The 10 most popular cities to do business around the globe

As the established business hubs of the West meet growing competition from the upcoming markets of Asia and the Middle East, it’s worth trying to keep a global perspective when it comes to choosing locations for your business.

We take a look at ten of the most popular cities in the world to do business in – and why you might be tempted by them…

1. Singapore

With its low VAT, low income tax rates and numerous incentives and breaks for new businesses, it should be no surprise that the tiny Asian city-state of Singapore was recently listed by the World Bank Group as the best country to do business in for its ninth consecutive year. In particular, it ranked first in the world for both “trading across borders” and “enforcing contracts” and third for “protecting minority investors”.

2. Dubai, UAE

Globally recognised for its towering skyscrapers – including the tallest building in the world – Dubai is also an attractive place for foreign investors. Most businesses are exempt from corporate income tax, and there are also a number of ‘economic free zones’, intended to encourage investment and development.

3. Raleigh, USA

Ranked 1st out of 200 US cities by Forbes’s ‘Best Places for Business and Careers 2014’, this North Carolina city of over a million people boasts business costs that are 18% below the national average, as well as college graduates that make up 42% of its adult population. And with the sixth fastest net migration in the US over the last five years – 4,250 in 2013 – they must be doing something right in Raleigh.

4. Silicon Valley, USA

While it’s not actually a city, this area in California is infamous for its high-tech industry and fast-moving start-up economy. It sees more than 13,000 people migrating here every year from all over the world – so it definitely deserves a special mention in a list of popular places to do business. But just as Hollywood is to the performing arts, Silicon Valley’s global hype probably means that, these days, you’ll need to do something really outstanding to make a mark here.

5. Tokyo, Japan

Despite being perceived as one of the most expensive places to live in the world, Japan’s capital is also rightly considered a highly attractive business hub. The Mori Memorial Foundation’s ‘Global Power City Index 2014’ listed it as the 4th most “magnetic” major city in the world – a measure of its power to attract creative individuals and business enterprises from every continent. In particular, the report noted its market size, living facilities, transport accessibility and “economic vitality” as its major strengths.

6. Tel Aviv, Israel

Boasting the highest density of tech start-ups in the world, Tel Aviv has gained a reputation as an innovative “start-up ecosystem” – the Wall Street Journal ranked it as one of the two most innovative cities in the world. It also offers a number of governmental support initiatives for entrepreneurs and start-ups – including a 66% tax reduction for software development firms.

7. Toronto, Canada

With 64% of its residents aged 25-64 holding a post-secondary education – as well as being the home of 28 of the top 30 legal, accounting and HR firms in Canada – Toronto has plenty offer businesses of all sizes. It’s also one of the most affordable large cities in the world: in 2012, KPMG ranked it the second most cost-effective business and investment climate for cities with over 2 million inhabitants.

8. Berlin, Germany

It may be a long-running stereotype, but the efficiency and motivation of German entrepreneurs and employees isn’t something to be ignored. And with relatively low costs when compared with many other international Western business cities, you could find yourself left with more to invest in your products and your business’s expansion.

9. London, UK

Coming in at the top of the tables for PricewaterhouseCoopers’s ‘Cities of Opportunity 2014’, the UK capital scored highest in the world for its technology-readiness, being a “city gateway”, and the formidable category of “economic clout”.

10. Oslo, Norway

Norway’s capital is the fastest-growing city in Europe – and it’s recognised as one of the wealthiest and most economically stable, too. Norwegians are also renowned for being early adopters of technology with high spending power – which could make Oslo the perfect place for tech and IT start-ups trying to test out their innovative products on a hungry market. But while some of the costs are low – such as free health insurance for every worker – there are some potential obstacles for smaller businesses, such as the £3,000 minimum capital required for a company to become a private limited one.

For larger businesses expanding abroad, choosing the right location is no easy undertaking. And for many smaller businesses, it’s simply not an option. But with a virtual office, you could see the benefits of an international mailing address and receptionist, without the obvious excessive costs of really setting up shop.