Recent data shows that 64% of the UK workforce have ambitions to become an entrepreneur. And, even amidst the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, it looks as though some of these ambitions were made a reality. Last year, in the UK alone, there were almost 800,000 new business registrations – an increase from both 2018 and 2019.

While the global economy may have plummeted, here in the UK, it seems our ambitions to become entrepreneurs have sky-rocketed. But what about the rest of the world? 

Even though our specialism may be card machines, at Dojo we're always keen to learn what makes small business owners tick and how we can support them in their success. 

We were curious to find out, so we created the global ambitious cities index – a list of the countries that both facilitated and had the most aspiring business leaders. 

To achieve this, we’ve looked at various determinators and data points. Broadly speaking, the data is split into two factors:

  1. The environment that facilitates entrepreneurial ambition – access to education, the local economy (GDP) 
  2. The actual levels of entrepreneurship, or ambition shown – new business registrations, online search data     

We also took into account the cost of a business start-up, as a percentage of a gross national income (GNI) per capita. This helped us better understand the landscape for residents to open up a business within their home country with their current salary.

The most business ambitious cities in the world ranked

We looked at the most business ambitious cities in the world using the below data points. Each section was scored equally.

  • New businesses registered
  • Cost of a business start up as a % of GNI per capita
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita
  • Percent of the population with access to education
  • Online searches of how to start a business


London is the most ambitious city in the world for those looking to open a business

London came first in our index for the most ambitious city for those looking to start a business. It earned an impressive 481 points, out of a total of 500. 

With a population of over 9.4 million, the UK capital is a melting pot of cultures, creativity and has access to an sophisticated infrastructure – a winning formula for ambitious entrepreneurs.

Home to world-renowned businesses and regarded as the world’s financial hub, it’s also the birthplace of global successful brands such as Asos and Virgin. 

With over 664,974 new businesses registered in London, more than any other city on our list, it’s easy to see why London is hailed as a place of opportunity.

The city also had the cheapest cost to start a new business compared with residents’ average salary.

London and the UK in general offer lots of support for young people looking to get started in business, as well as new business grants

In particular, Samuel Wilson’s Loan Trust offers loans to people under the age of 40 who have recently set up business or are about to engage in a trade, manufacture, business or profession and who are experiencing financial difficulty or another disadvantage.


Sydney encourages new entrepreneurs, coming in 2nd place

Sydney, Australia came second in our most ambitious cities index with a score of 402 out of 500. The economic capital of Australia benefits from great trade links across the Asia Pacific region, a strong tourism industry and expanding expat population.

New businesses have been thriving in Sydney, with 235,654 registered there. These start-ups join the likes of Canva, Coca-Cola, Amatil and Linktree, who all have HQs in the city.

Over the past 12 months, there was also a 52% increase in searches for “how to start a new business” amongst Sydney’s occupants, and a 100% increase in those searching for “how to fund a new business”.   Residents of the city are doing their research and poised for their new venture. 

In terms of funding, Sydney has a lot of initiatives to support new business ventures. Generation Entrepreneur aims to provide high school students with opportunities and resources to start their own ventures.

Additionally, SBE Australia is a not-for-profit expert online community helping female founders gain the skills and confidence to take their business further.


Cape Town in South Africa a supportive hub for new businesses

The second most populous city in South Africa, the port city of Cape Town came third in our index, scoring 384 out of 500. Home to many of Africa’s most innovative designers and artists, creativity flourishes amongst the natural beauty and sprawling mountains of the city.

That, paired with incredibly low costs for those looking to open up a new business could be why 376,727 new businesses have opened up in the city in 2018.

A strong SME presence can transform a city. In South Africa, SMEs employ around 70%-80% of the employed population according to Invest Cape Town. Hence why so much is reinvested into grants and business support – with Cape Town being a huge beneficiary of this. 

Annual competitions in the city such as the FNB Enablis Business Plan initiative provides over R10 million (£501.3K) to start-ups every year. 

Additionally, the Junior Achievement South Africa project runs three annual programmes to encourage youth entrepreneurship. Citizens of Cape Town also benefit from a dedicated small business support office, providing them with advice and opportunities to connect with potential investors.


The top business ambitious cities in the UK ranked

We also wanted to focus on the most business ambitious cities in the UK to find out where British businesses are booming. We took into account the below data points and each section was scored equally.

  • Percentage business growth comparing new and closed businesses
  • Business growth over last five years
  • Business five-year survival rate
  • Number of businesses with 10+ employees
  • Online searches of how to start a business



Birmingham is the most business ambitious city in the UK

The UK study discovered that the city of Birmingham is the top city for business ambitious people for Brits with a score of 186 out of 250.

