As written, the start player rules can be rather brutal in the case of ties. Here's how:
Player A is the start player
Player D is the last player
At the end of the first turn, Player B wins the primary area, and player C is second...both A and D are tied for the least traders in the primary area. So then you look at the secondary area. Again Players B and C are the winners there as well, Player A has 1 trader there, Player D none. Player D therefore has the least and Player A is again the start player.
This happened the first 4 turns in a row, so it was no surprise that Player A, forced into this disadvantageous play position for 4 out of the 6 turns, came in dead last.
Yes, the weakest player did get to go last in each of those 4 turns, but why was the second weakest player forced to go first? That doesn't make sense.
Is there a reason why the rule isn't that the player with the most influence in the primary area must go first next round? The problem of static first-player could still come up, but at least it would affect the strongest player the most.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Interesting idea. You could post it in the variants section.
If you want to make things more complex, why not go the whole way and have a strict-player-order assigned based on influence. I think the game is short and light enough that this would be unnecessary (and the pure-clockwise-ness helps speed play), but you could certainly try it. Get the 2-player expansion soy ou know you'll have spare pieces in each colour.