The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021

A Word from GEN


Despite a global pandemic, we are seeing progress in the democratization of entrepreneurship. Startups are launching and thriving, and ecosystems are maturing across every continent. Cities like Tokyo, Philadelphia, and Toronto are rising rapidly in the ranking of Top 30 Ecosystems. Others are joining it for the first time. The progress is exciting: an inspiration to continue the hard work of removing barriers in more ecosystems around the world.

At the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), building and strengthening nascent startup ecosystems— a global “rise of the rest,” if you will—is our raison d’etre. When we started our work nearly 20 years ago we sought to shift the discussion from small business to new business, the most reliable job creator, and to elevate attention to entrepreneurship. Now we see new ecosystems and communities maturing every day, empowered from the bottom-up by communities and programs that make it easier for anyone, anywhere, to start and scale a company. Governments are prioritizing entrepreneurs; and community leaders and policymakers are working side-by-side to shape policies and programs that support founders, stimulate innovation, and create jobs.

Movement in the rankings of the Top 100 Emerging Ecosystems is evidence that these efforts are working. This report shows that the number of ecosystems generating in excess of $4 billion in Ecosystem Value has more than doubled in the past four years. Meanwhile, 91 ecosystems created at least one unicorn in 2020, with unicorns emerging for the first time in Mexico City, Montevideo (Uruguay), Dallas, Houston, Busan (South Korea), and Pune (India).

While the pandemic increased stress on many communities, industries, and value chains, it also put the spotlight on entrepreneurs as powerful economic drivers comfortable with uncertainty. The public and private sectors closely collaborated on solutions to pandemic-induced challenges. Massive job loss was paired with record rates of entrepreneurship as innovators adapted or pivoted their businesses to address challenges head-on and capitalize on fast-emerging opportunities. At the same time, governments expedited decision-making to provide emergency support to businesses that badly needed a reboot.

Looking forward, leaders are drawing on such lessons to rethink traditional approaches to economic growth in favor of more innovative, inclusive systems. They are studying the support systems that help entrepreneurs—particularly those from underrepresented groups—start and scale new companies. Some are doubling down on policies and programs to encourage the growth of resilient, inclusive economies in which founders are key players. Future editions of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report will document which regions do this best.  

Through its diligence monitoring ecosystem trends, the extraordinary team at Startup Genome performs a task of utmost importance to all in this field. I invite our readers—whether you are a founder, investor, policymaker, or ecosystem builder—to join us as we level the playing field for entrepreneurs everywhere.