America’s 6 Fastest-Growing On-the-Rise Startup Hubs

By    April 22, 2014

John Curtis

In the startup world, places like Silicon Valley and New York City are sharks in a pond full of smaller fish. Yet despite being dwarfed by the sharks, many of the smaller fish are swimming along just fine.

“From Silicon Valley in California to Silicon Alley in New York, it may seem that those areas have cornered the market on tech genius, but don’t be fooled,” Entrepreneur.com reported in 2012. “The Internet is decentralizing business, allowing entrepreneurs to build smart, lean businesses in far-flung places.”

On the Rise
SpareFoot went fishing to find out which of these “far-flung places” are rocking the boat. We wound up netting a list of America’s Six Fastest-Growing On-the-Rise Startup Hubs.

To be considered for our list, a metro area had to:

  • Have a population of less than 1 million as of July 31, 2013.
  • Be among the top 20 metro areas for venture capital activity per 100,000 residents in 2012, as ranked by the Martin Prosperity Institute.
  • Post one-year population growth of at least 1 percent from 2012 to 2013, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

All six of the metro areas on our list are home to major universities. Furthermore, three of the areas on our list recently ranked among the top 10 areas in the U.S. for overall well-being of residents, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Why is SpareFoot publishing this list? SpareFoot helps people find storage units. One of the main reasons that people seek storage is because they’re moving. Thus, we often publish lists that highlight places where people might want to move, such as the six startup hubs on this list.

brigham young university

Brigham Young University helps fuel Provo’s status as a startup hub.

The ‘Magic’ of Provo
John Curtis, mayor of the top-ranked place on our list, Provo, UT, said people are moving to his city to be part of “the magic that we’re experiencing here.”

“Our city was founded on the entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s still present,” Curtis (pictured in top photo) told The SpareFoot Blog. “The citizens are motivated by improving the quality of life for themselves along with others around the world.”

Curtis said people outside Provo don’t realize it’s the “polyglot” capital of the world, “meaning we have more people that speak more languages in one city than any other.” That stems, in part, from the presence of Mormon-backed Brigham Young University; many students there take two-year breaks from their studies to serve as Mormon missionaries around the world.

“Most of our residents have spent time in other places and have a deep sense of stewardship in making life as enjoyable as possible,” the mayor said. “It’s the same reason we are first in volunteerism and rate the highest in well-being.”

Six Hot Startup Hubs
With Provo leading the way, here is SpareFoot’s list of America’s Six Fastest-Growing On-the-Rise Startup Hubs.

1. Provo, UT

Provo UT

One-year population growth: 2.2 percent
July 31, 2012, population: 550,230
July 31, 2013, population: 562,239
Amount of venture capital per 100,000 residents: $30.7 million
Ranking for venture capital per 100,000 residents: No. 9
Major university: Brigham Young University

2. Fort Collins, CO 

Fort Collins CO

One-year population growth: 1.7 percent
July 31, 2012, population: 310,686
July 31, 2013, population: 315,988
Amount of venture capital per 100,000 residents: $15.9 million
Ranking for venture capital per 100,000 residents: No. 14
Major university: Colorado State University

3. Boulder, CO 

Boulder CO

One-year population growth: 1.6 percent
July 31, 2012, population: 305,297
July 31, 2013, population: 310,048
Amount of venture capital per 100,000 residents: $86.9 million
Ranking for venture capital per 100,000 residents: No. 3
Major university: University of Colorado

4. Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara CA

One-year population growth: 1.2 percent
July 31, 2012, population: 430,426
July 31, 2013, population: 435,697
Amount of venture capital per 100,000 residents: $59.1 million
Ranking for venture capital per 100,000 residents: No. 5
Major university: University of California, Santa Barbara

5. Lawrence, KS

Lawrence KS

One-year population growth: 1.1 percent
July 31, 2012, population: 113,043
July 31, 2013, population: 114,322
Amount of venture capital per 100,000 residents: $40.8 million
Ranking for venture capital per 100,000 residents: No. 6
Major university: University of Kansas

6. Madison, WI 

Madison WI

One-year population growth: 1.1 percent
July 31, 2012, population: 620,740
July 31, 2013, population: 627,431
Amount of venture capital per 100,000 residents: $11.5 million
Ranking for venture capital per 100,000 residents: No. 20
Major university: University of Wisconsin

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Martin Prosperity Institute 

Note: While the percentage of population growth for Lawrence and Madison is the same, Madison overall ranked one notch below Lawrence because of the difference in per-capita venture capital investment between the two metro areas.

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

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