Cities of Opportunity:

2019 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs

Whether it’s for family, education or career opportunities, there are myriad reasons why an individual might relocate. At Movinga, we’ve made it our mission to delve into the various motivations behind moving with our series of studies looking into the best locations for opportunity, so far using data to determine the best cities to find both a job and to find love. In this third instalment, we focused on those individuals looking for new business opportunities, whether that’s opening a new restaurant, launching a tech startup or expanding an import/export business into new markets.

The result is a ranking of the best cities for entrepreneurs, which we hope will not only inform those looking to embark on an exciting new business venture, but will also highlight those cities that have successfully implemented business-minded legislation to help foster innovation. To begin the study, we first chose 75 cities from around the globe which are renowned for their entrepreneurial spirit, business opportunities and economic growth. Then, as different industries have varying needs in terms of infrastructure, legislation and funding, we decided to focus on three specific industries which are popular with entrepreneurs; Restaurants, Tech/Digital Ventures and Import/Export.

Firstly, we determined the entrepreneur ecosystem in each city, looking into startup costs, opportunities for female founders and the typical timeframe for setting up a new business. Next, we considered which elements were needed to launch each type of business, including the cost of real estate and hospitality ecosystem to open a new restaurant, venture capital and the main industry for growth in tech/digital ventures and logistics costs and ecosystem for import/export businesses.

The default order for the final index ranks each city for their overall entrepreneurial advantages across all three industries, including the ecosystem score, from highest to lowest. However, each separate industry is designed to be appraised individually, as each column is filterable.  

top three cities for entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry

1. Lisbon, Portugal
2. Barcelona, Spain
3. Istanbul, Turkey

top three cities for entrepreneurs in the tech/digital industry

1. San Francisco, USA
2. London, UK
3. New York, USA

top three cities for entrepreneurs in the import/export industry

1. Singapore, Singapore
2. Shanghai, China
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Incorporation Costs (USD)
Days Required to Set up a Business
Female Entrepreneur Score
Hospitality Ecosystem (Score)
Human Capital (Score)
Real Estate Cost (Score)
Tech/Digital ventures
Tech Ecosystem (Score)
Human Capital (Score)
Venture Capital (Score)
Main Industry for Growth
Logistics Ecosystem (Score)
Logistics Costs (Score)
Access to Markets (Score)
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This study reveals the best cities around the world for entrepreneurs, based on the ease of starting three types of business: a restaurant, a tech/digital venture and an import/export business. For the study, cities from around the world were selected due to their popularity. The main focus lay on places which are well known for a vibrant startup culture.

The indicators were standardized, weighted and combined into a factor score.
The equation for standardization is as follows:
Zscore = x - µσ

Scores were normalized such that 0 represents the lowest and 10 the highest value in the dataset. For columns where a low value is better, the score was inverted such that a high score is always better.

Therefore, the higher the score, the better the city ranks for that factor in comparison to the other cities in the index.

The equation for normalization is as follows:
score = 10 *x - min(X)max(X) - min(X); or scoreinverted = 10 -10 *x - min(X)max(X) - min(X)for inverted scores

Below you can find a detailed description of each factor within the study, and the source used.

Incorporation Costs
The cost of setting up a new business.
Costs include all procedures officially required or commonly done in practice, for an entrepreneur to start up and formally operate an industrial or commercial business. It concerns local limited liability companies.
The World Bank details Incorporation Costs as % of income per capita and income per capita in USD, so data was collected in USD and converted into EUR and SEK using currency exchanges rates correct as of 14.08.2019.
All costs are national-level data, except for US cities where the data is city-level.
Source: The World Bank Doing Business 2019

Days Required to Set up a Business
The number of days required to set up a new business.
This data captures the median duration that incorporation lawyers or notaries indicate is necessary in practice to complete a procedure with minimum follow-up with government agencies and no unofficial payments. It is assumed that the minimum time required for each procedure is one day, except for procedures that can be fully completed online, for which the minimum time required is recorded as half a day.
All data points are national-level, except for US cities where the data is city-level.
Source: The World Bank Doing Business 2019

Female Entrepreneurs Score

How well the city’s business infrastructure is set up to help female entrepreneurs thrive.
The score is a composite of the number of female entrepreneurs, % female business owners out of the total business owners, percentage of firms with female participation in ownership, percentage of firms with greater than 50% female ownership, % companies with at least one female founder, out of the number of startups founded after 31.12.2016 per 100,000 inhabitants.
All data points are national-level.
Source: Nestpick’s Women's Liveability Index 2019

Ecosystem Total Score
The Ecosystem Total Score consists of Incorporation Costs, Days Required to Set up a Business and Female Entrepreneurs Score.
The Ecosystem Total Score is not on display, but contributes towards the Total Restaurants Score, the Total Tech/Digital Ventures Score and the Total Import/Export Score.

