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Best Cities for Entrepreneurs

What makes a city a great place for entrepreneurs? To be way too broad: A lot of things. And a lot of different things than we normally look at when deciding our top 10s and top 100s. We know that you can never totally separate a place into where you live and work, but usually our rankings tilt toward the quality-of-life side of things.

When Entrepreneur magazine came to us, asking if we could assist them in finding the 50 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs, we consulted our friends at our sibling site, which focuses on economic development. We talked about how great places to live attract great people and attract the businesses that want to hire them. All of these things are inarguably related. We dipped into our database and pulled out both economic indicators and quality of life indicators to create a ranking of great places to start a business -- in places workers will want to live.

We analyzed 17 economic indicators for more than 2,200 cities with populations greater than 20,000. These included: the growth in businesses and employees from 2011-2015; the city's unemployment rate; the number of venture capital deals in the past 10 years; the city's business tax rate; how much funding business owners received from SBA and 7(a) loans; the percentage of college-educated locals; the accessibility to high-speed broadband; projected household income growth between 2015-2020; and how much money residents spend within their community, as opposed to outside of it.

Of course, we also included our LivScore (which measures livability, see the full methodology for each city). That score is the distillation of 45 factors including further economic measures as well as amenities, demographics, infrastructure and more. Together this becomes more than just a business list. It factors in both sides of the coin. These are 50 great cities to start a business, and to live in while it grows and thrives.

  • Rankings

    • 31
      Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA

      Cambridge Massachusetts

      Population: 106,844

      A veritable cornucopia of startup assistance is accessible to entrepreneurs in Cambridge and the surrounding region. Options include Boston Entrepreneurs’ Network, Cambridge Entrepreneur Academy, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and The Possible Project Makerplace.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 17%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): -17%

    • 32
      Manhattan Town Center

      Manhattan Kansas

      Population: 55,112

      An annual Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge occurs each year in Manhattan on the campus of Kansas State University, while other avenues for local innovators to explore include Growing Kansas Entrepreneurs (offered by the chamber), Kansas Entrepreneurial Center, and the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 10%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 47%

    • 33
      A popular nightlife spot, Ocean Drive, in South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida.

      Miami Beach Florida

      Population: 90,669

      There may not be a more suitable place to wear sandals to a board meeting on this list than Miami Beach. Twice named one of our 100 Best Places to Live, the city packs a lot into its seven square miles. World class museums, the pastel-colored art deco architecture, the beach: It's almost hard to imagine any business gets done here. Another reason to set up shop? Miami Beach is one of the Best Cities for Singles in the US.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 15%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 7%

    • 34
      Downtown Tempe, AZ at twilight

      Tempe Arizona

      Population: 166,975

      Join the club, entrepreneurs – specifically Club E-Tempe, with the “E” standing for Entrepreneur. Other local organizations anxious to help business owners include Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation, Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders, and Arizona State University Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 11%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 2%

    • 35
      Trinity River Trails in Fort Worth, TX

      Fort Worth Texas

      Population: 778,573

      Technically speaking, Tech Fort Worth has a stellar track record of helping startups with a high potential for success. Other noteworthy local assistance groups include Launch DFW, IDEA Works FW, Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, and Neeley Entrepreneurship Center at Texas Christian University.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 7%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 3%

    • 36
      Nashville, Tennessee skyline

      Nashville Tennessee

      Population: 624,261

      The success stories are too many to mention coming out of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, which is one of nine “Google for Entrepreneurs” tech hubs in North America. Also available to innovators in Music City is the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Nashville, as well as 20 (yes, 20) colleges and universities with innovation programs.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 11%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 18%

    • 37
      Rochester Minnesota

      Rochester Minnesota

      Population: 109,252

      Helping to drive the future economy of Rochester is the Rochester Entrepreneur Network, which schedules several get-togethers for business owners. Also in this thriving city are organizations such as BioAM, Entrepreneurship Journey Committee, and the annual Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week. Add to it that Rochester has been named one of 100 Best Places to Live three years in a row (including the #1 spot in 2016), and you have one of the best all-around cities on this list.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 10%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 3%

    • 38
      The University of Cincinnati College of Engineering

      Cincinnati Ohio

      Population: 297,117

      The Queen City has a regal amount of innovation-assisting opportunities, including efforts like Queen City Angels, CincyTech, The Brandery, and HCDC. Also available is a MORTAR program targeted to urban entrepreneurs looking to build businesses along with communities.

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 17%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 33%

    • 39
      Skyline of Corvallis, OR

      Corvallis Oregon

      Population: 54,735

      A drug developed by an Oregon State University scientist to treat patients infected with the Ebola virus was funded with help from the Austin Entrepreneurship Program. Other local efforts include Startup Corvallis, The Business Enterprise Center, and RAIN (Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network).

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 16%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 12%

    • 40
      Biking in Downtown Madison, WI

      Madison Wisconsin

      Population: 239,848

      Named one of our 100 Best Places to Live three years in a row, Madison has all kinds of programs are available to entrepreneurs. Capital Entrepreneurs has a successful history of advising startups. Other notable resources include Merlin Mentors, Wisconsin Technology Council, and the Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community. 

      Business Growth (2011-2015): 5%

      Employment Growth (2011-2015): 8%


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