In my last post, I looked at a couple of prominent European tech centers (namely, London and Berlin). I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few more cities over the last few months, so I wanted to examine Dublin, Amsterdam, and Tel Aviv—which technically isn’t in Europe, but given that Israel competes in the Eurovision Song Contest, I’m going to let it in.

Dublin

Tech startups from across the globe are now heading to Dublin—a city where the Guinness flows freely, and the corporate tax rate remains low (at just 12.5%). And these are both incredibly good reasons to set up shop there. With Google, Facebook, Zendesk, Dropbox, and Hubspot setting up offices (or planning to) in Dublin, the tech community is rapidly growing. According to Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA), 2012 saw 140 foreign companies either land or expand in Ireland.

Some of the perks often cited:

  • The corporate tax rate mentioned above (12.5%).
  • Enterprise Ireland, a government-sponsored organization with a venture fund that’s the largest of its kind in Europe.
  • 40% of Ireland’s population is under the age of 25, so it’s full of bright, eager young sparks. Last year, Dublin topped Citibank’s annual list of most competitive cities in the world for “human capital”.
  • Unexpectedly good access to seed capital—Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund invests around $973,372 (USD) into 15 seed stage startups every quarter. There are also some accelerators, offering startups precious funding, including Launchpad and the US-founded Dog Patch Labs.
  • As we all know, universities are great places to find talent and they breed innovation—Facebook and Google were developed on campus. Dublin has a wealth of universities and colleges, including Trinity College and Dublin Institute of Technology.

Access to terrific talent was one of the key reasons Dropbox chose to open the Dublin office. As their VP of Business, Sujay Vaswa, told Inc. Magazine, “You start with some great academic institutions, and add a few companies that paved the way, and soon, a city becomes known as the place. That’s what happened in Silicon Valley, and I think Dublin’s in a similar position.”

Additionally, Dublin Web Summit and F.ounders conference have become two hugely popular tech events, particularly in the European tech hub, attracting an audience from all over the world. They’ve really helped put Dublin on the map for the, sometimes, inward facing Silicon Valley crowd. With the likes of Chad Hurley, Jack Dorsey, Niklas Zennström flocking there, these events are the places to be. And who was the most random addition to the all-star lineup in recent years? Bono—no, really, I had my photo taken with him at F.ounders 2011. He’s tiny.

Amsterdam

The Dutch love the fact that Amsterdam offers a quality of life generally not found in big European tech cities. “How many cities can you cycle to work, meeting your friends for a coffee on the way?” was one of the many questions discussed at the Disrupting Amsterdam conference. But there’s more to this beautiful city than just pedal power and canals.

Amsterdam sits at the heart of the largest markets in Europe and has access to the best infrastructure in the region. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that a number of the world’s biggest companies have launched their European tech operations in the country that practically invented international trade, and more than 2,100 international companies have invested in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Brands headquartered here include Starbucks, Cisco and Nike.

Amsterdam still has a ways to go before it can compete with the likes of London and Dublin to attract startups. Early-stage capital is still very hard to come by, and some of the companies I’ve spoken to have found themselves struggling to find flexible, low-cost office space.

Tel Aviv

If you’re into tech, you can recite the names of the “Silicon” hubs instantly—Silicon Roundabout, Silicon Valley, Silicon Fen, etc. But would Silicon Wadi pop up?

This is the strip that stretches 180 kilometers from Haifa to Jerusalem, where a huge amount of high tech startups are based and its heart is Tel Aviv. ICQ is just one of the major players coming out of Tel Aviv.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index (2011-2012) ranks Israel’s “availability of venture capital (VC)” 2nd, “high number of patents” 4th, and “world-class capacity for innovation” 6th in the world. In fact, Israel has around 70 active VC funds. And in 2011, 546 Israeli high-tech organizations received $2.14 billion.

Tel Aviv is yet another location with a huge population of people under the age of 35—approximately one-third of the population.

Research and Development (R&D) dominates tech in Israel, with 40% of technology employees working in R&D for tech goliaths like Google, Microsoft, and Oracle. And Israel has more NASDAQ-listed companies than all of Europe, China, and India combined—which is impressive to say the least.

Alongside the goliaths, are the disruptive “David’s of technology” like TechAviv, a global Israeli start-up founders club, with more than 2,000 members across the globe. Each month, they travel to Israel, Silicon Valley, Boston, or New York and share their advice, demo their products, and provide support for other entrepreneurs. This is exactly the kind of entrepreneur ecosystem a successful tech hub requires.

See how London and Berlin stack up as European technology hubs. Did we leave any emerging European tech cities off the list? Drop us a comment below.


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