Startup Heatmap 2019 Unveils Europe’s Startup Highways

The recently published Startup Heatmap Europe report is a key study on the development of startup ecosystems and founder mobility in Europe to date. The analysis spans >100 startup cities in Europe, dozens of data points on ecosystem dynamics, like meetups and accelerators as well as a survey of >1,500 founders. The novelty this year is the concept of startup highways. A «highway» is defined as a strong connection measured by the recognition of a place by founders from another location.

A somewhat unexpected connection has been found between Dublin, London and Lisbon. Lisbon has a clear complementarity with London and Dublin in terms of value for money. While, Dublin might have been a good outsourcing spot for costly activities in the past, the steep rise of cost of living in the Irish capital changed the picture drastically since 2015. Lisbon, apparently won over this recognition as a hip and tech-savvy, but still affordable outpost of the London tech community.

Startup Heatmap 2019 Unveils Europe’s Startup Highways

How does Dublin fare? We have discussed this in an article on Irish Tech News last year, and it is time for an update: While Lisbon has constantly been climbing the ranks, Dublin dropped out the top 10 last year and remained on rank 11 in 2019. Compared to London and Lisbon it maintains a competitive edge in terms of business friendly regulation, which 93% of founders endorse. In comparison to Lisbon, Dublin seems to be better positioned with industry and offers better funding opportunities too. However, almost in all verticals, Lisbon reaches more founders than Dublin. Only in the Tech and Hardware sector, Dublin seems to be slightly ahead.

It seems that we observe an adaptation process, where Dublin has lost a comparative advantage in the relation with London, but tries to move to a different value proposition around ease of doing business and industry cooperation. The slow down of Dublin‘s decay in the rankings as well as the mutual recognition between LisbonDublin and London could be signs for this transition to be successful. Finally, also the Brexit might work towards Dublin, allowing it to offer London-based startups a foot in the EU without much bureaucratic and language related hurdles.

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As Brexit continues, London loses most dramatically in the Nordics and Baltics (-19% points), while founders in the CEE seem to gather around London (+5% points) and turn their back on Berlin (-19% points). This shows how the Brexit divides Europe and founders feel they have to choose between two diverging pathways.

This opens opportunities for the 2nd tier hubs: Barcelona is the central interchange between the Southern Hubs, connecting strongly to Madrid and Milan, that  bring to the table their relatively stronger industry connections. German Hubs are on the rise in the High-Tech sector: Health & BioTech as well as Big Data startups favor Munich and Zurich, while Vienna and Zurich are top ranked for FinTech.

Helsinki and Tallinn are positioning as extremely business friendly startup hubs – however they are experiencing difficulties to connect with their Nordic neighbors like Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Oslo, which are  rather orientated towards London and Berlin, missing a chance to build a competitive ecosystem of opportunities in the Nordics.

The same is true for CEE hubs including Vienna, which neglect mutual exchange and rather focus on building relations with London, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

The top 3 Accelerator brands in Europe in 2019 are Techstars London (13%), Seedcamp (11%) and Station F (10%),

The top 3 Conference brands in Europe in 2019 are WebSummit (31%), Slush (26%) and London Tech Week (19%).

Some of the key findings this year are:

  • Increased mobility with 30% more foreign-born founders since 2016
  • Fast Internationalization as 55% of European startups establish international locations within in their first year
  • Top Hubs are losing momentum as London and Berlin hit a 4 year low in popularity
  • Founders increasingly rely on transnational networks, with the most eminent spanning between London, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, and Lisbon
  • Brexit divides European founders: Northern and Western countries lose faith, while CEE seems to gather around London


Thomas Kösters is the founder of Startup Heatmap Europe, a data & knowledge platform enabling tech communities in Europe to grow. Find more information on the data and courses for ecosystem builders on 

The Startup Heatmap Europe runs an annual survey among founders and the greater tech community on mobility and the attractiveness of startup hubs. The 2019 survey was collected between May and August 2019 and had 1,200 participants. After cleaning and sampling the data 806 complete datasets remained that were weighted to adjust for regional representativeness on country level. Founders were 53% of respondents. For long-term trends in founder mobility, we used a combined dataset of 4 years with >6,000 founder opinions. Analysis of key topics and trends was based on social media data and a dataset of >20,000 startup meetups.

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