Review: Startup Capitals: Discovering the Global Hotspots of Innovation


By Zafar Anjum. Grade: B+

“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.”

– Tacitus

As the Internet has matured in technology and reach, we have seen an explosion in tech startups all over the world. Not only are some of these startups changing the world and how we live in it, they are also proving to be the engines of job creation—an aspect that will be critical in the future. To support these startups, new ecosystems are popping up all over the globe to help grow these companies, aided by governments, successful entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.

In Startup Capitals, Zafar Anjum brings you a ringside view from the world’s top ten startup cities of the world. Well-researched and highly insightful, this book lays bare the engines of innovation and the lessons that can be learnt from these burgeoning startup capitals.

Startup Capitals is a story of 10 cities. These 10 cities, by the coming together of a host of factors, have emerged as the frontrunners in fostering innovation across the world. From the most prominent to the most unexpected, Startup Capitals delves into the perception about and the reality of these 10 cities and the role that they have to play in the foreseeable future.

The book very nicely puts the global “innovation scene” into context. Each startup capital is mentioned in the context of its state of emergence – whether it is in post-embryonic stage, fully matured or saturated even. But this isn’t just a subjective compilation; there are specific parameters which anchor thought of the book to facts, perhaps, complements of the author’s professional repertoire.

There are a lot of things which work for different books – some have their character sketches (fiction and non-fiction), some of their authors as brands (Sidney Sheldon et al.), some have racy plotlines and a handful have genuine ideas. More often than not, it is the structure (and flow) of the book which is the unsung hero. In case of Startup Capitals, however, the structure of the book is the star performer; it makes readability and comprehension so good that even if a reader skims through the book (not that s/he should), an idea about the entire book and its thought can be gleaned.

Like a well-dressed dish, Startup Capitals has a lot of critical insights interspersed on and in the main preparation. From the small things like “trading phone credits… to buy potatoes and tomatoes” to colossal things like “the innovation movement reaching critical mass”, there are quotes from the horses’ mouths, so to speak, who give a prevue of the things to come.

There is however, one caveat for the reader. This book is at best empirical in nature. While it might what the author intended, it leaves a lot to be desired. Granted there are insights sprinkled here and there, but the problem is that Startup Capitals is a tad bit modest in its value addition. It is a good glimpse, some might consider great even, but at the end of the day, it is a glimpse. In this respect, the epilogue does the balancing act and attempts to provide a better generalization.

For a beginner, Startup Capitals is a great in into the field and an overview of the startup scenario across the globe. If there is one line which is the soul of Startup Capitals, it is this [possible spoilers]:

“There are clear lessons in this: the East vs the West dichotomy is a thing of the past; innovation is not a zero sum game; and, we will all be learning from each other.”

A person who likes to have his hands full with opportunities. For him, books have been the one constant factor in his life ever since he has made any sense of life. To him, books are the most powerful source of knowledge and information and it is our turn to repay them in whatever way we can. He believes that books are the gateway to another world – a world without limits and boundaries, a world of free will and endless possibilities and are a really good way to activate one’s mind. His favourite genres are fiction and alternative history.

A Management graduate from Symbiosis Centre for Management Studies, Pune, he is currently pursuing his Master’s from Indian Institute of Management, Raipur.