http://www.twitter.com/SplitCast

- Agustin Feuerhake http://twitter.com/AgustinF He's the founder of Voxound.com, this web application is like a music recommendation system. I didn't tested yet.

- Esteban Sosnik. He's the founder of Atakama Labs http://www.atakamalabs.com/ (gaming industry). Check his profile on Linkedin http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=369165

On 2009, Chris Anderson (from Wired Magazine) and Sarah Lacy (from Techcrunch) came to Chile to an event organized by Wenceslao Casares [4] and Tiburcio de la Carcova [5], called Traweln [6].

* Traweln is an informal gathering of entrepreneurs, executives and investors that work with technology, design and entertainment companies in Latin America. This year Traweln will be hosted in Silicon Valley at 455 Old la Honda Rd, Woodside, CA. More information at http://traweln.org/

On 2010, If you are interested to launch your business on Chile, you should read:

- Chilean Government to attract entrepreneurs http://www.corfo.cl/startupchile/ http://startupchile.org/

- Top Reasons to Invest in Chile in 2010 http://www.investchile.com/

- VISA Stuff http://www.extranjeria.gov.cl/ingles/

- Startupweekend: For first time, Startupweekend.org is hosting an event on Santiago, Chile on December 10, 11 & 12, 2010. Check http://santiago.startupweekend.org/

Reviews of Chile on the Startup Scene: - http://www.inc.com/articles/2010/05/chile-next-silicon-valle... - http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/10/10/chile-wants-your-poor-y... - http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/oct2009/tc200...

Hope this helps to get an idea of what is the startup scene on Santiago, Chile.

For any question, don't hesitate to contact me. I'm @cleiva http://twitter.com/cleiva

[1] http://www.rhok.org/ [2] http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/24/groupon-clandescuento-clube... [3] http://lifehacker.com/5273620/prey-phones-home-to-help-you-r... [4] Founder and co-CEO of Bling Nation http://twitter.com/wences [5] He founded http://www.atakamalabs.com/ with Esteban Sosnik http://twitter.com/tiburcio [6] Flickr Gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42080094@N03/

Thank you for the very extensive response! Chile sounds really interesting. I have some additional questions:

What about immigration: How hard is it for a foreigner to move there / get long term visa ?

Are there many good developers and what's the average salary of a developer ?

Are there other foreigner software startups / companys or immigrants ?

What about the government / bureaucracy: How hard is it to hire developers for a foreign company ?

What about the English skills ? Of course, if we come to Chile we have to learn Spanish, but our software is written for English-speaking (and German-speaking) customers

Last question: What is the cost of living like there and where's the best place to live?

About life in Chile, visa processes, doing business in Chile, and the general cost of living.. well, you can find information here: http://startupchile.wordpress.com/destination-chile/

In terms of salaries for a developer with at least 2 years of experience:

Program Analyst: $1210/mo Informations: $1450/mo Civil Engineer, Information: $1700/mo Programming: $1100/mo Design and Industrial Production: $700/mo

Are there other foreigner software startups / companys or immigrants ?

There are companies such as Wanako Games (NYC), Bio Architecture Lab (Berkeley), Bling Nation (Palo Alto), Atakama Labs (SF), Entegris (Nasdaq: ENTG), InquiroGroup (Palo Alto) and Zappedy (SF). More information on http://supercoolschool.typepad.com/startupschool/2010/08/sta...

What about the English skills ? I think you will be fine here, there is no deal if your software is written in a different language. (I'm not sure if I understand your point with the english skills.. you're worried because you have to learn spanish?)

Hope it helps, any doubt, don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks a lot for this detailed answer and the additional links. Very interesting arguments for Chile! We will review this information (we plan to relocate our startup next year) and also follow you on twitter.

Again: Thanks for your help!


I can't answer all of the questions. So I'll contact people and make some research to give you full detailed answers.


Cheap, when you look from the dollar perspective. Lot of startups, lot of socializing, lot of expertise.

