What makes European startup hubs unique?

Europe has a number of great startup cities. London, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul have hundreds and thousands of startups and their numbers are growing. These cities all have their unique flavour: London is strong in FinTech, Berlin has lots of music startups, Helsinki is home to some of the most successful mobile game developers. In this post I look at this in more detail: How does one characterise the markets that each city is particularly strong in?


I took a somewhat fun approach.

I first took some data about 5000 European startups that have a profile on AngelList, using AngelList's API. I then built a machine learning model that tries to guess the location of a startup from the tags presented on their profile. For example the algorithm was able learn that if a startup is tagged 'financial technology', chances are it's in London. Or if it's tagged 'SaaS' it is London, but if it's tagged 'music' and 'SaaS' then Berlin is more likely.

The task I tried to solve is not unlike the internet sensation game from a year ago: in GeoGuessr you're dropped at a random location on Earth, and you have to guess where you are after a stroll in Google Streetview. In StartupGuessr you're given a list of sector tags and you have to guess where in Europe you are.

The predictive model itself is not very interesting here. It's not particularly accurate either. But the real emphasis was on learning something about the association between sectors and cities. Below is a list of the most relevant sectors for each of the major startup hubs of Europe:

  • Amsterdam: social media platforms, knowledge management, lifestyle products, 3d printing, peer-to-peer
  • Barcelona: mobile, cloud management, mobile advertising, SaaS, edutainment
  • Berlin: e books, messaging, quantified self, crowdsourcing, music
  • Helsinki: mobile games, B2B, retail technology, productivity software, apps
  • Istanbul: e-commerce, internet tv, fmcg, games, social media platforms
  • London: trading, financial services, health and wellness, big data, university students
  • Moscow: personal health, internet infrastructure, travel, online travel, app stores
  • Paris: tourism, collaborative consumption, transportation, wine and spirits, travel & tourism
  • Stockholm: small and medium businesses, health and wellness, paas, environmental innovation, video games