By JEFF MAY
What's the best place in the world to start a business? Denmark.
What country has the biggest share of women who launch new businesses? Peru.
Where does it cost the most to start a company? You'll have to pony up the most money in the Netherlands.
Where does it take an average of 694 days to clear government red tape and get a company off the ground? Suriname.
The answers to these and other questions provide a fascinating snapshot of entrepreneurship around the globe. The numbers, drawn from a host of recent surveys, show a world that's brimming with start-up activity, as people from Ireland to Eritrea try to navigate a terrible economy by striking out on their own. But the surveys also show that many countries could do a lot more to accommodate entrepreneurs.
Governments in the developing world, for instance, often impose high costs and numerous procedures on people who are trying to get a company off the ground. In Zimbabwe, entrepreneurs will have to fork over about 500% of the country's average per-capita income in government fees. Compare that with 0.7% in the U.S. In Equatorial Guinea, owners have to slog through 20 procedures to get their venture going, versus just one in Canada and New Zealand.
Still, lots of countries are making progress. In a World Bank study of red tape, Samoa was singled out for making the most strides in reforming its practices. It went from one of the toughest places in the world to start a company last year—131st out of 183—to No. 20 this year.
What's more, some emerging-markets powerhouses like China, Russia, Brazil and India, as well as nations like Chile and the Czech Republic, are due for big improvements, says Zoltan Acs, a Small Business Administration economist and co-author of the agency's study of entrepreneurial performance around the world. China, for instance, ranks as just the 40th best place in the world to start a company. Yet China and its up-and-coming peers score high on forward-looking measures like expectations for job creation—so they're likely to catch up fast with more-advanced economies.
The surveys shed light on some other interesting corners of entrepreneurship.
VENTURE-CAPITAL FUNDING: Israel backs its early-stage companies with the most venture capital, when you look at the amount invested as a percentage of gross domestic product. Slovenia shells out the least.
PARTICIPATION BY GENDER: In most places, men are more likely to launch businesses than women. The exceptions: Japan, where 5.22% of the country's women own a small early-stage business versus 3.47% of men, and Peru, where women edge out men 26.06% to 25.74%. In Brazil, it's a dead heat.
TYPES OF BUSINESSES: Affluent economies are more likely to launch service firms that cater to the business sector. In Denmark, for instance, B-to-B companies make up 42% of start-ups. Poorer countries tend to churn out a high percentage of consumer-oriented businesses. Consider Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, where more than 74% of start-ups focus on consumers.
Mr. May is a writer in Mount Tabor, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.