@lzw where do you live an what kind of software do you develop? We are also a small startup (developing enterprise/e-commerce software in switzerland) who is looking for a good location where we can find an active startup scene and hire developers.

Ever thought of Brazil? Cheap as hell, beautiful and happy people, gorgeous beaches, huge huge market, very cheap internet access. I recommend somewhere like Bahia or Florianopolis.

In the US the answer is NYC.

Outside the US the answer is London. Lots of startups in Soho. You also have Seedcamp and active a-list investors like Index (esp. Danny Rimer) and the Skype guys.

Perth, Australia if your startup involves digging stuff out of the ground and selling it to China. Otherwise not. We do have nice beaches though.

What about South America -> Chile, Argentina, Brazil? Does someone has experience / anyone familiar with a startup scene in these countries?

Please check my new reply here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1570167

I bet Santiago Chile, Buenos Ares Argentina, and Panama City, Panama are probably the better cities. Maybe there's a good city in Brazil. Not sure how they compare to europe, canada, etc, but I would be surprised if there weren't tech startups in all these cities. But I'm guessing they are a different culture and that not as many of the people on hacker news are located in central or south america.

I would love to hear from someone who is who can give their experiences.

I really don't care if there's no VC or angels there, but if there's good broadband, low cost of living, and a couple thousand people who know python in the city then that might be good enough.

I'm Brazilian, and I was born and live in São Paulo, I have visited Brazil (where I live), Argentina and Chile, so I think I can give an opinion.

Well, São Paulo (the Brazilian state) is a good place to start a company, it does have a large talent pool if you're willing to pay for the best (there are a lot of mediocre people working here), the majority of the best universities in the country are in the state, and it does have a decent infrastructure, though the government regulations are a mess for new business and not much people understands English as they should, São Paulo (the city) is expensive to live compared to other tech centres in the State (São Carlos and Campinas).

There are also other Brazilian states with a vibrant tech sector, the three Southern states, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, but São Paulo alone probably have much more tech companies than they all combined.

Buenos Aires is a better city than São Paulo for me, the infrastructure is relatively better, but I think that the Argentinian State is even worse to business than the Brazilian, some of the same problems that you find in Brazil you'll also face in Argentina.

Santiago is like Buenos Aires and São Paulo, although a bit smaller, the Chilean State is much more business friendly than other South American governments and the living is cheaper than São Paulo or Buenos Aires, but I do not know much about the working conditions for tech companies there. But I do know that it's easier to get foreigners to work in Chile than in other South American countries, and their taxes are much smaller compared to Brazil or Argentina.

EDIT: In addition, there's a growing start up scene in São Paulo and Buenos Aires, once again I'm not sure about Santiago, it does not have a tech sector so developed like São Paulo or Buenos Aires, but I think the government there is probably trying to change that.

Wow, very interesting, thanks. Chile seems to be a very interesting place in South America.

very interesting, indeed. Is there a startup scene in Buenos Aires? Can they speak english?

As far as I know the scene is becoming stronger, although the target for the majority of new business is the Argentinian market and the majority do not have plans of international expansion initialy, this is slowly changing. I'm not sure about the language but I suspect that it falls in the same situation of São Paulo.

EDIT: This article introduces something more useful about Argentina than I'm able to provide: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/26/business/worldbusiness/26p...

cool, thanks

Thanks for your answer. Yes, would be very interesting to hear more about these cities, especially from Santiago Chile and Buenos Ares Argentina, anyone familiar with the startup scene in these cities?

I would also love to hear from someone who can give us their experiences in these three countries / cities. Can someone help?

Last suggestion (and I'm not kidding): What about Cuba (http://bit.ly/a9qVqN ) OR Suriname ?

Cuba maybe in 10 years, Suriname is beautiful country, but there are no programers

Do you have any more information about the startup scene in Auckland?

I live here and I was under the impression that most tech businesses and startups crop up in Wellington, or "Silicon Welly" :)

I would have gone for Wellington rather than Auckland. There's been several large success stories out of Wellington and there's a fair bit of VC cash, they're trying hard to get a good startup culture going. Tons of tech companies there. Excellent (really, truly wonderful) coffee.

