5 surprising European cities for a fast‑growth firm

Ways of working

5 surprising European cities for a fast‑growth firm

To grow a business quickly you need a great location. Our research shows that 48% of firms see Europe as offering the most profitable expansion opportunities in the next couple of years.

The continent’s business hubs, from Paris to Frankfurt, have long been popular with international firms. But if you’re looking for an alternative place to grow your small firm quickly, take a look at these unexpected hotspots for successful fast-growth businesses.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland – and its capital Belfast – is becoming a haven for small companies looking to turbo-boost their growth. According to the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC), 9.7% of start-ups in the city reach a £1 million turnover in their first three years of business, growing to 10.8% elsewhere in the south and west. Fintech is leading the way despite no stock exchange in the city.

Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest, the industrial hub for Eastern Europe, matches London as home to 72 of Europe’s fastest-growing companies, according to Inc. Despite a limited domestic consumer market and very little start-up funding, the city is surprisingly favourable to new businesses. Overheads are up to five times cheaper than in Western Europe, and the country has the fifth fastest internet connection speed in the world, as well as excellent vocational training that feeds into the technical talent pool.

Milan, Italy

Italy has been more welcoming to fast-growth businesses since the ‘Renzi’ reform in 2017. Now, start-ups receive tax exemptions – among other benefits – if they’re under five years old.

Fast-growth businesses are spread more evenly across the country than in other European nations. But Milan is leading the way in Italy – in part thanks to the young talent from prestigious universities like the Bocconi. Host to fashion week and home to Italy’s stock exchange, the city is a hotbed for new private companies in travel and hospitality, finance, health, biotech and engineering.

Riga, Latvia

Riga comes in fourth in Inc’s list of European cities with the highest number of fast-growing companies after London, Stockholm and Budapest. Its strongest industries are IT services, transportation, manufacturing and metallurgy. Home to 92 of Europe’s fastest-growing private companies, Latvia’s capital generates half of the country’s economic growth and offers a highly sophisticated consumer base as well as skilled workers.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, is hot on the heels of larger European cities and is looking to foster business growth with its expert talent and solid infrastructure. Industries like steel are making way for fintech firms thanks to a nurturing environment with fast-track licensing for payment or e-money firms. The launch of the huge Vilnius Tech Park – the largest centre of its kind in the Baltics – in 2016 is testament to the growth in the region.