Monday, 28 September 2015

Expat entrepreneurs are drawn to the world’s financial hubs

Every move abroad brings with it a unique set of challenges and adventures, but for those who are relocating to set up their own business or expand into a new market, this is particularly true.
With start-ups growing in volume and scale across the world, the title of the best places for entrepreneurs is one that’s hotly contested. What’s most important to entrepreneurs? How does this compare around the world? And what truly makes for a great business landscape in 2015?

In this year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey, we have looked into all of these topics and quizzed expat entrepreneurs around the world about exactly what drives them to set up or expand. Here’s what they told us…  


This year’s data reveals that the cities of London,Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong are the four most popular places in the world to start a business, due to their strong economies, culture and business environment.

In Dubai particularly, there are twice as many entrepreneurial expats as the global average (9% compared with 4% globally). Over two thirds (68%) of those living there say Dubai offers political stability, a key factor in providing the right landscape for those who want to run their own business.
Throughout the survey, we heard from a number of respondents who praise the business environment in Dubai –particularly calling out the great potential for building networks, attracting new clients and reaping the benefits of an international business climate. But having belief and confidence in the local economy is also crucial; not only for establishing a business, but also for successfully maintaining its momentum.

Dubai scored positively in this respect, but it’s also a trend which extends to expats living in Singapore and Hong Kong (78% and 60% respectively), who say they feel much more confident about the local economy in comparison to the global average (48%). The data also supports a view from the World Bank[1]that these two places rank among the top places in the world when it comes to the sheer ease with which entrepreneurs can do business.

Another key part of this which has to be considered by any global entrepreneur is inter-connectivity; not just from a travel perspective but also technologically and socially too. Hong Kong and Singapore are widely lauded as having some of the fastest broadband capabilities in the world – a no brainer for any start-up – and the international travel networks which exist in London and Dubai mean that almost any other country is within (relatively) easy reach.



Looking at the survey data for London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, we see expats also calling out other benefits like work/life balance as a key part of living in these places. Despite their social landscapes being somewhat different, cities like London and Dubai are among some of the most renowned when it comes to social life – the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ no doubt rings true among many expats who’ve made the move to these hubs.

Starting a new business, wherever you are in the world, seems to bring about a level of balance between work and personal life. Wherever entrepreneurial expats decide to run their own business, doing so does not significantly affect their work/life balance. In fact, it seems that the majority (58%) of people who move to start a business are more likely to report an improvement in their work/life balance, and a similar proportion (57%) say they are more fulfilled than they were before moving.

We can’t neglect the importance of looking at opportunities for self-development – a key benefit of entrepreneurship, and something that many expats living in London remark on. Here, expats are particularly likely to comment on the benefit they’ve had from learning new skills, more so than any other location (64% compared with the global average of 43%).

So we see that for many expats, these locations can quite literally offer the best of all worlds – be it a stable economy, positive political landscape or opportunities to network or develop new skills. If you were choosing a location to start a business, where would you choose? Let us know your top tips for expat entrepreneurs in the comment box below! 

Discover more about the best places to live and work abroad. Visit the HSBC Expat Explorer tool to browse the 2015 survey data and see how different countries compare.

Find practical information, resources and guides about setting up your own business abroad with HSBC Global Connections.









[1] data.worldbank.org/indicator/IC.BUS.EASE.XQ/countries/1W



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