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What Are The Alternatives To Silicon Valley?

With the tech hub on the edge, where else could people look?

8Apr

We recently explored the notion that Silicon Valley is slowing down. Bloated valuations and a shaky stock market have the region facing a reality check, and the natural progression is for the next generation of equipped graduates to seek an alternative hub in which to begin their careers.

Graduates leaving university in 2016 will be in the best financial position since the 2008 crash. The inevitable lull that followed the crash has given way to optimism and investment is reflecting this with an upward curve. They will still, though, be leaving with an average of $28,950 of debt, according to the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success. Many will still flock to Silicon Valley, but there are plenty of US cities that Forbes have identified as potential alternatives. Forbes have advised those leaving education to seriously consider where they begin their careers; it can affect their chance of success greatly, and the business magazine have compiled a list of the ’20 Best Cities For Young Professionals’, which includes areas of the country not quite so synonymous with innovative tech startups.

Silicon Valley and San Francisco are naturally high on the list - 1st and 2nd respectively - thanks to their focus on technology and their relatively high wages. But Forbes are quick to highlight cities across the US that are ‘underrated’, i.e. those with strong projected annual job growth over the next three years - Columbus, Ohio; Warren, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana and Austin, Texas to name but a few. Essentially, the US has a wealth of growing cities that are, though not as fashionable as Silicon Valley, offering plenty of opportunities for the younger entrepreneur.

However, when the US graduate makes their first foray into the job market, they would be doing themselves a disservice if they neglected opportunities elsewhere; we took a look at some of the hubs of innovation and tech across the world, available to anyone willing to risk a culture shock and chase the next big thing.

Chilecon Valley

In recent years, Chile’s Santiago has been the beneficiary of a great deal of investment, resulting in a modernized - and, indeed, Americanized - downtown area, and US graduates and European entrepreneurs alike are flocking to Chile’s largest city. With lively nightlife and beautiful weather, the city has plenty to offer the would-be entrepreneur, and there are already initiatives in place to make the city even more appealing.

For example, Start-Up Chile, a government-funded initiative intended to revitalize the Santiago economy by attracting high-potential startups, offers visas and grants and has been described as something of a ‘startup for startups’ by its chief executive. The city has affectionately been dubbed ‘Chilecon Valley’, and graduates looking for something a little different should consider this beautiful, historic capital.

Israel

Israel has been threatening to give Silicon Valley a run for its money for years. The country has more tech startups and venture-capital funding per head than anywhere else in the world, as investors flock to the region. With comparisons to the Bay Area inevitable, it seems Tel Aviv has been singled out not just for its potential but for its ocean frontage and spring sunshine. 33 Israeli startups raised more than $10 million each during the first quarter of 2016, and the most in demand jobs in the region are all tech-based.

Cellebrite, an Israeli tech company, were tasked with unlocking an iPhone for the FBI in the recent, high-profile case that raised a multitude of questions about privacy of data. Their emergence from relative anonymity to front pages across the world is set to be matched by the region, and despite Israel’s relatively small size - the Tel Aviv stock exchange is 40 times smaller than the US Nasdaq, for example - it could well challenge the established tech hubs in the very near future.

Dubai

One of the fastest-growing startup cities, Dubai, is often referred to as the ‘city of gold’. The high cost of living caused by incredible wealth - and, indeed, wealth inequality - in the UAE is offset for startups by the low tax rates for corporations. The McKinsey Global Institute called it one of the world’s most ‘connected global cities’, and its geographical placement alone gives it an advantage over Silicon Valley. In 2014, Dubai incubated the opening of 16,198 new companies (an 18% increase on 2013) and the upward trend is continuing.

Perhaps contrary to expectations, Dubai also has one of the highest rates of female tech entrepreneurs in the world - 35% compared to 10% globally, according to Fortune. And Dubai’s ‘Internet City’ - an area created with the sole focus of providing a space for tech innovation to eventually challenge Silicon Valley - is an exciting prospect. At present, startups are working among Fortune 500 companies in the IT hub, and those unsold on Silicon Valley might want to look east.

Romania

TechCrunch recently dubbed Romania the ‘Silicon Valley of Transylvania’, and it stands as proof that even the less prominent countries on the world tech stage have exciting developments underway. Romania still has some hurdles to overcome before it can be considered a tech hub, but both Bucharest and Cluj - the country’s second-largest city - are generating a buzz.

Cluj, in particular, has been sounded out. A growthbusiness.co.uk headline asked whether Cluj is becoming ‘Europe’s Silicon Valley’; it has a record of outsourcing excellence and has a demand for IT professionals that exceeds the current talent pool. Romania was singled out by the Soviet Union as the eastern bloc country tasked with focusing on IT, which has given it a considerable head-start in Eastern Europe. Since 2001, too, IT workers have been tax-exempted depending on the contribution of their employer; a commitment from a government hoping to see their country compete.

Berlin

When people think of Berlin, it tends to be with reference to the city’s culture, arts and nightlife. But the trendy German capital is one of Europe’s more exciting prospects in IT, and the Internet sector is thriving.

For the US graduate, Berlin can offer an affordable cost of living and the ubiquity of the English language makes the switch relatively straightforward. Alexander Ljung, CEO of Berlin-based Soundcloud, described the city as a ‘great intersection of art and technology’, and young people are flocking to its vibrancy.

Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Cebu, Bangalore and Krakow could just as easily have been included in this list, too. When considering your next move after graduating, though Silicon Valley is an appealing prospect, consider alternative options; one just may be the perfect incubator of your talent.

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