The Start-Up Scene in Washington DC, Chicago, Austin and Seattle
Washington D.C. is going through a growth spurt. Between July 2008-2009, the capital city gained more than 600,000 residents in a just a year; more than in any other one-year period since World War II. But the population in D.C. isn’t the only demographic that’s growing – small businesses are also booming. Only 11% of D.C. residents work for the government. With over 60,000 small businesses in the District, D.C. has the 5th highest concentration of entrepreneurs in the nation, according to the Grasshopper Group. But will the capital city be able to expand its entrepreneurial reach in the coming decade? D.C. tech entrepreneur Kevin Dewalt points D.C.’s strengths, citing that the city has “always had assets for becoming a startup hub: the largest IT customer in the world, government grants, great engineering programs at our regional universities, [and] the most educated workforce in the country.” All are factors that point to D.C.’s next growth spurt – not just in population, but for the opportunities that await entrepreneurs in the Nation’s Capital.
Chicago entrepreneurs are cheering on Groupon. The group coupon site recently made headlines for a potential buyout deal from Google. And put other Chicago start-ups in the spotlight, too. According to the Chicago Tribune, the “local investors and entrepreneurs say Groupon’s visibility brings fresh attention to startup activity that already was humming, bolstering Chicago’s reputation as a place that nurtures new ideas from their earliest stages through maturity.” Entrepreneurs agree. “The last nine to 12 months have been amazing in the sense that the energy and momentum that exists today within the startup community in Chicago is something I have not seen in the last year and a half,” Chicago entrepreneur Ashish Rangnekar said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. But Groupon is not the only tech company in Chicago that has gotten attention, and funding, fromSilicon Valley. 37Signals, Orbitz, Feedburner, Apartments.com, EveryBlock, Threadlessand SitterCity all have their roots in Chicago.
Texas has long prided itself on doing everything bigger and better. But according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, “Austin’s genius is nurturing the power of small.” Small as in small business. The magazine has dubbed Austin as a best city for the next decade. Other accolades include earning the top score in business vitality from Portfolio.com. With a population of 1.7 million and over 38,000 small businesses, there are roughly 24 businesses per 1,000 residents, contributing to Austin’s high ranking. Austin’s small business growth may also help explain why their employment increased 16%, while employment dropped nationwide between 2004-2009. Austin’s amazing stats are backed by plenty of resources that the city has devolved to encourage entrepreneurship. The city’s Small Business Development Program provides assistance and resources to emerging businesses. There are also incubators to help start-ups, including the prestigious Austin Technology Incubator. With a thriving small business scene and city funded resources to boot, one thing is clear – don’t mess with Austin.
If you’re familiar with Picnik, Wetpaint, Zillow, 43 Things, Redfin, Bag Borrow or Steal, and a site about cats and cheezburgers, you’re familiar with the recently successful startups in the Seattle area. But will Seattle continue to be a hub for tech start-ups in the next decade? The Kauffman Foundation thinks so. In a recently released report, the 2010 State New Economy Index ranked states by their support of global, digital businesses that are focused on knowledge and innovation. Washington State ranked second, with only Massachusetts scoring higher. Seattle’s strength, particularly in software and aviation, comes from local powerhouses – Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon.com. These companies have attracted top talent, and some credit these companies’ talented employees with bolstering the startup scene. Are Seattle small business owners surprised? TechFlash blogger John Maher says, “We’ve always been the final frontier for East Coasters, the Pacific Rim and Canada. We’ve always had a healthy share of innovative people eager to build something great.”
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