Silicon Valley may the North Star for tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, but that doesn't mean there aren't other bright spots out in the startup universe. Locales around the world are taking up the mantle, from Chilé to Estonia to Israel to Texas, and they're attracting some of the best and brightest minds working today.
They can also offer perks that are hard to come by in Silicon Valley, like government aid and incentives. And unlike the Californian startup Mecca, the markets can be less saturated in other cities, yielding competitive edges and rich opportunities.
The tech industry is always on the hunt for the next shiny thing, and that extends to where they plant their flags too. Below, check out the top cities for tech that aren't the ones you'd expect:
Tel Aviv, Israel
With over 6,000 outfits to its name, Israel is one of the most vibrant countries in startup land. Tel Aviv, also known as Silicon Wadi, is home to many of these startups, like GetTaxi, an Uber-like app for hailing cabs, and Fitness22, a collection of health and fitness apps. In January, Visualead, a startup based just north of Tel Aviv, received an undisclosed investment from e-commerce giant Alibaba Group — a sign that big players outside of Israel are beginning to take note of the country's prosperous entrepreneurial scene.
Europe's hippest city is also steadily growing its reputation as a startup hub. It's relatively easy to obtain a visa, which means it's a mighty attractive destination for international entrepreneurs, and startup oracle Google recently launched The Factory, a swanky co-working space for startups and tech companies like SoundCloud and Mozilla.
Like New York City, London is a global center for myriad established industries, including finance, media and politics. But it also houses a thriving financial tech business. Earlier this month, London and Partners, "the official promotional company for London," announced that, of the nearly $1.5 billion dollars raised from venture capitalists in the first half of 2015, $1.2 billion was awarded to London-based companies — and 40% of that went to financial tech firms.
"The city has become such a tech powerhouse because it excels over other tech hubs around the world," said Eileen Burbidge, the Mayor of London's tech ambassador, according to Wired UK. "London combines the technology and digital innovation of Silicon Valley with the Wall Street financing heritage of New York and the policy making of Washington, D.C. — all in one phenomenal city."
As the famed home of South by Southwest, an annual conference to which entrepreneurs, media personalities and cultural luminaries alike flock, Austin is a well-known destination for cash-strapped startups. Between 2001 and 2013, the city experienced a 41.4% increase in tech-related employment, and Forbes recently awarded Austin the top spot for technology job creation. (Don't count out the neighboring Dallas, either — the home of the Cowboys has its own emerging tech scene.)
Nestled near Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, Akademgorodok — which roughly translates to "Academy Town" — has a fascinating history and has recently come to prominence as a growing center for Russia's tech industry. Founded in 1957 as a hothouse for scientific discovery, the town saw a mass population exodus after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But this millennium, Vladimir Putin vowed to change it back — it's since been nicknamed the "Siberian Silicon Valley."
According to the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking, an influential survey that ranks the top 20 "startup ecosystems" around the world, Bangalore has jumped from number 19 to number 15 since the survey was first conducted in 2012. In 2015, it had the second highest rate of growth in venture capital investments, as well as the fastest growing number of seed rounds over the course of two years.
As Virgin points out, Bangalore has a tradition of scientific and technological innovation: The first Indian Institute of Science was there built in 1909. "Bangalore is one of the future faces of India — hi-tech, cosmopolitan and global in outlook," said British Deputy High Commissioner Ian Felton in 2013.
The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Survey named Melbourne as the world's most livable city for the fourth year in a row in 2014, thanks to its excellence in "healthcare, education, sport and infrastructure" — things that make it particularly attractive to big and small companies alike, including firms Eventbrite and Thales.
"Melbourne has everything a U.S. business needs to succeed in the Asia-Pacific marketplace, and that is why we are seeing more and more companies setting up shop in Melbourne as they expand globally," Michael Kapel, Commissioner to the Americas for the State Government of Victoria, told Forbes.
Singapore has one of the fastest-growing startup scenes worldwide — it came in at number 10 on the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking — and the government has played a sizable role. As Re/code reported in June, "for every $15,000 in venture capital an entrepreneur attracts from investors, official Singapore agencies offer $85,000." In just five years, Singapore's National Research Foundation has given $167 million to burgeoning startups.
"When I started my first company in 2004, there were less than five significant startup funds and most of the five were not even really active," Yiping Goh, co-founder of Southeast Asian e-commerce aggregator AllDealsAsia.com, told CNBC. "Today there's a lot more investors interested in Asia and capital is going to keep growing."
Two of the most talked about tech companies in recent years have connections to Vancouver. The CEO of Slack, your favorite time-killing messaging client, hails from there, and Hootsuite, every Twitter user's best friend, is also based in the city. "If you look at the [venture capitalists] that are flying up, the eye of the world is on Vancouver now. We are in a real unique position," Ray Walia, executive director of Vancouver's Launch Academy startup incubator, told Business in Vancouver.
While some have questioned the staying power of the Estonian city's tech scene, Tallinn continues to make waves for startups. Skype was born there in 2003, and Guardtime, a company that targets security breaches, launched out of the city and is now used by companies like Ericsson. And as Inc. reported in March, five Estonian companies were included on the list of 500 fastest-growing companies in Europe.
"Chilecon Valley" is home to Start-Up Chile, a government program started in 2010 that has helped the South American city to incubate emerging startup ventures. It paid foreigners $40,000 and gave them office space and Internet access, "and asked only that they consider moving to Chile permanently," Foreign Affairs reported.
It worked: As of June 2014, more than 12,000 people from 112 applied; the program took 810 from 65 nations.
Nigeria's most populous city has been a magnet for startups of all different stripes. From hotel-booking platform Jovago to Konga, which is billed as "Nigeria's largest online mall," to Cliptext, which allows users to share memes and photos with each other, there's no shortage of creative companies.
"I'm only two days into my trip here, but I can pretty safely say that there's nothing... anywhere... that can compare to Lagos (or match its feverish entrepreneurial energy)," Jonathan Shieber, an editor for TechCrunch, recently wrote.