The Olympics of Foolishness 2: What Country Takes the Medal for Startup Nation?

In this competition, winning takes a new-business-friendly culture, an acceptance of risk, and a sold tech foundation.

Motley Fool Staff
Motley Fool Staff
Feb 28, 2018 at 4:45PM

The Winter Olympics are over, but in this episode of Motley Fool Answers, it's time for the second biennial Olympics of Foolishness, in which we award medals to various countries in business categories such as robotics, e-commerce, and start-ups. Which nations are leading the way in these key arenas? To determine the winners, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp have recruited Motley Fool Asset Management's Bryan Hinmon and Tony Arsta.

In this segment, they judge the best countries in the world if you want to launch a start-up. Friendly regulations? Helpful. Easy access to capital. Also a plus. But some names on the podium and near it may surprise you.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Feb. 20, 2018.

Alison Southwick: Let's move on to our third category, and that is start-ups. Why did you choose start-ups?

Bryan Hinmon: This is also exciting to talk about. Maybe I'm just a dork and this is being revealed right now.

Southwick: Our categories for the last Olympics were much more like energy and tech, whereas you guys took a much more creative approach to the event, which I appreciate. I just want to hear why.

Hinmon: I've listened to this show a couple of times...

Southwick: You have not. You have not listened to this show.

Related Articles

Hinmon: ... and it doesn't appear like there are many rules.

Robert Brokamp: That is true. That is true.

Southwick: We have some rules.

Hinmon: I don't believe it.

Southwick: I appreciate what you guys have brought and again, I can't wait to get to cheese, so let's hurry and get through start-ups so we can get to cheese.

Tony Arsta: Don't get your hopes up.

Hinmon: All right, well let's blitz through this. The bronze medal in start-up nation goes to Germany. I also chose this category because I thought it would be controversial. There's actually a lot of different countries, now, vying for the title of start-up capital of the world, or the best place to launch a start-up.

Anyway, Germany. I'm going to go to the heart of Europe, here, and say that there's great access, there, to investment, so dollars and accelerators to help businesses start. The German government provides funding support for start-ups every year to the tune of a couple of billion euros. Because Germany has a bunch of large, well-populated cities, not just one. There's plentiful, fairly inexpensive office space, so just a place for new businesses to get together and start up.

And then, you think about what Germany is really good at. They're good at manufacturing things. They're good at creating things. They're great at commercializing R&D. So, it's not that you might necessarily see the most innovative, crazy start-ups like a Tesla, SpaceX, or something like that coming out of Germany, but when it comes to starting a business that commercializes a product, they've got it on lockdown.

Southwick: In your notes, you included a pun. You're not going to include the pun on the show?

Hinmon: I don't even remember what I wrote.

Southwick: Germany edging out Sweden by a Wurst.

Hinmon: That's pretty good, isn't it? Sweden actually has the most start-ups per capita of any country, so a smaller country, but also a start-up hub. They're on the outside looking in, I think.

Southwick: And the silver goes to...

Hinmon: Silver -- I'm going small here -- Singapore. This is led by the fact that Singapore is a very advanced nation technologically. They have greater than 90% smartphone penetration. Technology is sort of core to that country as a whole. It's incredibly easy to do business there. Every year they are among the top of places where it's easy to do business. Naturally, when it comes to starting a business, the lower the hurdle there the higher you're going to score.

And then the other reason I chose Singapore for silver is because it's only a country of like five and a half million people. The start-up culture is so strong that it's very tightly packed, there, and when you think about what makes a good start-up environment, it's lots of creativity in one spot that can bounce off itself. That's why I put Singapore for the silver medal.

Southwick: And finally, who's getting the gold?

Hinmon: It might be home-country bias, here, but I'm going with the U.S. and Silicon Valley.

Southwick: Yay!

Hinmon: Silicon Valley is proven, but there are start-up hubs all over the U.S. and it seems to just be getting stronger. Record levels of venture capital funding here makes it an incredibly attractive place. And the bottom line is I think that the U.S. has, more than many other countries, a risk-taking culture. It is OK to try and fail, here. The penalties for doing so are fairly minimal, but I really think it's becoming part of our fabric. Being an entrepreneur, now, is a lauded thing and that seems to be strengthening.