Editor’s Note: Virtual Think Tank is a digital series focusing on the emerging markets, covering their startups, the power of the middle classes on their economies and the macro environment.
The internet means that a good business idea can germinate anywhere
From Nairobi to Lagos and Tel Aviv to Lima, new cities are hosting the world's best startups
A lack of basic infrastructure can be turned to advantage in regions like sub-Saharan Africa
It’s no longer necessary to launch your startup in Silicon Valley – thanks to the internet, you can do it anywhere.
Cities that were once business backwaters have emerged as formidable contenders in the new economy, in many cases leveraging the very things that once disadvantaged them.
A lack of infrastructure in places like Nairobi or Lagos, for instance – once places where it took years to get a fixed line – have skipped that generation of technology entirely and now offer tantalizing potential for a range of mobile services.
“They are not held back by infrastructure issues and they’ve got nothing to lose by being in the startup space,” said Simon Squibb, CEO of Hong Kong-based Nest Investment. “There’s a whole opportunity around e-commerce or ed-tech.”
Without basic access to schools and banks, for example, sub-Saharan Africa has been at the cutting edge of ed-tech developments and mobile financial services.
“They get forced into creative solutions and technology can often end up being that creative solution,” Squibb said. “They end up being these pockets of activity partly by the need to create the infrastructure that was never built.”
Even so, those cities that will have the edge in the new technology race often have several fundamentals in place: a functioning education system, the rule of law and access to capital.
“For me, Hong Kong still wins out,” Squibb said. “Ultimately, liveability is a key a ingredient. You always need to import talent no matter where you are so having a great city for your core team definitely helps.”
Click through the gallery above to find out which emerging market cities, according to Squibb, are the best places to launch and nurture a startup.
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