The rise of digital nomads are seeing a number of entrepreneurial hubs spring up across the world – but where are they and what do they tell us about modern business?
I spoke at a conference in Barcelona at the end of the June. In the room, there were entrepreneurs, business owners and freelancers.
They were there for the conference, but a weird thing happened after the conference. Most people stayed put. Yup, the majority of the people stayed longer than the length of the conference in Barcelona. And not just for a couple days either, but for weeks! It became a “hub” for digital nomads - a new class of entrepreneurs and freelancers who work and run their businesses from their computer, anywhere in the world.
Stefan runs Mobile Jazz - a top mobile development company - out of his van. Dan and Ian started the whole community and conference thing by running a cat furniture business, and I run Impossible and Ultimate Paleo Guide from anywhere.
Every three to six months, people end up congregating in areas for specific events, and in between, 'hubs' or specific communities of these nomads collect around the world.
Barcelona, Austin, Bangkok, Berlin, Medellin, New York, Chiang Mai, Bali, Cape Town and more.
The type of entrepreneur first defined by Tim Ferriss in the 4 Hour Work Week has grown up with real multi-million dollar businesses and they’re covering the globe.
How to find them? Well, if the city has a mix of lifestyle, adventure and hustle (don’t forget WiFi), you can probably find a good number of digital nomads there.
There are the traditional hubs of commerce - Silicon Valley, New York, London, Hong Kong, but as the world gets more connected, there’s a new class of people that are spreading out globally - to wherever best suits their business.
To show how diverse this is, the top 10 communities in the Dynamite Circle (a top
digital nomad community) are:
- Austin, US
- New York, US
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Berlin, Germany
- Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- San Francisco, US
- Barcelona, Spain
- London, UK
- Prague, Czech Republic
Some of those you might expect (SF, London, NYC), but some are out of left field (Chiang Mai, Prague, Ho Chi Minh). As this type of hub continues to rise, it’s changing the way business is done, making some of the traditional things unimportant and a few of them very important.
Geography is becoming less important
Specific geography is becoming less important. As this class of 'digital nomads' grows, it’s increasingly location independent, and is instead dependent on what the business owner needs.
- If they need to cut costs and baseline while hustling up their first income, they’re probably headed to Chiang Mai.
- If they need a programming team to build software, they might be in Ho Chi Minh.
- If they need a US base with a low tax rate, they’re probably going to Austin.
- If they want to have a good lifestyle and still hustle, they're probably hanging out in either Berlin, Prague or Barcelona.
Being in a traditional commerce hub is less important than ever, now that they can communicate and connect from anywhere.
Values are becoming more important
The focus on people’s values is overtaking their physical location.
Entrepreneurs are meeting up in various locations around the world for weeks or months to do 'kitesurfing and coworking' or 'hustle cruises' - where they get on a cheap cruise for a week to work on a project.
People are willing (and able) to fly halfway around the world to be around people that think like them rather than feel 'stuck' in their current location with people who might not share the same values.
Borders are becoming less important
Again, minus some banking and passport issues, country borders are becoming less important. People are realizing that they can build big businesses outside of the US, UK or Australia, in other locations that are more attractive.
The sense of nationalism has been replaced by a global appreciation of each country for what it can do for the entrepreneur’s lifestyle and business.
While borders matter from a political perspective, entrepreneurs are seeing the opportunity globally - not only for business, but for living - and are adjusting their expectations to be in line with that.
Policies are becoming more Important
As nomads are traveling more, the specific country ties have less importance (except for the passport). Nomads are more likely to spend time in places that have better visa situations specifically designed for entrepreneurs, than spending hours or days muddled down in
If paperwork gets too complicated, often people just leave. It’s a big world out there - there’s a lot of places to see after all.
Money is becoming less important
Okay, so cash is always important in business, but it’s not as intimidating a factor as it used to be.
In New York, a studio apartment can run $2,000. San Francisco and London are similar stories. As a bootstrapped entrepreneur, it can be hard to make things work at those costs.
But with the rise of global hubs and entrepreneurial focuses in other areas, an entrepreneur can live very well in Barcelona for $2,000 / month. If they jet off to Asia, they can pay their monthly
expenses and live like a king with that much.
This global rise means there’s no longer a need to raise a million dollars to start a business. You can do it with a laptop, a blog, and a lot of hustle.
Lifestyle is becoming more important
Again, these nomads are comparing cities and locations on a global scale and that makes cities' offerings much more competitive.
Many entrepreneurs start their businesses in order to take control of their lifestyle, and with the rise of global hubs, not only do entrepreneurs tend to have their pick of where they live, but it
matters to them what they’ll have available in their city.
Whether they’re looking for similar entrepreneurs, nightlife, mountains, beaches, health or work-life balance, they can search the globe to find exactly what they want.
Global hubs are popping up around the world for people who are building their own businesses while traveling the world. Where will you go?