The best cities for startups are places where you can find the right people to hire, so locations near colleges and universities are ideal. In addition, a low cost of living and a high quality of life make your location attractive for employees, especially those just starting out. A tech community, active angel investors, networking events, and business startup support are also desirable features to look for.
Chicago is one of the more affordable world-class cities you could choose. Chicago is profitable for startups, with 45 percent of investments producing an ROI of ten times the investment.
Chicago will always be a draw for college-educated workers. As the Midwest’s major tech hub, you’ll have the top contenders in your field available to choose from. World-class museums, sporting events, and restaurants are plentiful in Chicago, and its location makes it easy to get anywhere in the country on one flight.
You won’t have any trouble finding venture capital in Chicago, along with incubators, networking groups, and resources.
Raleigh has a thriving venture capital scene, which is a good sign if you’re thinking about locating in this rapidly growing North Carolina city. The tech community in Raleigh is a perfect size for networking, because there is plenty of talent without it being overwhelming—it’s easier to make inroads, get to know people, and maintain your network.
Groups like the North Carolina Technology Association, Bull City Forward, and Launchbox Digital contribute to a business atmosphere that helps startups develop.
World-class schools like Duke and University of North Carolina give you a highly educated pool of workers to draw from. Raleigh’s affordability makes the city an attractive place for startups wanting to keep costs down, but it also works well for attracting workers who can see their incomes go further than in other cities.
Raleigh has plenty of great neighborhoods for families, from close-in homes with vintage charm to suburban new construction. Singles will also find plenty of great spots in Raleigh’s core neighborhoods, with converted railroad depot buildings and warehouses giving the city a unique flavor.
Denver is a booming city that offers you a high quality of life for the price. Denver has plenty of amenities waiting for you, including international cuisine, museums, concerts, festivals, quaint neighborhoods, revitalized urban areas, green spaces, and recreational opportunities. If you like professional sports, Denver has you covered across the board.
The city gets around 300 days of sunshine per year, so even during the winter you can get out on a sunny day. The Silicon Mountain area has good venture capital activity, reasonable wages for startup workers, and a highly educated workforce. The Rocky Mountains offer plenty of options for year-round outdoor activities. Denver has one of the fittest populations in the country, adding an energetic, health-conscious vibe to the city.
Denver also gives you a great airline hub location in the middle of the country, so you can easily get to either coast in a few hours, without having to catch a connecting flight.
Nashville is one of the top cities to relocate to, with its affordable rents and unique culture turning this once under-the-radar town into a bustling hotspot. For startups, this means an influx of talent and a setting that grows more appealing every day, as artists, artisans, and restauranteurs flock to the area.
Nashville’s population of college-educated 25-34 year olds increased by 48 percent between the years 2000 and 2012, according to Entrepreneur magazine. Unique local businesses, music industry tradition, vintage homes in tight-knit neighborhoods, and friendly residents give Nashville an appealing character that you won’t find anywhere else.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City has a business-friendly environment and an established tech community, with companies like Adobe and Workday now calling the Utah city home. Salt Lake City offers a high quality of life with low crime, affordability, and stunning scenery. Culturally, nearby Park City hosts the Sundance Film Festival, and Salt Lake City has plenty of museums, concerts, sporting events, and world-class skiing to keep you entertained.
The University of Utah in Salt Lake and Utah State University in Logan benefit from the Utah Science Technology and Research Economic Development Initiative’s technology funding that sparks local business growth. The city is also home to a healthy list of angel investors.
Austin is a long-time entry on the list of best cities for startups, and it still delivers the goods. For one thing, Austin has a large, highly-educated population because of the city’s University of Texas campus. There’s plenty of talent to draw from for entry-level positions at affordable wages. Upper level positions are easy to fill since the city has had a thriving tech community in place for decades.
Austin companies attract more venture capital than most other startup hubs, and South by Southwest is a giant yearly event that’s focused, in part, on startups.
Austin’s prices have risen sharply in recent years but the city is still more affordable than other options like the Silicon Valley or New York City. There is no corporate or personal income tax in Texas, which may be the break you need to help get your startup going. Austin’s music scene will give you an unlimited supply of bands to check out when you decide to take a break from work.
Companies like Intel, Google, Mozilla, and McAfee are a major presence in the Silicon Forest area around Portland, Oregon. Portland has a long tradition of attracting startups, from the micro-breweries that the city is still known for to the food cart explosion that started several years ago. Although Portland’s prices have risen over the last few years, it’s still the most affordable large city on the West Coast. Due to its affordability and attractive lifestyle, the city continues to attract college educated newcomers looking for work.
Portland has an extensive list of tech companies, startups, and global brands that call the city home, so you can easily find talent for every position you need to fill. Seattle’s location just two hours north gives you an additional resource for personnel and networking, as well as an active pool of angel investors.
Portland’s location in between Mt. Hood and the Pacific Ocean gives you a ton of outdoor activities to choose from. Portlanders love to get out into the forests and rivers to check out the state’s natural beauty. Hiking and camping are serious pastimes in the area, especially when the good summer weather arrives. If you have an outdoorsy startup idea, Portland is the perfect spot.
There’s no sales tax in Oregon, which can make your purchases a little more affordable.
Other cities to consider
There are plenty of other cities and towns that might be perfect for your startup. Some of these spots may not be as blessed with spectacular scenery, while others may be just getting started in attracting startups, but they all have some compelling reasons for you to put them on your short list. These are some of the runners-up for you to check out.
Cleveland has started to reinvent itself, making a dramatic comeback from its Rust Belt days to become a popular tech startup spot. The city is very affordable, especially compared to more established startup cities like Austin and Portland. You can keep your costs down, pay affordable salaries, and be part of Cleveland’s revitalization. StartMart, Jumpstart, and the Ohio Ventures Association can help you get started.
If you want the California lifestyle at a more affordable price, Sacramento might be perfect for you. Sacramento gives you the great weather, diversity, and natural beauty for a fraction of the price of traditional startup spots in the Silicon Valley. California’s capital city is an easy drive from San Francisco, so you’ll have a nearby talent pool of workers who may be drawn to Sacramento’s more laid-back lifestyle. It’s a quick trip to the Sierra Nevada’s best ski spots, Sonoma and Napa county wineries, Lake Tahoe, and Reno for your fun weekend adventures.
Part of the Silicon Prairie, Omaha is one of the best places for startups due to its low cost of living and low startup costs. Rents are low and the city has good support for startups, with plenty of local mentors from Fortune 500 companies, business accelerators, and capital available from groups like the Omaha Small Business Network.
These are some of the best cities to start a business, so give each one a good look and you’ll find the perfect spot.