Hands up who hates Silicon Valley and the over-priced, over-exposed cesspit of stifled innovation it has become? From ludicrous property and rental prices to herds of gurus, ninjas, rock stars, roaming from startup to unicorn and back again, the whole valley scene is rapidly becoming a sordid parody. One that’s increasingly a case of too much politics and which investors you know and not how good an idea is, which all make it seem like the ideal time to expand your startup horizons and move on.
But where? In the distributed working age, the logical choice for many is to head to the cloud and become an online entity, working with the best that the global market has to offer. However, that doesn’t sit well with typical investors who like to see boots on the ground and be able to watch companies grow and their products boom. Many are also leaving the U.S. entirely and heading overseas. Hong Kong and China are where much of the action is at, while some head to London or Paris where innovation and startup culture is at an earlier stage, allowing hard-bitten types to relive how Silicon Valley used to be.
Meet the Silicon Valley Wannabes
However, for the majority, an internal flight is all that’s needed to find a new place to call home for their next big tech startup. Meet the candidates vying to be the next big technology incubator and hub.
Texas always likes to do things big and the state capital’s technology hub is home to a growing number of tech startups and businesses. It offers plenty of local venture capital sources, putting in around $1 billion of funding per year. There is a growing pool of local talent, good universities and established tech firms like Dell, Rackspace and other major IT players helping attract established talent that can go on to build the next generation of startups. Austin has plenty of affordable housing, a booming music and social scene, and is a motor sports mecca thanks to the Circuit of the Americas, bringing global sponsors into town thanks to MotoGP and Formula One races.
Technology loves triangles, and the intersection of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill provides a perfect range of business, population areas and opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs. With a famous range of universities including North Carolina State, Duke and University of North Carolina, there’s a natural synergy between education and startup culture with plenty of new and old money mingling to fund the next big things. Anyone can use the Raleigh startup map to see who’s hiring or funding. From drone technology to IoT and smarter data centers, there’s a bit of everything going on in North Carolina and it has all the infrastructure and connections to help build a burgeoning startup scene.
If your planned startup business has an environmental theme, then there are several places outside the usual hubs that are attracting eco-tech, bio-tech and green business startups. Colorado with its amazing scenery, pristine lakes and rivers and strong sense of environmentalism is one of the leading green hubs. The University of Colorado is releasing new generations of smart, planet-aware thinkers and business leaders, and the state is among the top 10 when it comes to solar power adoption. There are plenty of startup businesses showing the fruits of their labor in Colorado and the state has seen funding almost double in recent years as more investors look to round out their green portfolios. Even if you don’t give a damn about the planet, Colorado remains the place to be if you want the best skiing in the States, which will always attract a certain type of worker.
Never mind the TV series and the music, technology is the driving beat behind Nashville’s recent growth, with some of the fastest growing counties in the country benefiting from expanding IT businesses and a fresh wave of spin-offs and startups. With low housing costs, there are huge opportunities in the south, and some startups are driven by music, with a strong focus on education, health and services.
If your snowboarding startup buddies want to head to Colorado, then an equal number of surfers would consider Hawaii a fine destination. A state with heavy ties to the military, there is plenty of stealthy startup activity going on, plus all the perks of the beaches, surf and stunning landscapes. While still in an embryonic phase for regular startups, there is a growing community, and nothing stopping the young and smart from working in their beach shorts, and using the cloud to link to the world
Heading north of the border for our final option, if the Americanisms of the startup and tech scene are getting you down, then its more polite Canadian equivalent may be a top destination. It stretches from the urbane Toronto along a 70 mile stretch of road to Kitchener-Waterloo. The plan seems to rely on a new rail link to connect all the locations, but in principle, will have everything a technology hub needs with big businesses already thriving, plenty of aspirational companies already setting up and the backing of Canada’s business capital behind it all. Toronto represents North America’s third largest ICT center already beating the likes of Boston, LA and Chicago, which should make it an ideal place to set up shop.