Last year, tech observer Dan Blacharski declared that Silicon Valley had become obsolete. Plenty of tech entrepreneurs, investors and executives—particularly those in the land of Apple and Google—would take issue with that bold statement.
Still, a strong case could be made that the universe of tech startups does not revolve around Silicon Valley. In fact, Blacharski maintains that cheap, reliable cloud-based technology has enabled tech startups to start up in a lot of places outside the cradle of the U.S. tech industry.
“When we think of high-tech innovation and startup culture, traditionally a handful of cities always come to mind. But today, there’s a different story emerging,” Blacharski, editor in chief of Techie.com, said in a news release. “High-tech development and innovation is being democratized, and midmarket cities throughout the U.S. are rolling out new tech parks, incubators and programs designed to encourage tech development.”
In the spirit of the democratization of tech startups, we’ve come up with a list of America’s Top 5 Under-the-Radar Tech Hubs. Clearly, you won’t find a Silicon Valley or a San Francisco or an Austin on our list.
The Method Behind the Ranking
To compile this list, we looked at midsize metro areas (500,000 to 1 million residents) that appeared in a 2013 report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on entrepreneurship. The report zeroed in on the density of tech startups in U.S. metro areas of all sizes.
If a midsize metro area scored at least two positive rankings in the report’s various categories, it qualified for our list. We then whittled the final list to five. To rank the tech hubs, we considered how many rankings each area received, along with how high each ranking was. For this list, we weeded out places like Provo, UT, that are on practically everybody’s radar these days.
Now that we’ve got the formalities out of the way, here is SpareFoot’s list of America’s Top 5 Under-the-Radar Tech Hubs.
1. Boise, ID
Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic
Metro area population: 650,288 (July 2013)
Population growth: 3.6 percent (July 2010-July 2013)
Major university: Boise State University
Big-name corporate employers: Hewlett-Packard, J.R. Simplot, Micron Technology
Job growth: 2.1 percent (March 2013-March 2014)
Unemployment rate: 5.5 percent (March 2014)
Major accolades: Ranked among 10 Most Unexpected Cities for High-Tech Innovation (Techie.com); No. 1, Best Cities for Jobs (spring 2013, Forbes.com); No. 12, America’s Top 100 Places to Live (Livability.com); No. 11, Best Places for Raising a Family (Forbes.com); No. 1, Best Cities to Move to in 2014 (SML); No. 8, Best Cities for Savvy Young Families (CreditDonkey.com)
Tech startup players: Boise Valley Economic Partnership, Boise Young Professionals, StartupBoise
Tech startup stars: Meal Ticket, Klowd.com, Social Good Network
Why Boise is a great place for startups: “Our area has a strong history of technology talent and innovation . … There is a strong talent base with a lot of innovative companies and startups popping up.”—Lisa Bloomquist, marketing manager, Boise Valley Economic Partnership
Note: Top photo shows Idaho Capitol and downtown Boise
#2 Des Moines, IA
#3 Little Rock, AR
#4 Baton Rouge, LA
#5 Portland, ME