Startup Culture in Emerging Markets

Tech entrepreneurs have been flocking to Silicon Valley for years in pursuit of joining California’s list of successful startups. Silicon Valley is reputed as being one of the biggest tech hubs in the United States—and for good reason. The market is saturated with investors, the community is zealous for technological innovation, and entrepreneurs have a diverse selection of talent to pull from when building their teams. You might recognize the names of five of the biggest tech giants to come out of Silicon Valley: Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft—and that’s just a small pool of companies that got their start in California.

Silicon Valley’s startup culture has undeniably given some businesses the upper hand, but its ecosystem is starting to shift and entrepreneurs are beginning to seek opportunities elsewhere. As a result of its reputation, the Valley has become impregnated with startups. Having such a vast number of startups competing with one another not only dilutes the creative process, it makes progressive ideas a rarity. Entrepreneurs end up facing more adversity than they do potential when attempting to build a sustainable business in Silicon Valley.

The overly competitive nature of Silicon Valley has caused it to lose its luster, but there are more serious issues the Valley currently faces. There has been an onslaught of sexual harassment allegations against both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In conjunction with these complaints, investors are also becoming more aware of the potential of other emerging markets outside of the West coast altogether. The next big thing in tech could be brewing halfway across the U.S. or thousands of miles away from Silicon Valley.

Entrepreneurs are beginning to relocate to different parts of the world to give themselves a better shot at success. In the United States, there are a slew of notable—and unlikely—cities that have recently experienced a surge within their startup communities. Huntsville in Alabama, for example, has welcomed a 309 percent increase in tech jobs over the last few years. Utah has also gained recognition as a force in the startup world. Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Utah the No. 1 city for entrepreneurship and the No. 2 city for high-tech performance. Qualtrics, a startup founded in Provo, acquired over $250 million in capital last year alone, which exceeded their previous funding by more than 50 percent from 2016.

But potential is not restricted to our nation’s borders alone. Kiev, Ukraine is reputed as being one of the most progressive startup communities in Europe, even despite its shaky economy. Last year, Allset, a software that makes it possible to reserve tables and order food in advance at restaurants, recently obtained over $3.35 million in investments. They are not only successful in Europe, but they were able to use their funding to successfully introduce their software in America.

Kenya is another tech hub entrepreneurs should be aware of. The country has its own version of Silicon Valley located in Nairobi, which has appropriately been named Silicon Savannah. Despite cultivating numerous innovative startups and gaining attention from tech entrepreneurs and investors, Silicon Savannah is experiencing similar problems to Silicon Valley. In response to their saturated market, other cities in Kenya are stepping up and creating environments where entrepreneurs can thrive, like Mombasa, Nyeri, and Kisumu. With one of the fastest mobile internet speeds, Kenya is the perfect country to introduce some of the most cutting-edge ideas in tech that answer to the needs of their growing economy—and beyond.

Entrepreneurs must begin challenging themselves in a productive manner in order to nurture their startups. Trying to influence an already overflowing market in Silicon Valley is not conducive to a promising future. Instead, entrepreneurs should think outside the boundaries of California, whether that is across the nation or in another country, to develop a sustainable business model.