The city has the highest number of people searching for “how to start a new business” on Google, showing that people are looking for alternative ways to start a business rather than going down the more traditional route of university. Birmingham also has a high number of large businesses with 3,985 companies having more than 10+ people.

Entrepreneurs who live in the city can enjoy plenty of support for opening a new business. The Business Growth Program offers grants of £2,500 to £1,000,000 and is designed to strengthen supply chains, stimulate innovation and help businesses grow, available to both start-up and existing SMEs.

Bristol takes the second spot with thriving start-ups

Bristol came in second place, scoring 176 out of a total of 250 cementing the city as one of the most business ambitious in the whole of the UK. The city enjoys a 42.8% business survival rate meaning many businesses that start in the area tend to thrive.

There’s also a high number of larger sized businesses, with 2,275 companies having 10 or more employees. Bristol is a hub for new and growing brands, with the likes of OVO Energy, an independent energy supplier, and YellowDog, a workload management platform all beginning in the southwest city.

There’s plenty of reasons why the city may foster so much talent, with lots of initiatives to help small businesses to their feet and inspire generations to open their own business. 

Outset Bristol is just one of places that strive to help entrepreneurs realise their dreams through workshops, online resources and advisor support.

Leeds nurtures self-starters in the UK 

In third is Leeds with an impressive score of 170 out of 250. Over the past 12 months, there has been a 63% increase in people searching for “how to fund a new business” on Google, showing that over the pandemic period the residents of the city may have been inspired to follow their dreams. 

Leeds also scored highly on the number of large businesses, having the third-most in the UK –3,640 businesses with more than 10 people. 

It’s easy to see why the people of Leeds are so business ambitious, having a number of resources for residents to begin their own business. The Ad:venture programme offers ERDF-funded support for businesses in their first three years of trading and new start businesses including mentoring, grants, advice and more.

The UK cities with the biggest growth in new businesses over the past five years

The data found that Newport and Salford have seen the biggest growth in new businesses in the UK over the past five years. 

Newport has seen the most growth in new businesses opened in the UK, with a 29.66% increase over five years. These new businesses join the likes of Nokia and BT and the National Software Academy who’ve made Newport their home. This makes the Welsh city a magnet for hi-tech industries, encouraging entrepreneurship. 

Salford came second with a new business increase of 20.16%. One of the UK’s creative hubs, Salford is home to the impressive Media City, a creative complex boasting BBC, ITV, Ericsson and Kellogg's amongst its occupants. 

The proximity to such huge brands could attract talent and inspire business ambition, as well as offering living costs significantly lower than in the south. The University of Salford’s esteemed Business School could also be a contributing factor, with a recent study showing that one in nine of its graduates goes on to start their own business.

Cities that are the happiest also tend to be the most ambitious

We’ve all heard that “money doesn’t buy happiness”, but we found that happiness brings ambition! Cross-referencing our data with the global happiness index, we found that the happiest cities tend to also be the most ambitious. 

London, the most ambitious city on the index with a score of 404/500 also scores highly on the happiness index with 7.65/10. Whilst the Sudanese city of Khartoum has the lowest index score with 14/500 alongside a low happiness score of 2.8/10.

Entrepreneurs research online when looking to start a new business

With the internet continuing to change the business landscape, we found that more people are heading online for the knowledge needed to start a business, rather than more traditional university training such as business degrees.

This non-traditional route into business has allowed people access to how-to guides, YouTube tutorials, free templates and even world-class entrepreneurs sharing their tips on social media. All of which lay the foundation for business success.

We looked at Google searches for both “how to start a business” and “how to fund a new business” to find out which counties are looking for their business resources online.

The fact that access to higher education isn’t as easily accessible in many of these cities could be why entrepreneurs are turning to the internet for business knowledge.


Ambitious cities grow in the right environment

We found that every city on our global top 20 is the capital of its respective country. The centralised government spending within capital cities and higher levels of tourism are likely contributing factors to the levels of business ambitions.

However, the success of the northern cities amongst the UK list is a shining example of how high profile brands being based in a city can encourage entrepreneurship. The knock-on effects of the Media City complex in Salford, is a shining example of this.

Business hubs blossom when in the company of other businesses. And so investment and incentives are key to unlocking the potential of budding business owners.

Looking to start your own business? If you need help accepting card payments securely and efficiently from your customers, see how Dojo card machines can help.

To discover which cities are the most ambitious to create their own business we looked at Google Search volumes for related searched terms over the past 12 months, new businesses registered, cost to start up a new business and % of the population with access to education. To work out the UK cities specifically we looked at the Google Search volumes for related searched terms over the past 12 months, new business growth, business survival rate and the number of larger businesses.

Each section was weighted equally against each other and a final index score was calculated. Any cities that don't have all data points were omitted from the study.