Apr 26, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

While startups may have had a rocky run in 2017, 2018 is looking good, according to Silicon Valley Bank’s ninth annual Startup Outlook report. Said Greg Becker, CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, “Most startups say they are hiring, expect a strong M&A environment and in the US and the UK they report fundraising is getting less challenging...In today's fast-changing world, it's more important than ever to continue promoting companies that are inventing the future. It's imperative to remain supportive of the innovation economy as it becomes an even bigger driver of job growth and contributor to the overall economic health by creating good-paying jobs that attract best-in-class talent and offer affordable healthcare to employees.”

The takeaway? If you’re thinking of starting a startup, now may be the perfect time. Which begs the question: Are any locations better than others when it comes to specific industries? Read on for a roundup of five innovation hubs.

1. EdTech: The Middle East

Schools in the Arab world aren’t known for their cutting-edge curricula. According to a recent report from Forbes, however, this is one of the things that makes the Middle East a mecca for edtech startups.

Nafez Dakkak, CEO of the UK office of the Queen Rania Foundation (QRF), told Forbes, “Edtech sector in [the Middle East] is full of potential, as we regularly see interesting startups pop. They are critical for the region given the low quality of education outcomes across the board. A lot of promising entrepreneurs are expanding access to quality education.”

Currently, the Middle East and Africa are home to approximately 270 edtech startups, with 50 added in 2017 alone.

Said Muhammed Mekki, founding partner of Dubai-based tech hub AstroLabs, “We have hosted many edtech startups catering to the region over the last several years, spanning from localized tutoring platforms to Arabic content developers...Edtech in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf, benefits from a large and fast-growing private education sector with schools looking for innovative ways to differentiate themselves from competitors.”

2. Home and Design: New York City

New York has long been known as an innovation hub for ecommerce, finance and healthcare. But the city that never sleeps is also a fitting homebase for design disruption with a diverse range of startups setting up shop there, including ecommerce site Brooklinen, which sells “luxury bedding at non-luxury prices;” Dandelion, which uses inexpensive geothermal systems for home heating and cooling; and to Flip, a platform for apartment subletting,

Proposes Built in NYC, “No matter how much we as New Yorkers love to bond over apartment-related horror stories — terrible landlords, Iron Maiden-loving neighbors, etc. — our apartments are our havens. Of course, living in a city where everyone is seemingly on a budget can make it difficult to give our homes the TLC (and window treatments) they deserve…. Naturally, that’s where tech steps in. Over the past few years, innovators have realized that there are many improvements to be made when it comes to buying furniture, decorating a 200-square-foot space, or transporting a mattress to a seventh-floor walk-up.”

3. Cloud Computing: Utah’s “Silicon Slopes”

When we think of computers and technology, Silicon Valley is the obvious choice. However, a case can also be made for Utah’s “Silicon Slopes,” declared by Forbes to be “cloud computing’s new capital.”

“[Utah’s] sales prowess, mixed with business-friendly policies, an educated workforce, low energy prices and a culture of deliberate growth, dovetails with a new tech era that requires huge server capacity and even larger contracts. The Beehive State hosts six companies--led by Qualtrics (No. 6), Domo (15) and Pluralsight (20)--on the Forbes Cloud 100, a list of the leading private tech companies in cloud computing, which today spans everything from infrastructure to business software to cybersecurity. Dozens of cloud-focused startups are incubating behind them,” reports Forbes.

Says Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics, of the local startup culture,  “We all have a chance to do something great. We know the enormity of what we are doing."

4. Fintech: Israel

According to Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry, Israel -- home to more than 200 fintech startups -- is considered to be “a global fintech powerhouse” for a number of reasons, including   “its small size, which acts as a great testing ground; very high mobile engagement among Israelis; and the big data skills learned in Israel’s elite army intelligence units, like the 8200 unit, known for its crop of future star entrepreneurs.”

Adds Yoni Assia, CEO and Founder of social investment network eToro, “I think the great advantage of Israeli FinTech is that there is a limited local market, which forces the local FinTech industry to focus on larger global markets...The payments, trading and Bitcoin systems that emerged in Israel are in general more global than those in other countries.”

Plus, Israel’s smaller economy makes it the perfect testing ground for technology before it launches in the US.

(Wondering if a career in fintech is in your future? Read more here.)

5. Female-Led Tech: France

Are you an enterprising woman looking to be surrounded by other enterprising women? If so, think France. While France may not have a reputation for innovation, it’s changing. Former French civil servant turned venture capitalist Fleur Pellerin told Forbes, “The entrepreneurial mindset and spirit is much more present in the younger generation in France.”

Plus, it’s marked by a commitment to female founders, according to Paris Pionnières Managing Director Caroline Ramade, who declared “founding a startup” to be “the hottest new trend among French women.”

And there’s plenty of support there for women, too. Audrey-Laure Bergentha, president of French Tech in her region and head of startup Euveka, says she and her team are dedicated to mentoring young women entrepreneurs, “I tell them not to be afraid as I’ve been. It took me too many years to have confidence in myself. I don’t want them to be as slow as I have been. I was my worst enemy because I had no images to refer to, and the way a woman builds a business is totally different than the way men build businesses. I am lucky now that I have two women mentors that have helped me build my vision and have trust in myself,” she told Forbes.

But the truth is that these five locations are just a handful of the locations where startups and entrepreneurs thrive. For more on hot cities for startups, check out Coldspring’s 11 of the Best  Cities Worldwide for Startups and Entrepreneurs, Inc.’s Top 10 Global Startup Hubs of 2017 and Business Insider’s 20 Hottest Startup Hubs in the World.












Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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