Best Places to Live

2016 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 economic development team at Livability. 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.

  • 11

    Decatur, GA

    Population: 20,605
    City of Decatur

    Only eight miles from Atlanta, Decatur entrepreneurs have all the same resources available to them as they would in the big city. Helpful organizations include Access to Capital, Avid Entrepreneurship, Emory Entrepreneurship & Venture Management, Entrepreneurship Center of the Urban League, and Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative Atlanta. Yes, it might be smaller than most of the cities on this list, but it's still an amazing place to live. How great? We also named it one of the 100 Best Small Towns in America.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 16%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 7%

  • 12

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Population: 190,679
    CountyLemonade - flickr.com

    Entrepreneurs in Salt Lake City have multiple options for acquiring startup assistance, including efforts like Grow Utah Startup Connectory, SLCircle, and Entrepreneur Launch Pad. Salt Lake City’s startup proficiency is quickly giving SLC a reputation as “The Silicon Valley of the Wasatch Range Corridor.”

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 5%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 11%

  • 13

    Minneapolis, MN

    Population: 399,950

    Courtesy of Dustin Gaffke under a CC 4.0 license.

    Minneapolis is one of nine tech hubs in North America that are part of the “Google for Entrepreneurs” network. Also available to innovators in Minneapolis are options such as the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, Minnesota Small Business Development Center, and the Don McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 16%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 13%

  • 14

    Alexandria, VA

    Population: 149,315
    Photo by Flickr user sikeri

    Convenient to startups in Alexandria is the Entrepreneurs’ Organization as well as Entrepreneur Center @ Northern Virginia Technology Center, while several successful local fledgling companies such as Infinite Technologies, SNA International and Potomac Riverboat Company got their starts at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center. Alexandria also has one of the 10 Best Downtowns in America 2016.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 5%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 2%

  • 15

    Orlando, FL

    Population: 256,738
    Photo by Ricardo Mangual via a Creative Commons license from Flickr

    Located in Orlando’s Fashion Square is the National Entrepreneurship Center, while the city also assists innovators with programs like 1 Million Cups Orlando, IQ Orlando, and The Blackstone Launchpad. In addition, a Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership is available to anyone at the University of Central Florida.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 17%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 3%

  • 16

    Silver Spring, MD

    Population: 77,460
    Greater Silver Spring Chamber

    Thirty minutes north of Washington D.C. is Silver Spring, MD, one of the largest business hubs in the area. With new coworking spaces like I/O Spaces, and a strong base of successful corporations and highly-educated residents, entrepreneurs will find a healthy and motivated support system in Silver Spring.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 11%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 14%

  • 17

    Columbus, OH

    Population: 824,663

    Courtesy of Stephen Wolfe under a CC 2.0 license.

    There’s a lot of green in Ohio, and we don’t mean fields. Columbus is leading the way in the state’s new wave of startups, thanks in large part to many large brands headquartered there; it's relatively close proximity to 125 Fortune 500 companies; the efforts of Governor John Kasich to bring in talent from Silicon Valley; and the presence of THE Ohio State University.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 12%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 34%

  • 18

    Lincoln, NE

    Population: 269,726

    Courtesy of Overduebook under a CC 4.0 license.

    Lincoln is ranked among the top cities in America for Young Entrepreneurs, and a tip of the hat goes to the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska for helping many of them get their start. (It's also the reason we named Lincoln one of the 10 Best College Towns 2015.) Other assets available to startup seekers in Lincoln include Invest Nebraska, The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, and the Southeast Community College Entrepreneurship Center.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 15%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 14%

  • 19

    Kansas City , MO

    Population: 467,990
    Courtesy of Visit Kansas City

    Helping to grow the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is Kansas City Startup Village, whose success stories include the recent launch of such companies as Backstitch, CaddyX, Fox Web Creations and Idle Smart. Kansas City also has counseling for the creative through efforts such as KCSourceLink and The Kauffman Foundation.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 17%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 12%

  • 20

    Ithaca, NY

    Population: 30,565

    Courtesy of Matt Hintsa under a CC 4.0 license.

    The entrepreneurial culture of Ithaca is bolstered by a number of associations and companies that assist startups to get their businesses launched. One such organization is LaunchNY, while others include Ithaca Venture Community, Entrepreneurship@Cornell, and Cayuga Venture Fund.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 14%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 10%