The top 20 global hot spots for start-ups

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Start-up fever is spreading across the globe but still has a long way to go. The world is operating at 52 percent of its entrepreneurial capacity, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI). To get closer to 100 percent, more countries will need to step up and start helping to create new businesses. And they are, across every region.

Each year, GEDI comes out with its Global Entrepreneurship Index, coinciding with Global Entrepreneurship Week. The 2016 index ranks 130 nations on opportunities for entrepreneurs to grow and expand into new markets, as well as on the social and economic infrastructure that fosters efficient national start-up ecosystems. The 2016 top 20 features countries from North America, South America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

This year's top 10 show a pattern similar to last year's: high-income. Low-income economies lack the human capital and infrastructure needed to create high-quality jobs and high-growth start-ups. Surprisingly, though, many smaller nations are on the move up. Barbados, for example, came in at No. 53, ahead of both China (60) and India (98).

Here are the top 20 countries for entrepreneurship in 2016.

By Lori Ioannou
Posted 12 November 2015

20. Norway

Kaspars Dambis | Flickr

Norway places 20th in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index, with a score of 61.1. The country's key strengths are in cultural support and opportunity start-ups, while its weaknesses are in high-growth start-ups and product innovation. Norway saw a 4.5 decline in GEI score since last year — the third-largest decline of the year — resulting in a five rank drop from No. 15.

19. United Arab Emirates

Francisco Anzola | Flickr

The UAE places 19th in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index, with a score of 61.4, up two places from last year's rank. The country's key strengths are in human capital and high-growth start-ups, while its weaknesses are in technology absorption and start-up skills. The UAE leads the MENA region ahead of Israel at No. 21 and Qatar at No. 24.

18. Finland

Ro Rro | Flickr

Finland places 18th in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index, with a score of 61.8. The country's key strengths are in cultural support and networking, while its weaknesses are in competition and human capital. A 3.9 decline in score since last year resulted in Finland's drop from No. 14 to No. 18.

17. Belgium

Carlos Andrés Reyes | Flickr

Belgium secured the 17th spot, with a score of 62.1. The country's key strengths are in human capital and internationalization, while its weaknesses are in technology absorption and networking. Despite a 3.4 decline in GEI score since last year, Belgium lost just one rank, down from No. 16 in the 2015 GEI.

16. Chile

David Berkowitz | Flickr

Placing 16th with a score of 62.1, Chile has risen three places from last year's 19th spot. The country's key strengths are in start-up skills and product innovation, while its weaknesses are in process innovation and competition. Chile's performance makes it a strong regional leader — the country is nearly 20 ranks ahead of Latin America's next-highest scorer — Puerto Rico, ranking No. 35.

15. Austria

Emmanuel Dyan | Flickr

Austria places 15th on the index, with a score of 62.9. The country's key strengths are in internationalization and competition, while its weaknesses are in high-growth start-ups and human capital. Though it leads peer Germany in 7 of 14 categories, Austria is held back by uneven overall performance.

14. Germany

Davis Staedtler | Flickr

Germany places 14th for 2016, with a score of 64.6, dropping three spots from last year's 11th place. The country's key strengths are in competition and cultural support, while its weaknesses are in start-up skills and human capital. Its competition score is well above the European average.


13. Netherlands

Moyan Brenn | Flickr

The Netherlands places 13th, with a score of 65.4. The country's key strengths are in opportunity start-ups and cultural support, while its weaknesses are in high-growth start-ups and human capital. Like Switzerland, the Netherlands scores much higher on institutional factors for entrepreneurship than on the entrepreneurial attributes of individuals.

12. Ireland

Fred Connemara | Flickr

Ireland places 12th in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index with a score of 65.6. The country's key strengths are in competition and human capital, while its weaknesses are in opportunity perception and opportunity startups. Addressing the more significant opportunity perception gap could produce large improvements in Ireland's entrepreneurship ecosystem.

11. Singapore

Leonid Yaitskiy | Flickr

Singapore places 11th in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index with a score of 66.0. The country's key strengths are in high growth startups and opportunity startups, while its weaknesses are in startup skills and opportunity perception. Singapore and Hong Kong have very high income levels relative to their still high entrepreneurship scores – a reflection of their high urbanization and concentrated economic activity.

10. France

Moyan Brenn | Flickr

France places 10th in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index with a score of 66.4. The country's key strengths are in technology absorption and process innovation, while its weaknesses are in startup skills and opportunity perception. France rounds out the top 10 as the sixth European country to place in this highest scoring group.

9. United Kingdom

Siddhu2020 | Flickr

The United Kingdom slips five spots from No. 4 to No. 9 this year. This change is due to two factors — small declines across several indicators, and close scores among the top 10. It scores 67.7 out of 100. The country's key strengths are in cultural support and opportunity start-ups, while its weaknesses are in internationalization and product innovation.

8. Switzerland

Switzerland places eighth with a score of 67.8, a one-rank improvement over last year. The country's key strengths are in internationalization and risk capital, while its weaknesses are in high-growth start-ups and start-up skills. Like many other European nations, Switzerland scores much higher on institutional factors for entrepreneurship than on the entrepreneurial attributes of individuals.

7. Iceland

Helgi Halldórsson

With a score of 68.9, Iceland places seventh this year, a ranking it maintained despite a slight decline in score from 70.4 last year. The country's key strengths are in opportunity start-ups and networking, while its weaknesses are in opportunity perception and risk capital.

6. Taiwan

See-ming Lee | Flickr

Placing sixth with a score of 69.7, Taiwan's key strengths are in high-growth start-ups, product innovation and risk capital, while its weaknesses are in competition and start-up skills. Taiwan is the top scorer in East Asia, ahead of Singapore, which is in 11th place, and Korea and Japan, ranking 27th and 29th, respectively.

5. Sweden

Stefan Lins | Flickr

Sweden places fifth with a score of 75.9. The country's key strengths are in opportunity perception, technology absorption and process innovation. Its weaknesses are in high-growth start-ups and start-up skills. All five Nordic countries place in the top 20, and three are in the top 10 — a strong overall performance for this group.

4. Denmark

Kristaps Bergfelds | Flickr

In fourth place with a score of 76.0, Denmark's key strengths are in competition, opportunity start-ups, product innovation and technology absorption, while its weaknesses are in internationalization and start-up skills. Denmark leads Europe this year, displacing last year's leader, the United Kingdom.

3. Australia

Corey Leopold | Flickr

Ranking third with a score of 78.0, Australia's key strengths are in opportunity start-ups and internationalization, while its weaknesses are in product innovation and networking. Australia is first in the Asia-Pacific region, ahead of Taiwan (No. 6) and Singapore (No. 11).


2. Canada

Kenny Louie | Flickr

In second place with a score of 79.5, Canada's key strengths are in opportunity perception and internationalization, while its weaknesses are in process innovation and start-up skills. Canada scores particularly low on one characteristic: the percentage of Canadians who know an entrepreneur.

1. United States

David Saddler | Flickr

The United States scores a world-leading 86.2 on the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index. The country's key strengths are in opportunity perception, start-up skills and risk capital, while its weaknesses are in networking and opportunity start-ups. Many leaders on the GEI have similar entrepreneurial features, but European nations and the European Union lag behind the United States, and this gap is widening.