Best Countries for Expats: Startup Business Edition

There are many reasons why an expat might start a business abroad. If you are considering starting a business in a foreign country, you've come to the right place.

Xe Corporate

September 11, 2019 8 min read

There are many reasons why an expat might start a business abroad. You may be looking to situate your business where talent is affordable and plentiful, or a certain country may be situated strategically close to your target market. There are also many financial benefits to opening a business in certain countries, such as minimizing tax burdens, accessing capital investors, or entering a region where the density of new businesses in your niche isn't too high.

If you are considering starting a business in a foreign country, but aren't sure which country to launch your new enterprise, you've come to the right place. If you are looking for an online money transfer provider to send payments for expenses like office space lease down payments, inventory supplier payments and the like, you're aren't only resourceful, you have impeccable taste.  

The best countries for startup-minded expats are any which are both "fertile ground" for any aspiring entrepreneur to start a new business. Yet we'll be highlighting three countries which are recognized as being especially startup and business friendly, namely:

  • Canada

  • Denmark

  • New Zealand

Source: Startup Canada for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Victoria Lennox
We're talking about substantive, full-time businesses here, not hobbyists. The kind of business that would be a viable candidate on shows like the Dragon's Den, Shark Tank, or that are at least worth hanging an "Open for Business" sign on the front door.

The countries described below are equally friendly to one-man shows, Mom and Pop shops, garage businesses and high-growth startups. The governments of the respective countries provide services which make it simple to:

  • Get a business license, and register a business name

  • Arrange for remittance of taxes to the federal and state/provincial taxes

  • Find information about legal responsibilities for small businesses, such as safety regulations and employer/employee rights

  • Access training resources for newcomer businesses to succeed

Governments, banks, and not-for-profit Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are important institutional resources for startup businesses in any country you migrate to.

Others to consider are:

Before jumping into what we perceive as best-in-class countries, organizations and resources for entrepreneurs, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Startup Visa program.

Many countries around the world (including all of those listed below) offer a startup visa program to those who meet certain criteria:

  • Have a reasonable amount of savings to launch your business and sustain you through (varies by country)

  • Some countries require a native citizen to have an investment stake in the company

  • Participation in a local incubator or accelerator program

  • Must pay a slightly higher tax rate than established, domestic businesses for a defined period of time  

  • Have a comprehensive business plan in place, which defines the company's revenue model, 5-year economic forecasts, and vale proposition.

Side note: One of the criterion for startup visas and obtaining citizenship or full-time residency in many countries is to have enough funds to support yourself and your family. XE Money Transfer is an excellent way to transfer funds from your native country to the country you (and your business venture) are moving to.

Here are three top countries for expat-owned startups that we've selected. If you know of a country you'd like added to the list, we are open to your suggestions!

Canada was a Canadian startup which was "born" over 25 years ago, and our company still possesses an entrepreneurial spirit. Beric Farmer and Steve Dengler, the two founders of XE from Newmarket, Ontario, are extremely passionate about entrepreneurism, and continue to be involved with startups in Canada. Though they were born in Canada, some of XE's earliest employees were from countries like Mexico and China.

Canada also has many startup communities from coast to coast, many of which were inspired by Startup Canada, a volunteer-powered non-profit based in Ottawa. As a former Startup Canada volunteer, I can attest to their passion and enthusiasm for empowering entrepreneurship for everyone (including expats). They have excellent resources, including podcasts, empowering events, awards, and a highly inspirational executive team led by CEO Victoria Lennox.

Before launching Startup Canada about six or seven years ago, Victoria co-founded a global NGO community called Startup Nations. Also known as the Global Entrepreneurship Network, the GEN is a hub community for many global programs like Startup Visa, Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the Startup Nations Summit.

Canada's Economic Status By the Numbers:

  • GDP 2018 - 1.7 trillion

  • GDP Growth June 2018/2019 - 1.6%

  • GDP Rank - 16th

  • Largest economic sector contributing to GDP - Services, 70%

  • First to do a pilot program of Startup Visa program for immigrants - 2013

  • Canada ranks 2nd as far as the top countries to  start a business in, trailing only New Zealand, which is profiled below.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network is a non-profit on a global scale which helps small businesses to access critical data about setting up a business with global reach.

As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. If your startup does business internationally, XE is an ideal partner to help you:

  • Sell products across borders from your online store with prices in the latest foreign exchange rates

  • Enhance your cloud-based services for your international customer base with flexible APIs

  • Purchase raw materials or manufactured products from foreign suppliers for sale or assembly

  • Pay overseas employees and contractors

Making international payments from Canada, or harnessing currency data has never been easier.

Photo by Ava Coploff / Unsplash

2. Denmark

According to the World Bank, Denmark has been the easiest place to do business between 2012 and 2019. The country has six business accelerators and incubators across twelve locations. The four top industry sectors for startup and existing businesses in Denmark are:

  • Technology - Denmark is "the most digital country in Europe" as far as adoption of smartphones, computers and the internet

  • Life sciences- Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, eHealth

  • Cleantech - Renewable energy including electric transportation, wind power smart grids, biofuels, and solar

  • Design and Innovation - Denmark has a great deal of talented application designers, developers and UX experts.

Denmark ranks 3rd in the world in the World Bank's best countries to do business in.

Denmark's entrepreneurial landscape by the numbers:

  • GDP 2018: 350.874 billion, 1.4% (2018)

  • Active Investments through Fund Denmark in 2018: 8 Billion

  • GDP Rank: 36th

  • Cost to apply for a Permanent Residence and work permit: DKK 1,900

  • PR/Work Permit Processing time - One month, must provide evidence of having sufficient funds to cover first year costs of living and business expenses

Citizens of Nordic and EU countries and Switzerland will find the process to start a business and get residency status in Denmark to be seamless. There is further scrutiny on non-EU/Nordic/Swiss countries yet Denmark is quite welcoming to those looking to launch startups in the industries identified above, and to industries like food, and maritime-related businesses.

If you need to transfer Danish Kroners from Europe, Switzerland or Nordic countries, XE is a smart, reliable, and secure choice.  

Photo by Samuel Ferrara / Unsplash

3. New Zealand

New Zealand has the distinction of being declared the best country to do business in by the World Bank. Despite the country's small population of less than 4.8 million people, New Zealand immigrant entrepreneurs many benefits, including:

  • A range of business structure options, including sole trader, partnerships and limited liability companies.

  • There are a number of online resources, including The New Zealand Entrepreneur manazine where soon-to-be NZ "treps" can find info about business investors, immigrants that want to start a business from scratch, and those who want to acquire an existing business

  • New Zealand does not have social security taxes, general capital gains taxes, or payroll tax. Their tax system is far simpler and easier to navigate than countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. Newcomers do not have to pay taxes on taxes on overseas investments or pensions for their first four years

New Zealand's Economy by the Numbers:

  • GDP 2018 $205,025M, 2.8% growth from 2017, US $40 713 per capita

  • GDP Rank: 53rd

  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

  • Internet Access Percentage of Households: 80%

  • Top Industries: Agriculture, Construction and Tourism

If you need to establish your business and home life before you move to New Zealand, transferring New Zealand Dollars from Aussie dollars, Euros, or any of the other fifty-seven currencies XE transfers globally is fast, reliable, and affordable. You can find further information about the fundamental benefits of XE Money Transfer elsewhere on our blog.

Or simply open a free business account and get a no-obligation quote. Starting a business in foreign country can be a great opportunity for you to start your business on the front foot.

You can also explore some of our business customer success stories right here on our blog.