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7 Innovative Countries in Software and Tech—Outside the US



A few months ago, Business Insider released an article about the most innovative countries in the world when it comes to tech, software, and manufacturing. Its ranking of 60 companies was organized in terms of manufacturing capability, R&D, and the concentration of tech or software companies.


Some of the findings may not surprise you, especially if you have kept up with software news. But others have climbed into higher positions, while others have fallen back. The US did rank within the top 10, but in this article we’d like to keep things interesting and just focus on the top 7—which incidentally all happen to be outside North America.


  • Germany

  • South Korea

  • Singapore

  • Sweden

  • Israel

  • Finland


Let’s take a look at each one now.


Germany


With the largest economy in Europe, it’s no surprise that Germany leads the way in terms of tech innovation. SAP is a leader in cloud computing and its data analytics software has transformed numerous companies worldwide. The German tech market has seen a 104% increase over the last two decades, with XaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) a leading force in this trend. Manufacturing, banking, and the automotive industry are also leading components to this tech and software growth. Germany’s sizable population, diversified economy, and cultural penchant for manufacturing excellence has also made it a hotbed for tech and software startups.


South Korea


South Korea is home to companies like Samsung, Hyundai, and LG. With little in the way of natural resources, this mountainous peninsula country has been forced to turn to tech into a major export. Neighbors like Japan, China, and North Korea also keep this innovative country on its toes. In recent news, South Korea harnessed the power of its technical prowess to mitigate the damage of Covid-19. With one of the world’s most advanced internet infrastructures, it was easy to keep the economy going even with social distancing.


Singapore


Singapore may be an incredibly small country, but its impact on the tech and software landscape, especially in the Asian region, is disproportionately huge. What was once a small fishing village in a strategic shipping route has become a sort of miniature Silicon Valley. Indicative of its long status as a gateway between East and West, 80% of the largest global tech companies have a presence in Singapore. IBM, Amazon, and HP all have begun developing pilot projects in Singapore, in part due to the large pool of tech talent attracted by its high standard of living.


Switzerland


Switzerland has become an attractive place for software developers due to its high standards of living. With a history of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry and a longstanding tradition of mechanical engineering—think Swiss Watches—Switzerland also has been a locus of international banking. To that end, software companies and vendors in FinTech have made Switzerland their home base or partnered with Swiss tech companies, such as a recent partnership between Infosys and Avaloq. Startup Appway has recently secured additional capital to expand its reach in terms of providing software for almost half of the 25 largest wealth managers in the world, including Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan (Chase Bank), HSBC, and Deutsche Bank.


Sweden


Sweden might make you think of IKEA, meatballs, and gummy fish—but this Scandinavian nation has become an incubator for tech and software startups. Spotify is perhaps the most recognizable name to American consumers, but anyone who enjoys blowing up patterns of brightly colored candy can also thank Sweden for another startup in gaming, King (we were talking about Candy Crush). Of course, there is also Ericsson, which is perhaps one of the world’s oldest tech companies (founded in 1876) and has been at the forefront of the 5G rollout in Europe. According to a study put together by Insead, Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, was the second best city worldwide for attracting tech talent.


Israel


Israel is another small country with a massive tech presence. It has long been an innovator in military technology and sustainable agriculture, while over the last few decades venture capital has fueled a blossoming of research and development in almost every industry, which has led to Israel being labeled a Startup Nation. From crowdfunding platforms (OurCrowd) to consumer-facing web development (Wix) to internationally recognized navigational systems (Waze), Israel is a software and app development leader. In terms of hardware, Israel is also exploring new frontiers with companies like Flytrex, a drone delivery service.


Finland


Finland is another Scandinavian country among the top ranked nations for tech and software development, making you wonder if there is something special about Europe’s northernmost region. Nokia is perhaps Finland’s most recognizable tech company, but others like GE Healthcare, Huawei, Google, and Rolls-Royce have selected Finland to be their home base for digitizing their respective companies. Finland has also become a hub for tech developments in smart maritime, which only makes sense given its long tradition of shipbuilding. Some experts have cited Finland’s focus on equality culture as facilitating a more impactful variety of entrepreneurship, along with government encouragement in the way of accelerated visas for foreign entrepreneurs and a much easier startup process.


Should we be concerned that the US was not ranked in the top 7?


It should not strike you as worrisome that the US was not listed in the top 7. The US still claims the lead in terms of high tech density and patent filing. At least 50% of companies with the highest R&D budgets are American companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft. Moreover, many of these American companies are putting down footholds abroad, including in some of the countries we’ve outlined above. Remember that the list also took manufacturing into account, and for better or worse the US has mostly continued on a tack of outsourcing that concern. But in any case, tech and software have retained a sizable foothold in the economy. After all, names like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google are 100% home grown.


But international growth and the blossoming of tech in other places is a huge opportunity for professionals in software sales, especially those with experience adapting to new markets or familiarity with foreign contexts (now might not be a bad time to download the app Duolingo and learn a few new languages). This is especially the case with American companies setting down roots in other places or acquiring some of these tech startups.


Of course, there are still plenty of software sales opportunities in the US itself, which continues to lead the way in terms of tech startups that graduate to Unicorn Status (that is, privately held but having valuations beyond a billion dollars), including companies like AirBnB, SpaceX, SoFi, and DoorDash. The continued explosion of tech has only increased with the remote-work demands of Covid-19; software sales continues to be a lucrative field for anyone looking to profit from the next wave in tech. Reach out to me by sending an email to mike@michaelblair.com if you’re thinking about making your next move, and looking for a software sales recruiter to help. Alternatively, if you’re looking for talent, I can help you there as well with several decades as a software headhunter and a large network of qualified candidates.

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