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Start-up cities: Where will you succeed?

Setting up a new business, e-commerce or otherwise, can be a very stressful time. So, wouldn’t you like to be starting your business in a city that’s geared towards helping you succeed?

Well, DeliveryApp is here to help you out. We’ve created our annual ranking index of the best cities to start a business in the UK, looking at factors such as office space cost, job market, and more.

Despite the current economic turmoil, the UK still saw a huge 753,168 new businesses opened in 2022, the second highest ever on record. This trend looks set to continue throughout 2023, with Google searches for “how to start a business” seeing a 100% increase over the past 12 months.

We’re also offering entrepreneurs the real tips and advice you need when setting up a new business with this index, so keep reading to find out where your business could thrive best.

Start up cities

What makes a city great for start-ups?

We created our ranking system from eight different factors that we determined to be most important for new businesses, including:

  • The population of people aged 21-30
  • Broadband speeds
  • Co-working spaces
  • Business closure rates
  • Business start-up rates
  • Employment rates
  • Skilled population
  • Average annual rent

We gave each one a score and normalised these scores, to give us a total that we could rank from highest to lowest – so who came out on top?

Best places to set up business in 2023

This year, Cambridge has come out as our ultimate winner for the best city to start up a new business within the UK and outside of London. Here were the scores for our top 20 start-up cities:

  1. Cambridge – 3.65
  2. Bristol – 3.60
  3. York – 3.53
  4. Oxford – 3.33
  5. Brighton and Hove – 3.21
  6. Kingston upon Hull – 3.16
  7. Cardiff – 3.16
  8. Plymouth – 3.15
  9. Glasgow – 3.14
  10. Nottingham – 3.08
  11. Edinburgh – 2.97
  12. Milton Keynes – 2.96
  13. Reading – 2.96
  14. Belfast – 2.95
  15. Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – 2.90
  16. Derby – 2.89
  17. Southampton – 2.86
  18. Wigan – 2.86 average annual rent (£8.45 per sq ft)
  19. Liverpool – 2.84
  20. Sheffield – 2.83


Cambridge had the highest total score against all our markers but did come out on top for their employment rate, with nearly 85% of the population currently in active employment – a positive sign for start-up businesses who want to ensure that their business has enough prosperity around it to keep it going and to grow.

Bristol was second in our ranking and also has the most co-working spaces, after Manchester, with over 90 active spaces you could use when you’re just beginning to kick things off and you want a professional environment to concentrate and to hold your growing team.

Brighton and Hove came in fifth place and had the best start-up rate of 76.7 business start-ups per 10,000 people in the population, a high number that would be extremely encouraging for any small business owners or start-ups to see how growth can go on to prosper in this seaside haven.

Kingston upon Hull came in sixth place in our overall rankings, and also came out on top for the best broadband speed at 185 Mbps, which is an incredibly important factor for fresh businesses – you need to be really on top of all your investor calls, jumping on opportunities you see online and being able to see real-time updates within your industry to keep your finger on the pulse.

Glasgow has the highest population of 21-30-year-olds, while Edinburgh has the highest population of skilled workers at 69% of the population, proving that Scotland is a country where start-ups can not only find an abundance of young people who’re keen to push a start-up into the stratosphere, but skilled workers who can elevate your business to new heights.

Wigan came in at number 18 in our ranking, and its advantages include the fact that it’s the cheapest place in our entire rankings list to rent space – at only £8.45 per square foot, you can get a lot of bang for your buck in Wigan, and its proximity to urban giants like Manchester and Liverpool makes it a central hub for lots of big business opportunities

Our advice for setting up a new business

While every business is unique and will have a different path to success, there are some basic principles you can follow to ensure that your business succeeds – and we’re not talking about your LinkedIn parody advice, these are genuine policies you can adopt to help your start-up business grow:

  • Do your research – this means looking at the local market, international market, and social media, on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) and finding your target markets and what they respond to.
  • You should also use the same processes to investigate your competitors too – keeping an eye on your competitors will help you see what the market is doing, as well as what to avoid doing and how to create your own voice in the arena.
  • Focus on retaining customers – customer loyalty for new businesses is key to bringing in new business through recommendations, and it’s five times harder to win a new customer than it is to keep a return customer. To do this, prioritise your customer service and create a customer loyalty program.
  • Attend networking events – meeting other businesses and new start-ups at networking events helps you to understand the lay of the land you’re working within, as well as make connections that could benefit you along the way as you grow.
  • Constantly refine and measure your goals – there are so many different strategies you could take to help your business get off the ground, but it’s important to set yourself goals and assess what went well/what went wrong if you don’t meet these goals. Being flexible is crucial.
  • Use our simplified delivery services to give you peace of mind, such as our same-day couriers for nationwide same-day coverage for anything you need!

Whether you’re an e-commerce business looking for sustainable delivery options, or you’re looking for advanced delivery options for some very important prototypes to show your investors, DeliveryApp can help you every step of the way. You can check out our blog on how courier services compare with postal services to find out for yourself!


This dataset ranks 40 towns and cities across the UK, based on how good they are for starting up a business. To do this, 8 different factors were used. Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalised, to provide each factor with a score between 0 and 1. If data was not available, a score of 0 was given. The normalised values were then summed, to give each location a total score out of 8. The locations were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores.

The factors used are as follows:

  • 21-30 Population – The number of 21–30-year-olds living in each location, according to the 2021 census. Local authority districts were used; hence some areas may include populations from other locations. (2021)
  • Broadband Speeds – The median broadband speed in Mbps for each location, according to Ofcom. The speed for London was gathered from the fairinternetreport. (2022)
  • Co-Working Spaces – The number of shared working spaces in each location, according to (2023)
  • Closure Rate – Business closures per 10,000 population. (2021)
  • Start-Up Rate – Business start-ups per 10,000 population. (2021)
  • Employment Rate – The % of the working-age population who are currently employed. (2021)
  • Skilled Population – The % of the working-age population with a qualification at NVQ4 or above. (2021)
  • Average Annual Rent – The average annual rent for Office Space per square foot, in pounds. (2023)

The factors were indexed as follows:

  • 21-30 Population – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Broadband Speeds – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Co-Working Spaces – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Closure Rate – Low values get a high score. High values get a low score.
  • Start-Up Rate – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Employment Rate – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Skilled Population – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Average Annual Rent – Low values get a high score. High values get a low score.

All data is correct as of 25/07/2023. The ranking data shown is a compilation of multiple data sources and may not be representative of real life. All data is accurate concerning the sources provided.

Written by Joe Ferris

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