Dublin, London and Berlin – How Europe's hubs started to kick ass

With Google announcing plans to hire 200 more staff into its European headquarters in Dublin, which already holds around 1,500 (not all developers I might add), it’s clear Dublin is emerging as a strong force in the European tech scene.

Although there is a big mapping operation in Zurich, this is the first time Google’s location-based products will have had Dublin developers at real scale.

And Dublin’s events scene has had a shot in the arm recently with the arrival of the excellent Dublin Web Summit events.

So consider this. I recently had a long chat with a startup about where they planned to base their headquarters. They could go more or less anywhere. So where?

The upshot was that Dublin came out on top in Europe, with London and Luxembourg (forever a low tax region) also up there.

The simple fact of the matter is that Ireland remains a low-corporation tax country in Europe, and is in the top 10 of European countries in terms of ease of starting a business according to the World Bank. It’s also English speaking, has a highly educated population and since the property bubble burst, it’s much cheaper to locate an office there.

But Dublin is not the be-all-and-end-all in Europe, a complex place which does not stand up to broad generalisations, whatever you might read from Robert Scoble about Europe being “anti-failure”. Hey Robert, we all read English ok, we know how you Valley guys do this now.

In fact, Europe is starting to look increasingly like it has three important tech hubs: Dublin for the above reasons (but mostly tax), London for the sheer access to capital and people (London is the acknowledged ‘Trading Post’ of Europe), and Berlin as the emerging creative tech hub on the borders with Central Europe where many European startups are also developed.

On that latter point: While Germany is not the most business-friendly in Europe (an aversion to risk is a hangover from it’s history), many Berlin-based startups are in fact incorporating as UK Limited Companies. One desk in London later and you have the best of both worlds: a vibrant Berlin talent pool, cheap offices and an exit route via a UK LTD. Or swap out London for Dublin and do the same.

(At the same time I want to point out that Germany is again more complex than I might indicate to non-European readers unfamiliar with the scene here. Hamburg and Munich too have their own startup eco-systems and local VCs. So it’s not ALL in Berlin by any means. But Berlin right now has, in general, the most internationally-focused startups).

Outside of this triumvirate we have sprinklings of the Nordics, Baltics, CEE, and any outliers that appear from Southern Europe. All of them have strengths and weaknesses in their own ways but each hook into other hubs as needed (e.g. Madrid into Barcelona and Latin America, Milan into London etc etc).

Yes indeed, Europe really is starting to kick ass.