-by Manish Chandre
11 May 2021
This blog is a review and expansion of Balaji Srinivasan’s  “THE START OF STARTUP CITIES”


Balaji expands in his post about how some cities are evolving in a way, that dethrones the notion of a centralized powerful region, where all the growth, prosperity and opportunities lie. For years Silicon Valley has been the hub to portray world leading technologies that shape the future, but the times are changing and new Silicon Valleys are being formed bigger and better around the world. The digital age has enabled cities to be capable of achieving this feat. Balaji also dives into how Startup cities are created and the value they bring to the people in and around those cities. As technology has opened the doors wide open for everyone around the world, we can see new emerging hotspots of global leaders that prove location has very little effect in the times ahead.


The entire planet is plot down into continents, countries, states, districts and finally into cities. For the biggest chunk (continent) to do well the smallest chunk (city) has to do well. To put it down into other terms, if a city does well it propels the district and state to fare better. A city is the building block for any country.  Now that we know city is the core of all the future prospects of any nation, let us understand what do we mean by Startup cities.

A city is created when people migrate to a location due to governance or due to economic rationale. The governance is liable to bring in the initial investments, build the infrastructure and also creating rules that aid migration to this new region. An economic rationale is in itself the torch bearer for migrations and market formation which in turn leads to investments and further growth. Once a city is formed the rules and governance decide the future of the city. A STARTUP CITY is an idea of creating a city or converting a city into a location that provides good governance and high economic rationale.

Every nation has a chance to leverage the concept of Startup Cities in these times, to get back stronger than ever, after the Covid19 pandemic ends.

Why do we need Startup Cities?

Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to remote work. Technology has made remote work possible during these times, as more and more people venture into the digital space the ability to work remote is going to increase multifold. But what is it about remote work that makes us feel the necessity of Startup cities? Well, remote work proves us that location is no longer important if any work can be done remotely, so a Startup City is a city designed by acknowleding these factors.

Let us take the example of Silicon Valley, an incredible 64% of the Valley’s scientists and engineers hail from outside the U.S., with 43.9% of its technology companies founded by emigrants. Silicon Valley is considered the geocentre for all the technologists due to the reason of semiconductor manufacturing, which has long moved away. Nothing today binds technologists to the soil besides other people. As the global talent and demand becomes widespread we see newer cluster and technological advancements from other parts of the world as well like India, Sweden, Tokyo, Israel and many more. There is a need to consciously develop cities that take into account changing times.

“The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to remote work. For knowledge workers, this lifestyle change placed the world in their hands.”

People will choose to live and spend time in communities whom they agree with. In today’s time we see people connecting over internet across countries and being part of a community over cloud. Soon we will see these communities gather together physically and a digital connect will convert to a physical community. We could see tens of thousands of community members come together to build a town, city or even bigger a country, which is very much possible.

“As remote workers realize they can reprioritize their personal needs, they will leverage this ability to conduct a tech-enabled exit. Through this “vote with your feet” practice of “tech enabled exit”, governments will begin to adapt their policy offerings to attract this class of people or be forced to adapt to their absence. In the end, the Sovereign Individual class will gain previously unavailable qualities of life.”

If all these changes are taken into consideration, what are the factors one looks for when looking to move to a city or country :

- Cost of living arbitrage
- Quality of location
- Proximity to family
- Is the crime level high?
- Are your religious / social communities present?
- What is the average cost of healthcare?
- What about tax and government policies?
- Can you see yourself fitting into the local culture?
- What are the local political ideologies? are they hostile to you beliefs?
- Is the country more nationalist or globalist?

A Startup city will address all these questions any person has and make it easier for him to move to a better location for the governance and financial incentives it provides.

Let us understand how to build a Startup City in two ways :
1.  Creating a new City
2. Evolving existing city into a Startup City

Creating a new City

Creating a new city has many factors to account for. Creating infrastructure, finding the initial investors, bringing in people into the city, creating a market for supply and demand of goods and services. Unlike a government backed city the burden of these completions on the creators and is a big task. Creating jobs in the city is a strategy that can attract the initial migration of people. To create jobs in the city you need to anchor a large employer into setting up in the city by providing incentives and perks. The initial start will help gain momentum for the development of the city in various fields. Although it sounds easy, a task like building a city is a huge effort and requires proper plans, something we have discussed ahead. Creating houses, water facilities, electricity, security, healthcare and other basic necessities need to be addressed during the initial setup itself thus being a capital intensive task. There are different strategies one can use to attract a initial adaptor base like addressing anchors for specific communities to move in. An in depth article about starting a new city can be read at Starting a Charter City

Evolving a city into Startup City

Miami is a great live example of turning a city into a city of the future. What exactly is it that the city is addressing to gain the status of the future city of Latin America?

A helping hand from the governance of the city. In this case Mayor Francis Suarez has opened arms wide open for businesses and individuals to get started in Miami. A good governance is a positive for corporations and individuals who want a state of peace and stability. Changing rules and regulations to better fit the modern world is an important step that showcases the outlook of the city towards future, and by making Cryptocurrency a legal whitepaper in the city, it showcases the strong will to adapt for the future.  Creating a market that industries love to explore and bringing in people with the help of financial incentives along will fulfillments of basic necessities as a step towards achieving a status of a Startup City.

Let us take an example of a successful Startup City and a failed one below, with the help of some information :

Shenzhen ( China ) : City of Tomorrow
(evolving existing city into a Startup City)

Shenzhen's cityscape results from its vibrant economy—made possible by rapid foreign direct investment (FDI) following the institution status of a Special economic Zone (SEZ). The city is a leading global technology hub, dubbed by media China's Silicon Valley. Shenzhen is ranked as an Alpha- (global first-tier) city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. Shenzhen is a leading financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region and ranked as having the 8th most competitive and largest financial center in the world in the 2021 Global Financial Centres Index. Shenzhen has the fourth-highest number of billionaires of any city in the world (after Beijing, Shanghai and New York City). It has the third busiest container port in the world. Shenzhen's high port traffic levels combined with a high urban population make Shenzhen a Large-Port Megacity, the largest type of port-city in the world. Shenzhen has been ranked second on the list "top 10 cities to visit in 2019" by Lonely Planet.

Shenzhen today stands as one of the finest cities to rise as an hotspot for technological advancements. All these achievements and much more were possible due to planned action by China to bring up a city that displays multitude of capabilities by giving it a special status and rules with financial backing.

Lavasa ( India ) : A failed city
(creating a new Startup City)

Lavasa a city being built in the Indian state of Maharashtra, is a fine example of a failed city. Lavasa  was proposed to be a hill side economic centre that has a excellent location among nature. Several large projects and services had been laid down in Lavasa, only to come stumbling down due to many factors that stated corruption, loss of environment species and many more. A city that once held tie-ups with leading universities like Oxford to build a One Centre Institute and also a sports facility from Manchester City. Economic reforms and benefits for businesses to set up offices were placed as well. Tax benefits and a proper stable corridor for businesses to enter India and grow.

The entire project cost millions of dollars and is in ruins for more than a decade now, due to poor governance and lack of people’s interest to move to a location that potentially displayed benefits for the future. Thus Lavasa stands to be an example of things that need to be addressed well for a city to flourish.


A Startup City is a future view of the world as technology opens up new possibilities and opportunities for countries around the world. The concept of a Startup City or a Charter City is very much relatable in the times ahead, and a deeper and clear understanding will help countries gain edge in the future.

To know more about Startup Cities we can read the blogs attached below :