5 Surprising Cities With a Thriving Startup Scene

Jayson DeMers
4 min readOct 6, 2020
Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

When you’re starting your own business, you want to have every advantage possible. You want a good co-founder, a good team, a good wealth of resources, and as many resources as possible to help you get through those extra tough early years of startup ownership. Accordingly, many entrepreneurs flock to cities with a reputation for having a thriving startup scene.

But what exactly qualifies as a city with a “thriving” startup scene? There are a number of factors, but what it mostly comes down to is how easy it is for an aspiring entrepreneur to start a business and keep it running for more than a year. Some things that are helpful include:

· The availability of funding, both from governmentally sponsored programs and from resident venture capitalists.

· The presence of other startups and entrepreneurs. In a kind of snowballing effect, successful entrepreneurs in an area attract other, new entrepreneurs and can provide mentorships to promising candidates.

· The accessibility of programs like accelerators, incubators, and competitions to fuel innovation.

· The potential customer base, as bigger cities with wealthier residents are often better able to support new businesses with consumer purchases than smaller and poorer counterparts.

We all know that densely populated cities on the west coast like San Francisco and Los Angeles are startup Meccas, and major cities on the east coast like New York give them a good run for their money. But what about the other big cities in the United States?

1. Seattle, Washington. Seattle holds an interesting geographic position that makes it attractive to potential entrepreneurs. It’s close to California and serves as a strong west coast city, but stands apart on its own. A handful of super successful startups have emerged from the city, including Zillow, Amazon, and Microsoft, making it more attractive to entrepreneurs, and several new initiatives have emerged in the past few years to make the city more accessible for small business development.

2. Boston, Massachusetts. Boston is home to an ever-increasing number of startup organizations and programs, including MassChallenge, purported to be the world’s largest startup accelerator. The Boston Foundation, which invests in Nonprofits and aids the economic development of the region, also assists. Proximity to multiple colleges like Boston University and the University of Massachusetts, and an influx of angel investors make the city even sweeter for new entrepreneurs.

3. Cleveland, Ohio. Located in the heart of the Midwest, Cleveland isn’t especially close to either coast and is often seen as a kind of no man’s land. But between its multiple colleges, which include Cleveland State University, Case Western, and John Carroll, and its multiple emerging accelerators and incubators like Flashstarts and JumpStart, it’s well-poised as an entrepreneurship hotspot.

4. Boca Raton, Florida. Stuck in a state stereotyped for being populated with retirees, Boca Raton hosts an impressive educated population, with 47 percent of residents having a BA or higher. Also home to a massive IBM plant, dozens of Boca Raton startups have emerged from former tech professionals in the area looking to branch off on their own.

5. Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh still has a long way to go to host a new Silicon Valley, but its innovation summits are a great start, and its proximity to NC State University and Meredith College (among others) give it a ripe, educated, young population.

How to Bolster the Startup Community of Your City

I picked these five cities because throughout my research, they seemed to be the ones with the most available resources and the most passionate communities (at least compared to public perception). I have two caveats for this list; first, there’s no truly objective way to measure what qualifies a city as friendly or useful for startups. There are too many subjective factors and unknown variables. Second, any city has the potential for a thriving startup scene — all it takes are the right people to make it happen.

If you’re an entrepreneur in a city that isn’t mentioned on this list, or otherwise one without a healthy scene for startups, there are a few things you can personally do to spark improvement in your environment. Start networking more, and make more people aware of your startup. Visit local colleges and speak to students about entrepreneurship opportunities. Connect with other successful entrepreneurs in your region, and try to start a program or workshop for new entrepreneurs, even if it’s informal and small to start. You can also get involved politically by speaking to your representatives and pushing for more economic development opportunities.

The more active you are in your community, the more chances entrepreneurs like you will have to make an impact and survive in the current economic climate. If your city has a thriving startup scene already, make an effort to participate in it more actively. If not, consider trying to start one. When working together in better environments, all of us can find greater success.

For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!



Jayson DeMers

CEO of EmailAnalytics (emailanalytics.com), a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!