59 ROSS BAIRD / FRANÇOISE LAMOTTE Looking For the Next Big Thing: New Partnership Builds Fintech Ecosystems in Four Emerging Start-up Markets Ask the average person what comes to mind when they think of a tech start-up hub. They will probably answer Silicon Valley, picturing geniuses in hooded sweatshirts. Or they might say Bangalore, thinking of sari-clad staffers infuturisticcallcenters.Butthetop-of-mindanswerwould probably not be the Persian Gulf. Or the former Soviet bloc countries. The reality, though, is that some of the best ideas can be found in places we’re overlooking. And nurturing that potential—the goal of a new partnership between Village Capital and MetLife Foundation in four emerging start-up markets—can pay dividends beyond the purely financial. Central and Eastern Europe, along with the United Arab Emirates(UAE),facedauntingchallengesalongsideunique opportunities for innovation. Ukraine faces political and economic uncertainty, including multiple currency devaluations. It also graduates 15,000 IT professionals every year and saw year-over-year venture investment increase more than 230 percent between 2014–2015. Turkey faces political challenges of its own, but early-stage investment in Turkish tech start-ups continues to grow, too, thanks to strong engineering talent from Turkey’s universities and a young population comfortable with technology and eager to be connected. UAE also skews young. More than a third of its population is under age 25, and the UAE’s leaders seem determined to attract tech investment to diversify the economic base and create good new jobs. Poland, which was arguably the financial capital of Central Europe already, is emerging as a tech start-up center, too. Photo: Warsaw skyline by Guillaume Speurt, via Flickr.