The greater Silicon Valley area will undoubtedly remain the best place to be for new tech startups, at least in the near future. However other cities are making headway in this field, with many exhibiting enviable growth figures in their own right.
Talent, capital, and attractive business environments are triangulating on many cities across the United States, while local governments are also realizing the benefits a city can reap as a tech industry hub. The extent to which these factors improve going forward will determine how – and where – the next generation of tech startups will develop.
population 852,469 – metro 4.59 million
San Francisco is the tech startup capital of the nation, the city where talent, innovation, and investment converge. Once startups themselves, Twitter, Reddit, Craigslist, the Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla, Airbnb, and many more household tech names all call the City by the Bay home, and are a part of the recent shift in this sector that favors major urban centers.
Home to more than a dozen colleges and universities and located just 30 miles north of Silicon Valley’s Palo Alto and San Jose, San Francisco is also a stone’s throw away from some of the best tech startup universities in the nation, Stanford and Berkeley.
As the economic center of the region, this combination of fresh talent plus the international allure created by its status as the place to be for tech startups keeps San Francisco at the helm of this field.
population 1.02 million – metro 1.98 million
San Jose automatically makes it to the top tiers of any top-10 list because of its status as the de facto capital of Silicon Valley. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported there were 211,000 tech employees working throughout San Jose. Nearby company headquarters include the giants Google and Facebook.
As the third-largest city in California and tenth in the United States, San Jose is home to several colleges and universities, attracting additional fresh talent from some of the nearby best tech schools in the nation.
While San Jose’s tech sector continues to attract first-rate startups and grow each year, San Francisco’s smaller tech sector is growing faster and has plenty of room for expansion. Over the years, the successful tech startups in San Jose have also increased the cost of property throughout the area. This means that startups that want to make it in the traditional boundaries of Silicon Valley need an ever greater amount of initial funding.
To bring San Jose’s tech sector growth back to the number-one rank, city business leaders and its government are sponsoring initiatives like Business Incubator Programs.
population 655,884 – metro 4.63 million
Boston’s mayor went as far as announcing an official municipal position of Startup Czar in January of 2015. Since then he has been marketing Boston to the wider tech startup world in a bid to attract the top names, as well as the top newcomers, in the field. Although this will undoubtedly improve the city’s ranking for tech startups nationwide, Boston has already been on the radar for a while.
With the likes of Harvard, Northeastern, and MIT in close proximity, Boston is no stranger to fresh talent and tech startups. The city has also remained at the top of the list for the most venture capital invested per capita of all places in the nation. These two factors, combined with recent local government initiatives, give Boston the momentum it needs to rank third on the tech startup list.
population 608,660 – metro 3.67 million
Seattle’s municipal government as well as its business leaders recognize that earning the Emerald City a reputation as a global startup hub carries many advantages. Companies that locate to Seattle will be joining the likes of Amazon, Geocaching.com, and Rhapsody, with Microsoft and Expedia just a few miles away.
Home to several colleges and universities, and as the business center of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle mixes the right combination of fresh talent with investment potential.
Startup Seattle, an initiative launched by the mayor in May of 2013, is a collaboration between the city’s Office of Economic Development and the leaders of its tech startup community. The goal of this program is to attract techs startups to the area and nurture them during their initial phase of growth.
population 105,110 – metro 313,333
In 2015 Boulder has been ranking first in several national top-10 lists, as more tech companies germinate in this city that is increasingly catering to the tech sector. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation in 2013 found that, per capita, Boulder has the highest percentage of tech startups in the nation – twice as many as San Jose.
The city’s business community has a history of successes in niche fields and was quick to spot the opportunities of attracting tech startups. This is exemplified through the boulder.me website filled with startup resources. Boulder is also home to one of the best known incubator and early investment programs, Techstars. Now operating in places like Austin, Berlin, Chicago, and London, Techstars provides investment, infrastructure, and mentoring to new startups in the Boulder area.
population 3.93 million – metro 13.13 million
While LA might be overshadowed by its behemoth tech startup neighbors in the north, taken in its own right the City of Angels – including Silicon Beach – is a formidable player in this field. Fresh talent is constantly moving to this large metropolis’ well-known universities and the many funding opportunities the city has to offer.
The Los Angeles startup scene can be discovered through sites like:
A recent count on the represent.la website showed the city and its surroundings are home to:
- 44 incubator programs
- 28 accelerator programs
- 1,000+ startups
- 70 potential investment partners
District of Columbia
population 658,893 – metro 5.95 million
According to the local government’s official startup promotion website digitaldc.co, Washington DC is one of the fastest growing tech and innovation centers in the world. The city business community’s website devoted to promoting its startups, proudlymadeindc.com, lists nearly 50 tech startups that are all vying to make the next big breakthrough, or at least to secure enough investment to level up.
These startups include those that take advantage of their location to delve into the world of politics, as well as those that offer a traditional range of innovate ideas and services on topics from food to education.
In DC investors and the local government support the city’s growing tech industry, as exemplified by the team behind digitaldc.co: a mayor-appointed Tech and Innovation Sector Manager, the Manager of Small Business Technology from DC’s Department of Small and Local Business Development, and the Director of Business Attraction and Marketing for DC’s Economic Partnership.
population 912,791 – metro 1.94 million
Sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Innovate Austin is an initiative that markets the city to tech startups as the best place to locate a business. Its most recent statistics show a tally of over $1.02 billion invested into local startups, with the city hosting:
- 46 incubator and accelerator programs
- 162 tech deals sealed in 2015 alone
- 4,744 high tech companies
Austin isn’t a newcomer to tech innovation either. Already in 2009 incubators like Capital Factory were being founded to foster new companies and provide a space for networking. With continued efforts through sites like austinstartuplist.com and players like the Austin Technology Council, tech growth figures of more than 40 percent since 2013 will continue to dazzle startups considering Austin.
population 447,841 – metro 5.52 million
One of Atlanta’s strongest advantages for tech startups is a highly talented workforce. Georgia Tech – with its own competitive and successful incubator Advanced Technology Development Center (atdc) – as well as other local colleges and universities supply qualified talent, especially engineers, to Atlanta’s tech startup pool. Those are in addition to the innovative professionals who have made the city their home for the many other attractive opportunities it hosts.
A top-notch workforce combined with local business and government initiatives have created some of the most fertile ground in the country to welcome the next generation of startups. One example of this is the Atlanta Tech Village. Established in 2013, this 103,000 square-foot facility provides all a startup could want. The space is currently offered to hundreds of companies striving to be the next Twitter.
Salt Lake City
population 191,180 – metro 1.15 million
Silicon Slopes, the tech sector’s endearing nickname for Salt Lake City, continues to attract new startups and graduate new success stories. Incubators continue to spring up and big-name companies like Google and Ebay continue to bring more capital, talent, and tech infrastructure to the state.
In 2009 all eyes in the tech sector fell on Utah when the startup Omniture, a web analytics company, was sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion. Perhaps this event above all others marked SLC’s entry onto the national stage of tech startups. While Omniture was actually developed in Orem, as the center of financing, population, and talent, Salt Lake City would be the state’s natural hub for tech startups.
Today events like Start SLC, an annual grassroots startup festival, and organizations like the Utah Technology Council ensure that business leaders and the local government back the city’s tech startups to the hilt, making them competitive on a national level.