IoT Entrepreneurs: Smartup City Guide

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IoT Entrepreneurs: Smartup City Guide

What are the smartest cities for startups in Europe? Where is the climate – business and otherwise – best for fostering new ideas? Where does the talent congregate? Where’s the action, and the fun? We looked around the continent and found the best places to be an aspiring IoT hopeful – and become the next Google or Amazon. Our Smartup City Guide.

by Eric Doyle

London and Berlin known as Europe’s joint capitals of failure – and they’re proud of it. The two cities are vying for are becoming the title of Europe’s premier home of startups and the battling entrepreneurs see failure as a learning path that will perhaps lead to success.

Within the UK, London may be seen as the jewel but the University city of Cambridge has had a startup culture for over 30 years and it’s given birth to many technologies and companies – most notably ARM Holdings, the chipdesign specialist that was acquired last year for $30 bn. Microsoft, Apple and many other large US corporates also have research facilities there and were joined by Huawei when the Chinese multinational announced its plan to establish an Internet of Things center there. “As a small city, Cambridge is a great place to live and work and offers almost everything you need, with excellent links to airports and to London,” says Antony Rix, founding CEO of 8power, a company producing micro-devices to monitor the status of customer assets, such as infrastructure, machinery, utility networks, buildings, and transportation.

Startup hubs are springing up all over Europe from north to south

Cambridge was a natural choice for Rix because 8power was built around intellectual property licensed from the university. Staying nearby makes it easier to beneft from this ongoing relationship between the university and the company founders. There are other advantages, says Rix: “We’re able to call on an excellent infrastructure of people and innovation. Cambridge is an extraordinary place, with someone who is an expert in almost any tech field a short bicycle ride away. If you need something designed or made, or even want a completely new technology invented, the Cambridge area has some of the best minds in the world.”
London and Berlin may have much richer funding opportunities but both lack this IT background. London has gradually attracted experienced talent and Berlin is still growing – but rapidly catching up.

Quick Info: Smartup City Guide

Best place to locate: Kreuzberg
Best place to hang out: Sankt Oberholz, Rosenthaler Platz – reputed favorite of the SoundCloud founders
Best local attraction: Deutsches Technikmuseum
What’s the weather like: Maritime temperate climate. Summers are warm, sometimes humid, winters are cold. Temperature range: −2°C to 22°C
Best place to locate: Berg am Laim
Best place to hang out: Kleines Brauhaus Dicker Mann near Ostpark
Best local attraction: Olympiapark, Oberwiesenfeld
What’s the weather like: Oceanic humid continental climate. Winters are relatively cold with very little sunshine. Summers usually sunny. Temperature range: -2°C to 24°C
Best place to locate: Camden
Best place to hang out: The Lock Tavern, Chalk Farm Road
Best local attraction: The Science Museum, South Kensington
What’s the weather like: Oceanic climate. Winters are cool and damp. Summers are warm, sometimes hot and humid. Temperature range: 2°C to 25°C
Best place to locate: The Cambridge Science Park
Best place to hang out: Stir, Chesterton Road
Best local attraction: Cambridge University
What’s the weather like: Maritime climate. Summers are warm, sometimes humid, winters are cold. Temperature range: 1°C to 23°C
Best place to locate: Norrmalm District
Best place to hang out: Restaurant at Nytorget 6
Best local attraction: The Stockholm Archipelago
What’s the weather like: Humid continental climate. Daylight varies from over 18 hours in midsummer, to only six hours in December. Temperature range: -4°C to 23°C
Best place to locate: Grachtengordel West
Best place to hang out: Il Panorama, at Herengracht 194 or the nearby Rockstart Accelerator
Best local attraction: Canals and cafes
What’s the weather like: Oceanic climate. Both winters and summers are considered mild, although occasionally quite cool. Temperature range: 0°C to 22°C

Daniel Richart is a founder of Teraki, a Berlin-based company that specializes in making IoT’s big data manageable by controlling the flow of information from sensors and devices. He says that the city’s rich mix of nationalities and cultures makes it an exciting place to live and work. “Berlin doesn’t have a high number of experienced personnel, due to the low number of IT companies established here. However, the availability of attractive remuneration is a good help in establishing a successful startup,” hemaintains.
“Specialized programmers are rarely available here but they can be recruited from different parts of Europe easily because Berlin is such an attractive place.” Berlin is massively improving and Richart is optimistic that the current advances will be maintained. “The German government has established many initiatives in order to nurture the startup ecosystem – ranging from R&D schemes, such as Exist Start-up Germany, to specialized funding programs. Several agencies to help startups get funding from the EU are establishing themselves in Berlin as well,” he says.

Like London, Berlin is already being challenged. In the south of Germany lies Munich, capital of the Bavarian region. One thing most people know about the city is the Oktoberfest beer festival and the vibrancy of those celebrations reverberates through a growing IT startup culture. Paul Günther chose Munich as the place to develop his ProGlove product and he encourages others to startup there by saying: “For an industrial or hardware startup, Munich offers the perfect start with its accelerators, local
manufacturing, and talent. In summer, we also have the choice of spending the weekend at a lake, and during winter you can be in a skiing area in less than an hour. For shorter breaks, just relax in the beer garden, because Munich has more sunny days and much better beer than any other German city.” His company has developed a glovemounted barcode reader to make ieasier to fnd specifc barcoded items in a warehouse or store than using a handheld device. When a sought-for barcode is read, the ProGlove signals the operator visually and haptically (by touch). The glove is also capable of recognizing hand gestures to increase its functionality.

