Newry is a small town on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic. A town that was only granted the status of city in 2002, and a town that has a population of around 30,000 people. A town that also has big ambitions: to be the next big European startup hub.
Yes, the idyllic town situated between Belfast and Dublin is looking to capitalize on the latest trend: technology. It is likely that they will be using their experience with livestock and agriculture, and will use it to build the next Y Combinator. Now, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that sheep herding does in fact help startups. After all, in the cold winters, there’s nothing better than wool to keep you warm.
It is at this moment that we should all take a deep breath and reflect. The “[Fill in the blank] will be the next Silicon Valley of [larger region]” craze has reached critical mass. Every city that has tried to be Silicon Valley somewhere else in the world has failed. The only cities that have seen some success are the ones that bring their own flavor to the technology table, like New York and Las Vegas. That’s not to say startups can’t come from outside of the Valley, but that if they do, they succeed because they are bringing something new to the table and not copying Silicon Valley. Fact: Newry is not one of these places, and Newry does not have a whole lot to offer to technology startups.
For the sake of clarity, though (and to be fair to other cities around the world that would benefit from a startup hub), I believe I should note a few cities that are comparable to Newry. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a good starting point.
Vladivostok, Russia. Population 600,000.
Welcome to Vladivostok, we hope you enjoy your stay! The freeze-bite inducing temperatures force people to stay indoors at all times during the winter, so wear something warm. While most people would find the climate unsettling, it would be perfect for a team of programmers to settle down. Being forced to stay indoors, they will have nothing to do but code to keep warm. Every investors’ dream!
In addition to the charming climate, Vladivostok is only a dog-sled ride away from a port town, which can connect you to Japan and Korea. ‘Like’! With such tight connections to big technology centers, everyone will benefit. These may seem like less-than-ideal conditions, but honestly, who wouldn’t want to spend time in an incubator (literally) working on the Next Big Siberian Startup Hub?
Pardis, Iran. Population 10,000.
Pardis is a picturesque town nestled in the land outside of Tehran. A planned city that boasts quite the technology presence. It is home to Pardis Technology Park, where the Telecommunication Company of Iran has set up a satellite substation. That’s not all folks! Recently, Pars Online, an Iranian ISP set up the first private data center in Iran in Pardis. Of all the technology parks, in all the cities outside of capitals, in all of the countries, Pardis!
With a city planned to reach 200,000 (whether the people want to relocate or not, get my point?), it would be the perfect place for an accelerator. Sure, you aren’t allowed to say anything about the government, and sure, no foreign investment is really allowed. But as the hacker mentality has proven, working under tight restrictions makes a great place for hacking! There’s no tighter restriction than possible execution following failure!
Sirte, Libya. Population 80,000.
Sirte is well-known at this point as the hometown of former Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi. However, what most people don’t know is that while Gaddafi was in power, he built up Sirte as a city with excellent infrastructure. The war only damaged a good portion of it, but there’s no road a Humvee can’t get over!
That’s not the best Sirte has to offer, though. If you’re into public funding, there is massive foreign involvement ongoing in Sirte. With French, British and American forces coming and going, not only will startups have access to direct government contacts, but the risk of being shot by rival factions startups decreases almost daily, sometimes. Of course, no startup could exist without a solid internet connection, which Libya has every time there is not an ongoing civil war. That’s almost 50% uptime!
Guam, United States Unincorporated Territory. Population 180,000.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Guam as the last great place for the next startup hub. You see, Guam not only benefits from tight connections with the United States, but the isolation also leads to boredom. As shown with Vladivostok, isolation leads to better programming! If something deserved a Google +1, it’s Guam.
Now, don’t let the isolation fool you! Sure, Guam is thousands of miles away from its government center. But – and keep this in mind – the Guam Top Level Domain is rarely used. This means that unlike in America, where all of the good ‘.co’s are taken, you would have a virtually unlimited number of ‘.gu’s to pick from. You could start a company with the name GuGu, and you’re off! Really, anything is fair game in Guam, from FuGu to LuGu. Imagine the traffic you’d get with a url like http://www.fu.gu/
When you compare all of these cities to Newry, you really do put things in perspective. The truth is revealed, and you understand where you should locate your startup. Where the ideal place for burgeoning technology should be made. That place is, of course, Newry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
[Update: I've elaborated on my thoughts below.]