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.

  • 41

    Reno, NV

    Population: 234,161

    Nicknamed the “Biggest Little City in the World,” entrepreneurs with big ideas in Reno can easily find help for their big plans. Entrepreneurs Assembly Inc. along with Social Entrepreneurs Inc. are two popular options, while The Innevation Center and the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship have also been successful in converting ideas into brands.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 11%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 16%

  • 42

    Asheville, NC

    Population: 86,789

    Courtesy of Melinda Stuart under a CC 2.0 license.

    Venture forth with your creative ideas at places like Venture Asheville, which connects startups to talent, mentors and investors. Also sparking entrepreneurs in Asheville are entities like AdvantageWest Entrepreneurship, A-B Tech Enka, and Spark Tank.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 7%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 9%

  • 43

    Iowa City, IA

    Population: 71,832

    Courtesy of Alan Light under a CC 2.0 license.

    Iowa City isn't just a great place to start a business, it's also just a great place to live, and has been included on our 100 Best Places to Live list three years in a row, now. The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center offers excellent collaboration opportunities for Iowa City innovators. Also available are I-Envision, the Iowa Small Business Development Center, and the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 10%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 10%

  • 44

    Albany, NY

    Population: 98,468
    Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Now brewing in Albany is a new 1 Million Cups morning entrepreneurial meet club that helps startups improve their business plans. Also serving New York’s state capital region are efforts like StartUp Tech Valley, Startup Grind Albany, and Albany Startup Meetup.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 11%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 10%

  • 45

    Norman, OK

    Population: 117,353
    Courtesy of Visit Norman

    In one of the most interestingly-named groups in the U.S., Wisdompreneurs Oklahoma has monthly meetings to counsel innovative newcomers in whatever areas they need. Also helpful are the University of Oklahoma Center for Entrepreneurship and Oklahoma StrengthsFinder Network.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 14%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 12%

  • 46

    Tallahassee , FL

    Population: 187,024
    Courtesy of Matt Johnson under a CC 4.0 license.

    Celebrating 20 years of helping the creative class in Tallahassee is the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship. Other startup assistance includes Tallahassee Business Resources and Tallahassee Entrepreneurs Network. Tallahassee is also a diverse city, being named the Best City in America for African Americans.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 17%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 23%

  • 47

    Hoboken, NJ

    Population: 52,452
    View of NYC from Hoboken, NJ.

    Courtesy of Tiago under a CC 4.0 license.

    According to an article aptly titled “Hobokentrepreneurs,” small business in the New Jersey city has come to fill the void left behind by large industry. In fact, the time has never been better for entrepreneurs in Hoboken, with resources for prospective innovators including NJ Tech Meetup, NJ Social Entrepreneurship Network, and LaunchNJ.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 16%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 13%

  • 48

    Oklahoma City , OK

    Population: 610,672
    Courtesy of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce

    OKC Entrepreneurship Group has more than 1,600 members who can provide advice to blossoming innovators on a variety of subjects. Other resources in the area include GrowInOKC, SCORE Oklahoma City, Entrepreneur of Faith, and REI Women’s Business Center for Oklahoma Entrepreneurs.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 16%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 11%

  • 49

    Boise, ID

    Population: 214,196
    Idaho Tourism

    Boise is a growing city with a growing entrepreneurial scene, and organizations assisting this growth include Trailhead, which has helped such startups as Animo, OmniGo! Events and IonVR. Other resources include Idaho Entrepreneurs, Boise Entrepreneurs, and Startup Grind Boise.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 7%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 2%

  • 50

    Bellevue, WA

    Population: 134,630
    Courtesy of

    The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce oversees Bellevue Entrepreneur Center and the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, while other networking options within the community include Bellevue Entrepreneurs and an Entrepreneurship Program offered at Bellevue College. Aside from these great resources, Bellevue also an amazing quality of life, which has lead it to be named one of the 100 Best Places to Live three years in a row, now.

    Business Growth (2011-2015): 7%

    Employment Growth (2011-2015): 19%