The downsides are occasionally (OK, often) hideous weather and potential earthquake risks.

Auckland is a nice place but has horrible traffic, near-useless public transport for some areas and is about to go through a total shemozzle of a local government reshuffle, which may drag things back a bit.

I've spent time in New Zealand and quite like the country. Just looked at the immigration policies again and they seem pretty reasonable.

How have the politics of New Zealand at the national level changed over the last decade? More or less business friendly?

At the time of my visit it seemed taxes were high but government was less corrupt than in most countries.

We have a "conservative" government since 2008. Before that we were lead by a left-wing, worker friendly (with a little neoliberalisim thrown in) Labour government for 9 years.

Despite that, we fairly consistently came out tops as a great place for small businesses (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/fsb_archive/2007/06/01/10...).

And also, our tax rates may seem high but overall taxation is quite low, especially compared to other countries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Income_Taxes_By_Country.sv...). Note that our corperate tax rate has dropped quite a bit since 2005.

I wouldn't recommend India to foreigners. You'll be exploited. Hire some good local managers, if you really prefer India.

@lzw where are you from? Can you give us more information about you company? This is the most interesting thread ever!

Deliberately didn't mention where we were from because didn't want to debate the merits of that location, so much as hear people's thoughts about other locations.

Dont' really want to talk about the company either because we're still in what I consider the early stages, and things might change.

Sorry to be mysterious. I really should make a blog and start writing posts.... will definitely have to do that as we travel.

I'm sure we'll be visiting a number of the places mentioned in this thread over the next year.

ok, I understand, but please please please keep us informed. It would be great to read you blog. Looking forward to hearing from you. thanks for this thread.

Toronto does have a pretty active start-up community. You'd probably want to keep close to downtown.

Toronto - silicon valley north / Markham (high tech capital!)


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

Top developers are many there.

What would a nice 2BR 2BA apartment go for in downtown Kuala Lumpur? Or if expensive there, how about outskirts near public transportation?

It is hard to get a read on Cyberjaya... but it seems to be a small development focused on multinationals and not really set up for startups. Maybe I'm wrong?

I would be interested in this question as well. I got contacted last week by a company in Cyberjaya and while I didn't get to proceed with their interview, it does sound like a cool area. I have studied some Mandarin and am considering moving to a place where I could speak Mandarin daily.

I have lived in China and probably would not go back. Taiwan is another option I am considering but I imagine KL to be cheaper and more fun.

What about Russia?

Here's a good article and the HN discussion about Russia. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1409194

Basically, you would probably want to stay away from it. You can find decent engineers there but everything else is terrible for business: corruption, taxes, banks, cost of living, visas, etc.

Thanks for your tip, I will read it. I've asked because I recently found a popular .Net webstore software called nopCommerce (I think it's even the most popular open source solution for .Net) from a startup located near Moscow.

Alas, Russia has not embraced Capitalism the way, say, Estonia has.

+1 for Estonia - even in the mid nineties they had already cleaned the whole country up. I recall that they even considered moving to an e-money system for all of its citizens.

Another (albeit rough) possibility is Ukraine, if only for cheap prices, cheap programmers, etc. However, there's only slightly better policies concerning immigration/visa policy (EU/USA can show up there with no visa for 90 days but then you have to leave for 90 days), and difficult language issues. So, even though I live there, I wouldn't recommend it for people without some link to the country already.

Ukraine is not bad for outstaffing to - the're a lot of US and EU companies doing so. Outsourcing business is about $300MM/year (http://www.bughuntress.com/files1/ITOUkraine2007.pdf). Internet is everywhere in Kyiv, cheap food, low rental prices, decent programmers for $25-40K/yr, nice city, no visa needed to come for up to 90 days. However establishing headquarters in Ukraine is bad idea because of totally corrupted government and local authorities. Also sometimes simplest things like getting money from PayPal to Ukrainian bank account unexpectedly appear very cumbersome to do. (Disclaimer - I live in Ukraine).


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