France is a large country and startup hubs are springing up from Marseille in the south to Lille in the north. Paris may be a beautiful, fashion-conscious city but Lille has a powerful pull due to the presence of the École Centrale engineering college founded in 1854. Youness Lemrabet studied there and stayed on to found his own business Everysens, a mobile asset tracking and management platform for IoT. “Lille is a vibrant city, rich in both history and culture,” Lemrabet says.

Smartup Guide Europe: Youness Lemrabet - Everysens Team

Winning credibility: Youness Lemrabet (right) and the Everysens team royally celebrate another success.

“Strolling around the city, you will fall in love with the architecture – a great mix of Lille’s Flemish roots and its industrial past – and you’ll stumble upon fascinating museums and a few lively bars.” He thinks Lille is a great place for startups: “It has great tech incubators. According to the European Accelerator Report 2015, one of them, which we call EuraTechnologies, rates among the 10 best European accelerators.”
“Recruiting staff is easy thanks to the many colleges around, and once your team is complete, Lille is a fabulous place to work,” he maintains. For funding and support, Lille has two clusters, I-trans and Team², competing for startups, there is also a group of investors called R32E, and some business angels have moved to Lille in 1971, The French Connection movie highlighted the drug-dealing underbelly of Marseille – and it still suffers a lot from this reputation.

Marseille is turning this around and today it’s more concerned with French connectivity as it plugs into the entrepreneur vibe. The city has plans to build itself up as a major hub for innovation and ‘French Tech’ is a buzz phrase used regularly by local ofcials. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, Marseille has 300 days of sunshine and has established itself as a cultural city for opera, theatre and fne art. It has paired with nearby Aixen-Provence to add a digital spin to its credentials – not least of which is establishing itself as the principal home of the French National RFID Center, CNRFID.
Marseille has a high concentration of accelerators, hubs and co-working facilities because it seeks to gain an advantage by pushing its startups through the initial development stage as fast as possible. There are also plans to build a tech city, Euroméditerranée, as part of an urban renewal project. The local hero is Jaguar Networks which operates an international data center in Marseille – but it has higher ambitions. This year will see Jaguar open a prestigious R&D center which incorporates a startup accelerator to develop projects in Smart City tech, big data analysis, IoT, e-health and biotechnology.

There are also plans to build a tech city as part of an urban renewal project

Amsterdam usually rates as the third major startup community in Europe. Bram de Zwart, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs grew his company through Rockstart, one of many accelerators that have sprung up in the city. “It really helped by acting as a central point for investors to come and get to know local startups,” he says.
“Being in Amsterdam also means you’re never far from places like London, Stockholm or Berlin, opening up a wide range of investment opportunities.”
“The Amsterdam lifestyle is unique.” It is a metropolitan city with all of the benefits but it has a village vibe, with the majority of people traveling by bicycle, huge green areas, and a low density of people. It combines these qualities with a highly educated workforce and a lot of innovation, making it a unique place to live and work.” De Zwart’s team has taken the IoT concept to heart. 3D printing service providers have been springing up around the world and 3D Hubs has positioned itself as a major online marketplace for them. The database spans 160 countries with the aim of connecting product designers and engineers with suitable 3D printing houses for product prototyping and small production runs.

In Stockholm, Erik Ramberg, CEO and founder of Springworks, enthuses about his city: “Stockholm has a lot of software development experts and Sweden is a well-connected place with everyone having broadband at home and LTE for their smartphones. And, of course, all of us founders are based in Stockholm,” he jokes. “We enjoy a high quality of living, with the Archipelago around the corner and water surrounding the city.

Smartup Guide Europe: Springworks

It’s not all work: Springworks’ legal director Maria Alm on bass and developer Niklas Gawell on effect.

It is also ‘big’ enough to attract large firms like Ericsson, but at the same time, small enough to make it a very friendly place,” Ramberg explains. Sweden is also the birthplace of the online music service Spotify and this has raised an interest in services and a resultant stream of startups. Springworks tapped into this and developed Spark, a SaaS platform for smart data collection from cars and service providers that allows more intelligent management of mobile fleets. Local services such as repair shops and gas stations can be linked to the needs of the mobile workforce, and command centers can see where vehicles are deployed in real time. Ramberg says funding is available from a good mix of venture capitalists and angels but the presence of large tech companies locally means there is a battle to get staff. “But as always, I think competition is good,” he adds – with a wry smile.

Barcelona has avoided the raucous reputation of the holiday destinations in the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava and maintained a degree of dignity. The centerpiece of the city is the Basilica Sagrada Família, an elaborate art nouveau building that is still part church, part building site and more of a confection than a place of reflection.