Real Estate Cost
This score indicates the median cost of real estate in the city.
The factor describes the overall rent level of commercial real estate in each city. The data was collected for property between 90 and 130 sqm. The score reflects the current prices for commercial real estate available and has been adjusted by other sources such as office prime rents and residential costs.
The Real Estate Cost score was inverted, which means that the higher the score, the lower the rental costs.
Sources: Local Search Engines, JLL Global Premium Office Rent Tracker 2018, STC 2018 Real Estate Index

Human Capital
This score indicates the available hospitality workforce.
Human Capital includes the number of people working in accommodation and food service activities, on a country level. For the scoring, the total number of workers in addition to the number of workers per restaurant in each city were taken into account.
Furthermore, the factor also includes the number of (recent) vacancies for cooks per restaurant and the cost of living for a single person in each city.
Sources: ILO 2018, Tripadvisor, Indeed, local search engines, Numbeo. If not indicated otherwise, the data is from 2019.

Hospitality Ecosystem
This score indicates the overall ecosystem available in the city for setting up a hospitality-based business.
The Hospitality Ecosystem consists firstly of the restaurant density (restaurants per km2). The number of restaurants and the city boundaries were obtained using geospatial analysis on OpenStreetMap.
Secondly, it includes the market potential of each city. Therefore, the average monthly net salary after tax was divided by the average price for a meal in a restaurant. The result is the number of times that an individual could theoretically dine in a restaurant per month if the person spent all their available income dining out. These figures were translated into a score and combined with a score looking at the average monthly net salary after tax to create the final score.
Sources: OpenStreetMap 2019, Numbeo and Expatistan 2019

Tech/Digital Ventures:
Tech Ecosystem
This score indicates the digital business ecosystem available in a city by analysing the number of existing companies recently launched.
The Tech Ecosystem score is based on the number of recent startups and for the purpose of this study, a startup is defined as a company founded after 30/6/2017.
Source: Crunchbase 2019.

Human Capital
This score indicates the available tech workforce.
Human Capital consists of the average number of people working at a startup in technology-related and digital businesses. Additionally, it contains the current number of job vacancies for developers. For the purpose of this study, a startup is defined as a company founded after 30/6/2017.
Sources: Crunchbase, Indeed, Glassdoor and other International/local job searching webs. The data is from 2019.

Venture Capital
This score analyses how many companies have received venture capital to evaluate the funding environment in the city.
The score indicates the sum of the (publicly available) amount of funding that technology-related and digital startups received. For the purpose of this study, a startup is defined as a company founded after 30/6/2017.
Source: Crunchbase 2019.

Main Industry for Growth
This factor reveals the most popular type of startup in the city.
The results are the category/categories with the most startups in a city. For the purpose of this study, a startup is defined as a company founded after 30/6/2017.
Several cities showed more than one main industry for growth, however for consistency only one is shown in the above table.
Cities which showed more than one main industry for growth were:
Instanbul: Saas, Mobile Apps
Shanghain: Blockchain, E-Commerce
Marseille: Social Network, Gaming, Tourism
Gothenburg: Automotive, Financial Services, Small and Medium Businesses, E-Commerce
Toulouse: Health Care, Medical, Travel
Cape Town: Marketplace, Artificial Intelligence, Apps
Ljubljana: Marketplace, FinTech
Bordeaux: Financial Services, FinTech, Artificial Intelligence
Montpellier: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Social Impact
Strasbourg: Financial Services, Recruiting, Staffing Agency
Source: Crunchbase 2019.

Logistics Ecosystem
This score indicates how sophisticated the logistics ecosystem in the city is in order for import/export businesses to thrive.
The score takes into account the World Bank’s logistics performance index, on a country level, access to a major port and access to the biggest global cargo airports.
As ports are considered to be one of the most important drivers of the import and export of merchandising goods, cities without access to a major port were penalised in the final scoring.
Sources: The World Bank 2018, Worldatlas 2018, local websites (latest available), Cargo Facts 2016.

Logistics Costs
This score indicates the overall cost of transporting and storing goods.
This factor was calculated using the logistics and industrial prime rent (monthly price per square metre) in each city and the current prices for gasoline per country.
The Logistics Cost score was inverted, meaning that a high score indicates low warehouse rents and gasoline costs.
Sources: Local Search Engines, consultancy reports (latest available), Numbeo 2019.

Access to Markets
This score indicates the ease of access a city has to import or export goods to other countries.
Access to markets includes data on the import and exports of merchandising goods per country, the number of Free Trade Agreements per country, and the distance to major ports in the region. Cities without access to a major port were penalized.
Sources: The World Bank, Worldatlas 2018, local websites (latest available).