The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2023

Strong Starters Ranking

The Strong Starters ranking identifies the top 25 ecosystems from the Emerging Ecosystems ranking where early-stage funding activity is most robust. For more information on how this is calculated, please see the Methodology section.

Early-stage funding includes seed and Series A deals. Seed funding is the first VC round of funding that a startup raises and is typically used to validate the business model, build the product, and grow the team. Series A is an important step in the life of a startup as Series A rounds are typically much bigger than seed rounds and provide startups with runway to develop products, hire more employees, and develop and launch a market strategy.

Early-stage funding is an important indicator of potential success as most startups that receive Series A rounds have demonstrated their potential by the creation of a minimal viable product, by generating revenue, or by showing they are close to launching a product. Hence, both the count and amount of early-stage rounds in an ecosystem are an indicator of its success and growth.

Key Findings

  • The collective Ecosystem Value of the Strong Starters exceeds $700 billion, with Detroit alone contributing $103 billion, the highest individual Ecosystem Value in the ranking.
  • Istanbul takes the #1 spot in the Strong Starters ranking thanks to a 60% increase in early-stage deal count and 35% increase in early-stage deal amount from the GSER 2022. The Turkish city has raised close to 600 early-stage rounds in the GSER 2023 timeframe. Gaming accounts for a large part of the success, with Dream Games raising a $50 million Series A round in 2021 and Ace Games raising $33 million in early-stage funding in 2022.
  • Over half of the ecosystems in the ranking (13) are European, including the top four. Spain has two entries in the top five: Barcelona at #2 and Madrid at #4.
  • Barcelona experienced an increase of 24% in early-stage funding deal count and 12% in early-stage deal amount from the GSER 2022. Yaba raised $85 million in Series A rounds in 2022 and Splice Bio raised a $56 million Series A the same year.
  • Madrid saw an increase of 24% in early-stage funding deal count and 12% increase in deal amount from the GSER 2022, raising $760 million in early-stage funding deals in the GSER 2023 timeframe. The biggest deals include digital entertainment platform Carousel Group, which raised $50 million in a 2021 Series A round, and data platform Tinybird with a $37 million Series A in 2022.
  • Estonia takes #3 in the Strong Starters ranking, further cementing its status as a fast-growing tech hub. Estonia experienced an increase of 46% in early-stage funding amount from 2021 to 2022, but a 10% decrease in early-stage deal count. The biggest rounds include Eurora raising $40 million in a 2022 Series A, and NFT developer platform NPTPort raising $26 million at Series A in 2022.
  • Dubai comes in at #5, with a 45% increase in early-stage funding count, and 114% in deal amount since the GSER 2022. Two of the biggest rounds were digital banking platform YAP’s $41 million Series A round in 2022, and Buy Now, Pay Later platform Cashew’s $40 million Series A round in 2021.