Welcome back to part two of our “PR and Tech Growth Outside of Silicon Valley” blog post series. In part one, we covered northwestern tech hubs like Seattle and Portland. Then we covered southwestern areas including Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Austin. This week we’ll examine how the Northeast, Southeast and other lesser known spots compete with Silicon Valley to be the leading location for tech innovation.
New York, New York
If there’s one tech hub that could potentially dethrone Silicon Valley, it’s New York City. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made heavy financial investments in technology, created a tech resource website called Digital NYC for startups and hired key people like Rachel Haot as chief digital officer. New York also has one of the most powerful news organizations in the world and strong academic institutions for applied science and engineering, including a new tech-focused school being built on Roosevelt Island. Outside of work, it goes without saying that New Yorkers enjoy an exciting lifestyle and have no trouble finding fun activities to do, making it a very appealing place to live. The one thing holding New York back, according to Inc., isn’t a lack of resources, but people and culture that are more open to innovation and taking risks. Only then can New York overtake Silicon Valley.
Hosting the White House and Congress make Washington, D.C., a major political hub, but the city has evolved into a great tech hub too. The city houses over 1,000 startups and the 1776 tech hub located in downtown Washington acts as a key resource for entrepreneurs and the birth of new ideas. Washington, D.C., also has a number of advantages over Silicon Valley, such as being more open to women working in tech and an abundance of federal government help available. Similar to New York, the mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, sees tech growth as a priority. People love Washington for its extravagant festivals,which outnumber those in every other city in the US, its bike-friendly environment and its diverse culture, making it an ideal place for tech workers to live.
Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts
Boston is a leading tech innovator and considered one of Silicon Valley’s biggest rivals. In addition to Boston, nearby Cambridge has more dedicated research and development space than even San Francisco. Boston’s strengths lie in B2B technologies, big data science, biotech, robot development and its proximity to clients in Europe. Although Boston doesn’t have many big tech household names, social media giant Facebook started at Harvard before Mark Zuckerburg moved the company to the Bay Area. What people enjoy about Boston include its great public transportation system, extravagant sports events, beer and landmarks dating back to the earliest days of America.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a true underdog and one of the fastest growing tech communities in the world. The initial buzz came after Fast Company ranked Charleston as one of the top ten hot tech spots back in 2012 because of its growing popularity in software and Internet technology. With the State Industry Partnership Act, its Seed Fund and the Charleston Digital Corridor acting as a public-private space for tech workers all contributed to Charleston’s tech growth. People come to work here because of Charleston’s ample opportunities for water sports, live theater events, gorgeous scenic countryside and its reputation for being a very friendly city.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans and its people experienced devastating losses after Hurricane Katrina greatly damaged the area. However, instead of letting the hurricane defeat them, the community has revitalized the city as a strong tech sector. The low cost of building a startup, generous tax credits, the Idea Village organization and a culture that encourages entrepreneurship have all done wonders to give the city a second life. Performance of kids in school has gone up since the hurricane hit, so New Orleans makes an extremely good spot for educationally minded startups. The city’s also huge for IT growth and General Electric has invested greatly in the city. Outside of tech, rich history attracts people here along with a vibrant music scene, which was the birthplace of jazz. A port city like San Francisco with lots of cultural diversions, New Orleans attracts many tech workers from the Bay Area too.
The Midwest and Mideast
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City was the first city to get Google Fiber, and contributed to jumpstarting the startup community here. Tech workers who use Google Fiber report it saves them a few minutes of work time each day. The response to Google Fiber also helped create the lesser-known KC Freedom Network too and given those with limited resources the opportunity to build a business. Lifestyle factors people like about Kansas City include the famous underground art scene, how easy it is to getting around, and being a tech sector with affordability to match its growing tech job market.
Des Moines, Iowa
Iowa wasn’t considered much of a tech sector for a while, but that all changed in 2008 when Microsoft opened a new data center there. Although it took until 2012 to build, Microsoft’s presence resulted in strong tech job growth, which motivated Google and Facebook to do the same. Helping Iowa’s tech growth the most is its strong community and angel investors who provide tech workers with strong mentoring skills to help them grow. Des Moines makes a good starting point for entrepreneurs who want to experiment with tech and then go to Silicon Valley. However, many stay here because they love being in a city that has a small town feel and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
To start off, housing in Omaha costs half of what it does in San Francisco, so less money goes to paying rent, utilities and hiring employees, based on a SmartAsset study. All that extra money helps with things like marketing and advertising, key advantages to highlighting startups strengths. Omaha’s charm lies in the fact that startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators can communicate in a more open setting and less crowded area here. People can make bigger decisions with less time and need for approval. Also, since there’s a fraction of startups here compared to San Francisco, companies see much more visibility and find it easier to make headlines. People love Omaha for some of the freshest farmers’ markets in the nation, its impressive art scene, die-hard sports fans and more.
Even more tech hubs exist than what we’ve listed here, such as Minneapolis, Miami and those in foreign countries like China, Russia, and the UK. Nowadays launching the next great startup in Silicon Valley isn’t a must anymore. Creative tech innovators can now work from anywhere with technology being cheaper and more accessible to everyone. Silicon Valley remains a powerful tech hub, but don’t be surprised if another tech sector surpasses it over the next decade. And that’s a good thing because stronger competition benefits everyone and drives tech growth.
I wrote this blog originally for BOCA Communications.