Being a tech-savvy candidate in the startup space comes with some great perks, one of which is the flexibility to choose which European city to live and work in. Tech is booming across Europe and there are so many startup cities to launch your career in. But how do you actually decide which city is best? What value proposition do these cities offer? And seriously, how many European cities can you actually name that you even knew were counted as viable tech startup locations?
We at wecanbeheroes.io created for you a widget to help you crunch the data on what makes the best cities for tech startups: it’s called City Rank. Here you can find everything in one place to compare your location options. Our interactive map allows you to dive directly into the details of a specific city. Or, you can use the preference inputs to help narrow the field and optimize your search process. The data is sourced from Numbeo and Startup Blink amongst other databases and is updated bi-annually to ensure efficacy.
Follow me as I use City Rank to find my best startup city.
STEP 1: More Money or More Healthcare?
The first selection call asks me to choose between a better salary or better healthcare. Not an easy choice! One must find a balance between maximizing earnings and ensuring their health care needs can be met at a suitable standard. Frankly, if I need to spend my time working, I want to get paid – more money is my preference here. For my preferences, Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Novi Sad rank top three for better salary on City Rank.
The CEE region is home to a large and growing population of startup tech companies who are effecting a big impact globally. Grammerly Inc. leads the way – did you know it was founded in Ukraine? The lower cost of living means a good salary goes a long way in Kiev. When I hover over Kiev on the City Rank map, it reveals some financial metrics: a beer is 0.93 Euro and living in the city center sits around 550 euro. Not bad. But there’s political uncertainty in the region and I don’t know much about the quality of services like healthcare. Overall, post-2014 revolution, Kiev seems to be back to business as one of the best startup cities in Europe, despite ongoing issues with Russia.
If I select “Better Health Care” and search for Kiev, I see it is ranked 11th, ahead of cities like Cologne and Bristol. Interesting. Also Odesa is located in Ukraine, which ranks 66th out of 82 in the health care space. Perhaps more googling is needed in order to really determine if good quality health care services are available in Ukraine while I’m earning that higher salary and capitalizing on the lower cost of living. Ultimately, an informed choice will require more detailed research and a clearly defined tolerance of risk I can be comfortable with.
Novi Sad also looks like a good option with its low cost of living and higher salaries for the people working in the startup ecosystem. By all accounts, Serbia is a dynamic country focused on building a strong startup community.
STEP 2: Less Pollution or Better Public Transport?
So, after selecting Better Salary in Step 1, I am now prompted to choose between less pollution or better public transport in Step 2. Personally, having lived in India and South East Asia, nothing is worse for me than breathing in dirty air every day. I want my city clean even if it means I have to walk, bike or take longer to get to the office. Less pollution is the way forward for me.
City Rank’s top three cities are Berlin, London and Amsterdam. All three are beautiful places and it’s nice to know their pollution ranking is low. Lots of green spaces and a robust environmental awareness make these cities desirable places to live and work. Charles Dickens, the great English writer and social critic, said, “the parks be the lungs of London.” The World Health Organization has written extensively on the relevance of urban green spaces and their net positive impact on residents. The benefits of having it include improved air and water quality as well as reducing environmental health risks associated with urban living. Moreover, I know from experience that getting around these towns is relatively easy with plenty of options: bus, tram, subway, bike paths, footpaths, and so on.
It’s worth mentioning, Kiev ranks in #9 under “Less Pollution.” But, if I choose “Better Public Transport,” Kiev is back in the #1 position. In fact, in this category, the top ten cities are all CEE region cities.
STEP 3: Trendier City or Lower Cost of Living
The third and final selection prompt is not so easy for me as I must balance my financial future with a personal temperament of wanting to have a really good time. After sufficient contemplation, I’m going with “Trendier City” and am thrilled to find City Rank lists Berlin, London and Amsterdam as its top three.
Berlin is the hippest of all European cities with its unique neighborhoods, vibrant nightlife, and diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem of startup communities. It is a hive of activity with no shortage of startups operating there and attracting people from all over the world who now call Berlin home. And let’s not forget the Austrian composer, Franz von Suppé, who said, “You are crazy, my child. You must go to Berlin.”
The City of London continues to lead the way in the tech startup space with its robust funding and investment culture. Did you know it is the city with the most startups in Europe? London is also a massively diverse and happening city to live and work in. Its theatres, clubs, restaurants, alternative scenes, and public spaces offer top-rate entertainment amidst a gorgeous historical backdrop that conspires to make London one of the top ten European cities to visit.
But wait… I still have to consider my financial future.
The Millionaire Next Door offered the following sage advice, saying, “Living in less costly areas can enable you to spend less and to invest more of your income. You will pay less for your home and correspondingly less for your property taxes. Your neighbors will be less likely to drive expensive motor vehicles. You will find it easier to keep up, even ahead, of the Joneses and still accumulate wealth.” So, if I choose “Less cost of living,” City Rank gives me Valencia, Gothenburg, and Belfast as the top three options. Who can argue with the great weather and social culture of Spain? Aside from low rents, Valencia has a robust network of accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and business angels ready to support early-stage entrepreneurs. The Senior Vice President of Global Operations at Groupon, Barbara Weisz, said “Groupon has chosen Valencia because of the incredible talent, the climate, the atmosphere and the culture, allowing us to offer our employees a high standard of living.”.
Gothenburg and Belfast might be chillier weather-wise but they have their own unique charms. In 2019, Gothenburg ranked #1 in the world on the global destination sustainability index and Belfast is known for its significantly lower cost of living compared to London and above-average internet infrastructure. Each has its own emerging tech startup culture and offers a real opportunity to work in a fast-paced sector while benefiting from the lower cost of living.
In the end, my City Rank selected preferences in City Rank are (1) Better Salary, (2) Less Pollution and (3) Trendier City. Getting paid well in a clean and cool place is my driving motivator. Naturally, Berlin, London and Amsterdam top the final ranking list but, happily, I see Kiev ranking at #9 overall. Knowing the cheapest European cities to live in are located in the CEE region and that, at the same time, they all have their own booming tech startup ecosystems, makes a city like Kiev an attractive option for me. Consider this: before undertaking the City Rank process, I couldn’t have named Kiev as a viable player in the tech startup space.
City Rank gives you a great tool to start off your city selection process in the Pan-European marketplace. Because the region is loaded with attractive locations and many emerging startup ecosystems, good research by candidates is required to make an informed choice. The internet is full of information about how cities aim to attract talent and investors in the race for tech startup supremacy. Your selection priorities will inevitably be different than mine so dive in and see where the data takes you. With some focused google searches and the City Rank, you are able to find the perfect location to maximize your work-life goals!