Quick Info: Smartup City Guide


Best place to locate: Bois Blancs
Best place to hang out: Le Switch Ou Bien near the EuraTechnologies incubator
Best local attraction: La Vieille Bourse and Grand Place
What’s the weather like: Oceanic climate. Summers normally do not reach high average temperatures, but winters can fall below freezing temperatures. Temperature range: 1°C to 23°C

Best place to locate: St Charles Station
Best place to hang out: La Villa, 113, Rue Jean Mermoz
Best local attraction: Notre-Dame de la Garde, Rue Fort du Sanctuaire
What’s the weather like: Mediterranean climate. Mild, humid winters and warm to hot, mostly dry summers. Temperature range: 5°C to 29°C

Best place to locate: Vila de Gràcia
Best place to hang out: L’Entresòl, Planeta, 39
Best local attraction: Bastilla La Sagrada Família. Easter celebrations are lavish and colorful
What’s the weather like: Humid subtropical climate. Mildly cool winters and hot, muggy summers. Temperature range: 9°C to 29°C

Best place to locate: Isola
Best place to hang out: Café Gorille, Via Gaetano de Castillia
Best local attraction: Sforza Castle houses art collections and museums, including one for musical instruments
What’s the weather like: Humid subtropical climate. Hot, sultry summers and cold, foggy winters. Temperature range: -1°C to 29°C

Best place to locate: South Praga Północ district
Best place to hang out: oho Factory, Mińska 25, Warsaw
Best local attraction: Copernicus Science Centre
What’s the weather like: Humid continental climate. Cold, snowy winters and mild to hot summers. Temperature range: -1.8°C to 19.2 °C

Best place to locate: Smichov, Prague 7
Best place to hang out: Kavárna co hledá jméno (Café With No Name)
Best local attraction: Dancing House – formerly the Fred and Ginger building
What’s the weather like: Oceanic humid continental climate. Winters are relatively cold with very little sunshine. Summers usually sunny. Temperature range: -2°C to 24°C

Such an architecturally disruptive concept is a fitting cornerstone to the Vila de Gràcia sector which is rapidly becoming the ‘Silicio Valle’ of Spain.
Every year since 2011, Barcelona has been the host city for the Mobile World Congress which floods the city with 100,000 business people, geeks and nerds. Bestowing the city with the proud title of GSMA Mobile World Capital has raised the awareness of, and interest in, technology among the locals and the Catelonian startup scene is beginning to boom. In addition, Cisco has announced the city as the test bed for its Internet of Things development platform. The current rockstars on Barcelona’s startup stage include cross-market sensor integrator Excelera, the Siine app keyboard designer for creating smart digital interfaces, and foreignexchange platform Kantox.

Milan may be the fashion center of Europe but it’s a haphazard city with very high class areas snuggling uncomfortably up against less-reputable estates. It all makes for an exciting scene which is constantly in flux. A good example is the Isola district which is rising from its depressed past to become a very trendy area. Google has recently opened an ofce there – boosting the attraction of the areas tech co-working spaces and hubs. In summer, it can be suffocatingly hot but that’s a small price to pay for living in a city where homespun brands like Armani, Versace and Ferrero are being challenged by tech usurpers. Milan is the main focus for startups in Italy and key companies include the digital booking service Musement, fintech startup MoneyFarm, and D-Orbit. As GPS tracking satellites and various minifactory space stations start to proliferate, D-Orbit hopes to cash in on the multi billion dollar market as extraterrestrial trashmen cleaning up the resulting space junk.

The Second World War destroyed 90% of Warsaw so if the Old Town area looks as good as new, the truth is – it is. It has been lovingly restored to its former glory over the past 70 years. Hard times call for such hard-headed enterprise and Warsaw has risen to become a city of tough, educated and ambitious people. Hardly surprising it is developing a reputation as a rising tech hub.
In Warsaw, even established startups are less than four years old but there is a great infrastructure of fnanciers and technical talent to support future growth. Despite the youthfulness of the tech sector, it has already started to make its mark through companies like web site business management specialist SalesManago, international trade fintech specialist Azimo, and the social learning platform Brainly.

In Prague, the district of Smichov (‘smich’ means smile) located to the south-west of the city is home to a number of co-working spaces and several accelerators – the most established is the StartupYard which was founded in 2011. Prague itself is a beautiful city and the Charles Bridge with its statues is a popular tourist haunt. Night life has boomed in the past 10 years and there are plenty of great restaurants and bars, but central Prague tends to be teeming with tourists in summer. In 15 years, the city has grown from a local jewel into a cosmopolitan gem.
The low cost of living and high quality infrastructure has encouraged entrepreneurs to arrive from across Europe. A spur to the Czech Republic recognition for tech prowess was the rise of security companies Avast in Prague and AVG in Brno. These have now been joined by the Apiary platform for representational state transfer (REST) APIs, 3D technology specialist Corinth, and network traffic analysis security firm Invea-Tech. Startup hubs now sprawl across Europe and national initiatives to link them up are appearing. The UK’s Northern Powerhouse, and Startup Delta in the Netherlands will improve links between major centers. These superhubs will allow more people to tap into an Internet of Startups – which would be awesome, dude.esome, dude.

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