Startup Capitals by Zafar Anjum – Book Review


Startup Capitals by Zafar Anjum started on such a high note that I felt a pang of envy, for this is the kind of book I would have wanted to write. It spoke about the competitiveness of various startup cities across the world and what makes them click with entrepreneurs. Is this not what most cities and governments are looking for today? That magic formula that they can replicate and create jobs by letting entrepreneurs flourish. We all know Silicon Valley is the hotbed of technology entrepreneurs. Followed by cities like Tel Aviv and Bangalore. Then there are many such centers that exist across major economies that are a mini version of the Silicon Valley. And yet have their own identity like Japan leads in wearable technologies.

Now the first 50-60 pages, written as the prelude to the book are the best part of the book. They tell you why innovation is important. What roles do start-up cities play in defining the future of the place and in generating employment; You would love reading them even if you know every bit of the content. This is followed by an analysis of 10 start-up capitals of the world. People know them best for their start-up culture. While one can debate the placement of other cities included in the list. Nonetheless, all of them make a case for interesting reading. I enjoyed the Silicon Valley chapter. New York was also ok, but after that, the quality of content just falls down.

I was looking forward to so much more on Tel Aviv and Beijing but it left me wanting for so much more. There is too much dependence on certain reports with quotes from conferences. Zafar Anjum has spoken to at least one person who has a startup in each of these 10 cities. But did he choose the right person? Was that person a good representative of the city is an open question?

Part 2 is a total disappointment – it is a 2-3 page cheat sheet on 10 more cities, primarily in bullet points. Why has the author put them there? Was the book meant to be a reference book with numbers? On who stands where with respect to Silicon Valley?  Or was the book meant to provide Venture Capital information per city? Was it meant for aspiring entrepreneurs who were probably looking for the best place to launch their startup? Or was it for the VCs to look for their next investment?

In the beginning of the book, Anjum mentioned the fact that some of the most successful companies never depended on venture funds. Also, I was hoping that he would carry forward the thought through the book. Similarly, he proposed in the first section that in most startup cities the initial funding for the research came from military research. But this is again never touched upon in the rest of the book.

Part 3 has 10 entrepreneurs talking about their journeys and most of them do seem to be IT service providers. Who can always give an innovation spin to their work; Are they doing any breakthrough innovations?  I did not get that feeling, but I must admit it became too boring for me by the time I reached this section. Moreover, there must have been attention lapse. The least I expected from Zafar Anjum is to say what he wanted to say in Part 2 and Part 3. Singapore remains a center throughout the book Startup Capitals – I assume that is because the author lives there and is close enough to the happenings. I was wondering if he wrote it with a Singapore audience in mind.

Read it only for the prologue…. or if you are looking for data on startup cities across the world.

You may buy this book – Startup Capitals by Zafar Anjum at Amazon.

Startup Capitals by Zafar Anjum

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  1. So there is still scope for you to better this. Each city has its own advantages and set of issues. Availability of talent, access to market, a supportive Govt. are difficult to coexist in one town for a start-up to provide encouraging environment. And there are confrontations in the recent past between promoters and investors. Flipkart does not want to list in India. So on. All that would give you to sufficient matter to come up with a sort of business thriller. Hope you will write one.

    • Agree with you, the topic needs a little for deep dive and there is scope for some more good books in this space.


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