Last month Amazon announced it will be building a second company headquarters--dubbed "Amazon HQ2"--somewhere in North America, inviting city and state leaders to submit proposals by October 19. It's a huge opportunity considering this second headquarters is expected to bring with it as many as 50,000 jobs and tens of billions of dollars' worth of investment in whatever community the online ecommerce behemoth chooses. Here are a handful of cities which would make excellent candidates, according to founders who operate there.
According to Chris Treadaway, founder and CEO of Polygraph Media, a Facebook marketing technology and services company:
Austin checks a lot of boxes for Amazon - great quality of life, a more or less business-friendly government, basic transportation infrastructure (especially if built in some of the vast expanses of North Austin land along MetroRail/toll roads), relatively inexpensive real estate by West Coast standards, a city with a commitment to sustainability and an educated workforce. On the talent point, there are a lot of intelligent people in Austin with an action-oriented mindset who have worked in tech companies big and small. UT graduates thousands of people every year and is one of the top public universities in the world. Austin itself is a magnet, attracting talented and creative people from all over the world.
According to Brian Hand, COO of Ocient, developer of massive database management systems:
I've spent the last few weeks recruiting at the world's best engineering schools, several of which are here in the city and all of which are within just a few hours' drive. The University of Illinois alone graduates more computer science grads than Stanford and Berkeley combined. On top of that, we have Illinois Tech, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin. We've met with hundreds of these students, the best of the best, and they all tell us their biggest goal for their first jobs out of college is to go where the biggest challenges are. In other words, they are happy to be in Chicago if they have the opportunity to do something amazing, and I think we can all agree that it's a safe bet that Amazon will continue to push the computing envelope.
According to Chris Ostoich, cofounder of LISNR, an ultrasonic audio communications technology platform:
[W]ork matters to people here. We are largely defined by our craft, whether that is woodworking or e-commerce. What do you get in a place like this is a commitment to the job, the craft, and the organization far beyond what you will get anywhere else. In today's world, employees largely seek the advancement of their own career rather than the organization as a whole. And that's just different here. Amazon has a really unique opportunity to land in a city where talent is first rate, cost-of-living is tough to beat and people are waiting for an opportunity to contribute to a company that has the potential to change everything for everyone.
According to Mark Kvamme, cofounder and partner of Drive Capital, a venture capital firm focused on midwest investments:
I spent my first 50 years in the Silicon Valley. I started my career at Apple Computer at age 19 in 1980. By 2010, I had worked 30 years in the tech industry, with the last 11 years at Sequoia Capital. In November 2010, my good friend John Kasich was elected Governor of Ohio. Ohio was still suffering from the 2008 financial crisis and had lost about 350,000 jobs. Governor Kasich asked me to help him run economic development for the state and privatize the department so it could move at the speed of business not the speed of government. I agreed on one condition: I would take a leave of absence from Sequoia for six months to help him get it started and then return to California. That was six and half years ago and I am still in Ohio.
I came to Columbus to help a friend and stayed because I believe Columbus is at the epicenter of the midwest's economic resurgence with technology innovation being the catalyst. Due to the creation of cloud computing, technology innovators can be located anywhere and have access to the most advanced technological infrastructure with a credit card and an Internet connection. Now it is more important to be close to the customer versus close the technologist to implement the innovations of the future, and Columbus is within a one-day car drive from 60% of the GDP of the US and 60% of its population.
According to Matt Talbot, GoSpotCheck, a mobile SaaS company whose products help large organizations manage their field teams:
There are a variety of logistical points that could be made here--excellent national/international transportation, strong economy, great quality of life--but I think the most important thing is that Denver is a leader in the next wave of great American tech hubs. If Amazon wants to recruit and retain the best talent, Denver is the optimal place for them because of the growth of our young, motivated, and educated workforce that has been drawn to the city over the past few years... [I]f Amazon decides to make Denver their home for HQ2, it will be challenging to go head to head with them from a recruiting perspective. This challenge is a short-term issue though. Over time, the net effect to Denver will be that Amazon can help accelerate Denver's status as a top tier tech hub which will no doubt have a positive impact on our economy and talent pool. Every employer in Denver will share in that influx of talent coming into our economy. At the end of the day, if competition builds demand, and that demand fuels growth, then Denver will be well served.
According to Neil Whitney, cofounder of Menud, a celebrity-curated meal plan app:
The cost of living, quality of life, sincere hospitality, a strong economy, and booming city are all reasons why Nashville would be perfect as home for Amazon HQ2. The universities in Tennessee are producing top-notch engineers and thinkers, and innovators are flocking to Nashville - a city they adore - from all over the country. Amazon HQ2 in Nashville would capitalize on that momentum, while solidifying top tech talent retention for generations. After all, history repeats itself. The healthcare industry created a beachhead in Middle Tennessee, healthcare professionals migrated here and then the industry soared even higher. FedEx created a beachhead for shipping professionals in Western Tennessee, and Memphis allowed FedEx to flourish. I would expect the same with Amazon. Amazon - an industry in of itself - would bolster top tech talent in Nashville, and that talent would allow Amazon to hit its next level.
According to Jason Leffakis, founder of Function4, a professional events marketplace:
Amazon building its second HQ in Pittsburgh means benefiting from the city's dedication to innovation as a means of pulling itself up by its bootstraps. What better reason to choose a city? Pittsburgh is hungry--and has been waiting patiently--for an opportunity of this magnitude to provide the necessary resources (talent, infrastructure, progressive investment capital) to become a true hotbed for technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Amazon would be received incredibly well here (and deeply appreciated), and would join many other great companies that have aligned with Pittsburgh - companies like Google, Apple and Uber.
According to Justin Miller, cofounder and CEO of WedPics, a photo and video sharing wedding app:
For a capital city, Raleigh is relatively inexpensive to live in, while boasting most of the opportunities and events expected in larger metropolitan areas, including pro sports teams, a large college sports scene, great food and drink, and citywide events nearly every weekend. And it's not just here that's great. Being centrally located in the states means a trip to the coast or to the mountains is two hours either direction, and we are able to enjoy all four seasons. Bottom line, Raleigh has all of the feels of a large city with the intimacy of a small town. The tech community specifically is tight knit - rather than the 'watch your back' mentality I've experienced on the west coast, Raleigh is much more about embracing others and working together as a unit to move forward rather than going after each other to advance.