TOP 15: Europe’s biggest startup hubs in 2020

Since 2011, we’ve published an annual ranking of Europe’s biggest startup hubs. It’s been quite a while since we released the previous edition of this renowned ranking, so it was about time for an updated research. Let’s see what has changed since the last edition and especially since the COVID-19 crisis came into play.

In order to create this startup ecosystem ranking, we’ve been tracking the following:

  • A) As the very first step we’ve identified the TOP 150 cities in relation to this year’s visits on – and the associated number of unique visitors (Google Analytics);
  • B) Then, we’ve been looking at the number of startups that were founded/registered in each of these European cities on CrunchBase and on Dealroom within the past 3 years;
  • C) Finally, we had a close look at the funding activity we tracked for those hubs within the past 12 months.

Afterwards, we gave each of these factors specific weightings to get the right ratio – the same algorithm as in past years. The least influential factor, which we gave the smallest weighting, was obviously the number of unique EU-Startups visitors per city, since this metric is also influenced by our editorial work.

Please note that the resulting ranking isn’t meant to be the final or undisputable judgement about the real importance of each of these cities for the European startup world. It’s more like a mirror of the digital presence and visibility of these cities in the English speaking startup universe. So here we go with this year’s ranking:


1. LONDON: Like every year since we started tracking and ranking startup ecosystems in Europe, London remains the undisputed number 1. The capital of the UK is clearly leading when it comes to the number of new/active startups and the number and size of funding rounds. But we expect some slightly negative effects to kick in after the transition period is over and the reality of Brexit comes into full play. That being said, we’re not ruling out that London might be kicked off its throne in 3-4 years from now. If you want to learn more about the London startup ecosystem, check out the overview we published a while ago.


2. BERLIN: In 2016, Berlin was able to overtake Paris as the 2nd biggest startup hub in Europe. Since then the German capital kept this rank and continued to increase its number of startups and number/size of funding rounds year over year. Although, according to all the data we’ve been tracking, the distance between Berlin as number two and Paris as number 3 is quite small, so it could be possible that Paris will take back the number two position in the next 1-2 years. In case you’d like to learn more about the Berlin startup ecosystem, check out the overview we published a while ago.


3. PARIS: Number 2 until 2016, and since then the 3rd biggest startup hub, the technology and innovation ecosystem of Paris keeps on growing nicely. The city is also host to big international startup events like Viva Technology. It’s important to mention, that we don’t expect Paris to drop below rank 3 in the next 3-4 years to come. The city has a headstart compared to Amsterdam (which currently ranks in 4th place), and is much more likely to move up than down. More information about the Paris startup ecosystem can be found here.


4. AMSTERDAM: The Dutch capital is a real magnet for startups and continues to keep its strong position as Europe’s 4th biggest startup hub. According our data, we don’t expect Amsterdam to move up or down from its position in the next 1-2 years, since there is a healthy distance in terms of funding rounds and the number of active startups compared to rank 3 and 5. If you want to learn more about the Amsterdam startup ecosystem, check out the overview we published in the beginning of 2019.


5. BARCELONA: The home base of EU-Startups and our annual EU-Startups Summit continues to remain at rank number 5. Although, it’s important to mention that according to the data we’ve been tracking there is not a huge difference between the ranks 5-8. That being said, Barcelona might be found on a slightly lower place in the next 1-2 years. To learn more about the Barcelona startup ecosystem, check out our interview with the Commissioner for Economic Promotion, Enterprise and Innovation at the Barcelona City Council, or have a look at our recent article highlighting 10 Barcelona-based startups that continue to grow fast despite the current crisis.


6. MUNICH: And here comes the first big surprise of this year’s startup ecosystem research. After ranking number 12 in 2016, number 11 in 2017, and number 10 in 2018, Munich made another big jump and is now the 6th largest startup hub in Europe. But as previously mentioned, there is not a huge difference between the ranks 5-8. That being said, Munich might drop in the rankings (or move up) within the next 1-2 years.


7. MADRID: After several years of being the 6th biggest startup city in Europe, Madrid unfortunately moved one place down in favour of Munich. When we look at the data, it’s not so much the number of new/active startups that caused this change (Madrid is actually on the same level as Munich here), but it’s mostly about the number/size of funding rounds, which within the past 12 months has been substantially bigger in Munich than in Madrid. If you want to learn more about the Madrid startup ecosystem, check out the little overview we published in the summer of 2019.


8. STOCKHOLM: Previously in rank 7, Stockholm is now number 8 in Europe’s leading startup cities. But again, since the difference between rank 5 and 8 is marginal, we think it’s very likely that Stockholm will move at least 1 rank up or down within the coming years. To learn more about the Stockholm startup ecosystem, check out the overview we published in the beginning of 2019.


9. DUBLIN: The capital of Ireland now ranks as the 9th biggest startup hub in Europe (previously rank 8). Since Munich made such a big jump, also Dublin had to move one rank down. According to the data we’ve been tracking, rank 9, 10 and 11 are rather close, which means that although chances are that Dublin might reclaim position 8 in the next 1-2 years, the city also is at risk of moving down even further.


10. MILAN: After moving from rank 11 in 2017 to rank 10 in 2018, Milan was able to defend this rank this year. In general, what we’re seeing with the Italian startup ecosystem, and also for the French ecosystem, is a slightly less international approach from startup founders and often entrepreneurs start and/or stay focused on their home market. Entrepreneurs from smaller countries, like Estonia or the Netherlands, tend to focus on international markets much earlier, which often also results in bigger growth potential.


11. COPENHAGEN: Previously number 9, Copenhagen lost two ranks since 2018. The reason for this is that the Danish capital hasn’t been growing as much as some of the other startup ecosystems which were close in startup numbers and funding activity. Actually, the distance between place 11 and 12 appears to be super close this year, so Copenhagen is at risk to move down one more rank in the years to come. If you want to learn more about the Copenhagen startup ecosystem, check out the little overview we published in the summer of 2019.


12. TALLINN: And here comes the second big surprise of this year’s startup ecosystem ranking. While in previous years Tallinn wasn’t even part of the TOP 15, this year the capital of Estonia turned out to be the 12th biggest startup hub in Europe. One of the reasons for this success are probably innovative governmental initiatives like E-Residency, which enables digital entrepreneurs to start and manage an EU-based company online.


13. ZURICH: Previously at place 15, the Swiss capital gained further ground and now ranks as the 13th biggest startup hub in Europe. Zurich kept on growing nicely both in terms of the number of new startups founded, but also in terms of funding rounds and amounts. Since the distance to rank 12 and 14 is rather marginal, we can expect a further up or down movement in the coming years.


14. HELSINKI: The Finnish capital Helsinki moved from rank 11 in 2016, to rank 12 in 2017, to rank 13 in 2018. According to the latest data we’ve been tracking, Helsinki unfortunately dropped another position this year and is now the 14th biggest startup city. Helsinki, and Finland in general, is pretty strong when it comes to games industry startups, and the Finnish capital is also home to Slush, one of the world’s leading startup events. Let’s see, hopefully Helsinki will continue to move up again in the coming years. The city definitely has some very exciting startups. Here are 10 promising startups from Helsinki we presented a while ago.


15. HAMBURG: And here is another surprise in this year’s ranking. After not showing up at all in our TOP 15 ranking in previous years, Hamburg is now the 15th biggest startup hub in Europe. Germany’s second largest city in terms of population is also home to the annual OMR Festival, an online marketing and startup event gathering over 50,000 attendees each year (we’re talking about pre-COVID times of course). TOP 15 of Europe’s biggest startup hubs.

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