These seven cities, each of which boast a dynamic, quickly growing startup culture, may give the Bay Area a run for its money.
San Francisco has a well-earned reputation as an incubator for promising tech ventures. But this success has driven property prices and the cost of living sky-high, pricing out newcomers looking to bootstrap new businesses. Increasingly, movers and shakers are looking beyond the San Andreas Fault, which has resulted in the emergence of dynamic entrepreneurial communities across the nation. Here are the seven cities to watch in 2016 and beyond.
1. San Diego
Startups looking for a more affordable city in California can find one 500 miles down the coast from San Francisco. Only 18 miles from Tijuana, businesses based in San Diego can benefit from close links with Mexican manufacturers. In addition, the city’s temperate climate and low commute times contribute to a relatively high standard of living.
With one of the densest concentrations of software engineers in the country, according to QZ — fed by top-tier research institution Washington University — Seattle’s job market is particularly attractive to tech startups. While the economy is anchored by local giants Microsoft and Amazon, Fast Company explains that the cost of living remains competitive and the city has retained its “frontier spirit”.
3. St. Louis
St. Louis’ heartland location means that businesses can stay connected with the real-world concerns of average Americans; a refreshing contrast with the Bay Area’s more elite tech bubble. Despite this down-to-earth atmosphere, St Louis is actively seeking and welcoming promising new startups with funding initiatives like Arch Grants.
While Boston’s cost of living is relatively high, their research credentials are unparalleled, boasting the “Brainpower Triangle” fueled by Harvard, MIT and Tufts University. Boston is a particularly prominent hub for robotics, boasting a concentration of companies such as Rethink Robotics and Jibo, Inc.
The Windy City plays host to a robust startup scene, aided by its collaborative business culture. Chicago Ventures founder Stuart Larkins said “I personally think Chicago is very approachable. We find it very easy to get our companies introductions to new people for new business opportunities.” When asked to described the city’s startup culture in one word, community members responded with “Welcoming” and “Collaborative.”
7. Kansas City, MO
“There’s no place like home” rings true in Kansas City, MO: 75% of the city’s startups which received funding in 2013 and 2014 are still headquartered there as of 2016. The nickname “Silicon Prairie” is well earned: Google picked this city as their pilot Google Fiber location in 2012, describing it as “a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations.”
With its breathtaking views and outdoor-oriented culture, Boulder appeals to individuals who prefer to live off the beaten track. But despite its small-town feel, Boulder punches above its weight, according Venture Beat: TechStars cofounder Brad Feld explains:
“Boulder has… an extraordinary entrepreneurial density (entrepreneurs + people working for startups) / total working population) in a tight geographic area. As a result, there is a huge amount of entrepreneurial activity per capita. Entrepreneurs here use a ‘give before you get’ mentality — we are willing to help anyone without an expectation of what we are going to get back in the short term. This creates a powerful long-term dynamic.”
While these seven cities share a common hospitable climate for startups, each has something unique to offer the budding entrepreneur. In addition to escaping unrealistic prices and a high-pressure, sink-or-swim culture, startups that establish themselves outside the Bay Area have the opportunity to settle in a city uniquely matched to their company aspirations.