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The 50 Best U.S. Cities for Starting a Business in 2020
What any business--and any city--can learn from the best places for startups in the U.S.
We have the key to the city--or 50 cities, to be exact. For the 2020 Surge Cities index, Inc. and innovation policy company Startup Genome analyzed troves of data on seven essential indicators--such as early-stage funding and job creation--to determine the 50 best areas for startup growth. In the following dispatches, you'll find a road map for turning forgotten ZIP codes into boomtowns--or simply for answering the age-old question: Where should you go next? From Charleston to Chattanooga, the answers may surprise you.
Leading the nation in job creation and high-growth company density--and delish BBQ.
Salt Lake City
It’s tops for adventure seekers--both the outdoor and indoor variety.
Big tobacco cedes to big money in this emerging Southeast startup hub.
It’s like San Francisco and Palo Alto--but with cows.
You can buy four houses in Boise for the price of one in San Francisco.
Opportunity and optimism still reign in this world-famous startup hub.
In this Southern hotspot, funding takes a back seat to founding.
Come for brand names. Stay for the startup scene--and the beach.
Low costs and low regulations help this desert flower blossom.
Its A-list startup scene just keeps heating up.
The city’s startup ecosystem trails its robust music scene--but only slightly.
It’s brimming with potential--if you can get past the 800-pound gorilla.
Outsized home prices dovetail with generously sized startup checks.
The talent pipeline is chock full and every bit virtuous.
It’s a beacon for food nerds--and fintech founders.
Software engineers earn 15 percent less a year than the U.S. average.
Seekers of fame and fortune still come here--just for different reasons.
It remains a massive healthcare center—but way less sleepy.
The house that Mickey Mouse built is getting some unlikely visitors.
Bold-faced names are paying handsomely to see this city succeed.
The small-town vibe helps founders scale this wide-open space.
Fintech startups don’t need giant banks nearby to succeed, but it helps.
The engineering might in Florida’s panhandle is VC catnip.
It’s the premier startup hot spot for black founders in the South.
It’s a genuine startup haven, say the 19,200 companies founded since January.
This state capital is trading its 10-gallon hat for a 244-acre innovation hub.
The famed agricultural hub is getting a name for growing entrepreneurs, too.
The nation’s capital has plenty of appeal--if you can stand the commute.
This Texas jobs powerhouse is just warming up.
Population trends make this Central Florida hub boomtown U.S.A.
This bastion of blue-collar grit is getting a lift from its tony neighbors.
Ski in the winter, hike in the summer, and start up year round.
This former textile capital nurtured nearly 1,300 new businesses last year.
The startup scene is one part low costs and two parts go-getter.
The local university became the beating heart of this startup community.
Gig City: where approachability meets opportunity.
Startups in other cities are circling around this North Florida hot spot.
Generous incentives and low taxes stack the deck in favor of entrepreneurs.
This city asked its NBA team for an assist on startup investment.
In the Twin Cities’ version of fostering startups, corporate VCs dominate.
The Silicon Beach party is moving upstate.
The state capital’s startup scene lags its South Carolina brethren--for now.
If you want young talent to stay put, buy into their company building.
Early-stage funding remains a bright spot in Ohio’s capital city.
This Texas energy hub is finding growth in top doctors and space travel.
In Pioneer Valley, founders are made, not imported.
The city's growth plans include paying people to move there.
A single tax incentive instantly buoyed Des Moines’s startups.
Startups are growing in this desert community thanks to high-density work spaces.
One massive exit and a slew of government incentives lift this Midwestern hub.
How Startup Genome Selected the 2020 Surge Cities Index:
Over-the-year percent change in the number of jobs from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.
Percentage growth from July 2017 to July 2018.
NET BUSINESS CREATION
Over-the-year percent change in the number of business establishments from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.
RATE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Percentage of adults who are entrepreneurs, including solo-preneurs, regardless of industry or employment status in the 2018 to 2019 period.
Over-the-year percent change in average weekly earnings from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.
HIGH-GROWTH COMPANY DENSITY
Number of high-growth companies for every 100,000 adults, including only Inc. 5000 firms with $2 million in annual revenue and 20% year-over-year growth for three years in 2018 and 2019.
EARLY-STAGE FUNDRAISING DEALS
Number of early-stage funding deals for every 100,000 adults from October 2018 to October 2019.
Inc. has long believed there’s an alchemy that happens when fast-growing companies, innovative activity, and an entrepreneurial environment coalesce in a particular geographic space. Inc. and Startup Genome, an innovation policy company, partnered to create the Surge Cities Index, the definitive ranking of the geography of growth in the U.S.
The Inc. Surge Cities Scores are calculated for the largest 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States, according to February 28, 2013, Office of Management and Budget criteria. We use an equally weighted average of the normalized scores of seven metrics.
Once we had the seven normalized scores, the composite index was then calculated for each MSA by computing an equally weighted average of the seven metrics. Finally, to compute the Surge Cities Score, each metropolitan area was ranked in order of its average composite index score.
On metric rankings: When the data allowed for more detailed/precise metrics (e.g., 2 or 3 decimal points), ties were not present. When the data was less exact, ties were present. For editorial purposes, we did not indicate ties.
Sources: Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and U.S. Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program, Current Population Survey (CPS), American Community Survey (ACS), and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Startup Genome, PitchBook, Inc. 5000
ABOUT STARTUP GENOME
With more than 100 clients across five continents in 38 countries to date, Startup Genome is the top research and policy advisory organization for governments committed to accelerating the success of their startup ecosystem. Read more at startupgenome.com.