Start-Up Nation: Reading our Map of U.S. Innovation Hubs

There's no single factor behind a thriving start-up culture, but with the help of Atlantic senior editor Richard Florida, Arizona State University's Jose Lobo, and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte's Deborah Strumsky, we've put together a map that allows for a comparative assessment of start-up vitality for 35 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs):

INNOVATION ACROSS AMERICA

An interactive

guide to how

major cities foster

entrepreneurs

  • New York
  • [NYC / Northern New Jersey / Long Island]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 9
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 168
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 97
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 3,600
  • Population With College Degree: 35%
  • Research Centers: Columbia U.
  • Los Angeles
  • [Los Angeles / Long Beach / Santa Ana]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 5
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 90
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 78
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 6,200
  • Population With College Degree: 30%
  • Research Centers: UCLA, USC
  • Chicago
  • [Chicago / Joliet / Naperville]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 14
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 233
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 96
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 2,900
  • Population With College Degree: 33%
  • Research Centers: Northwestern U.
  • Dallas
  • [Dallas / Fort Worth / Arlington]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 6
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 52
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 125
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 2,600
  • Population With College Degree: 30%
  • Philadelphia
  • [Philadelphia / Camden / Wilmington]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 11
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 341
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 74
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 1,500
  • Population With College Degree: 32%
  • Research Centers: U. Pennsylvania
  • Houston
  • [Houston / Sugar Land / Baytown]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 21
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 77
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 69
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 5,800
  • Population With College Degree: 28%
  • Washington, D.C.
  • [Washington / Arlington / Alexandria]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 4
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 182
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 140
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 3,600
  • Population With College Degree: 47%
  • Research Centers: Georgetown U., George Wash. U.
  • Miami
  • [Miami / Fort Lauderdale / Pompano Beach]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 78
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 59
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 186
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 5,400
  • Population With College Degree: 28%
  • Research Centers: U. Miami
  • Atlanta
  • [Atlanta / Sandy Springs / Marietta]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 12
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 39
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 127
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 5,800
  • Population With College Degree: 29%
  • Research Centers: Georgia Tech., Emory U.
  • Boston
  • [Boston / Cambridge / Quincy]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 53
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 515
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 47
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 3,300
  • Population With College Degree: 42%
  • Research Centers: Harvard U., MIT
  • San Francisco
  • [San Francisco / Oakland / Fremont]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 10
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 185
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 15
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 5,500
  • Population With College Degree: 43%
  • Detroit
  • [Detroit / Warren / Livonia]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 63
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 334
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 55
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 2,800
  • Population With College Degree: 26%
  • Riverside, Calif.
  • [Riverside / San Bernardino / Ontario]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 81
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 49
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 207
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 3,200
  • Population With College Degree: 19%
  • Phoenix
  • [Phoenix / Mesa-Glendale]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 23
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 15
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 91
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 3,600
  • Population With College Degree: 27%
  • Research Centers: Arizona State
  • Seattle
  • [Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 2
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 70
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 44
  • Entrepreneurs Per Million People: 1,900
  • Population With College Degree: 37%
  • Research Centers: U. Washington
  • Minneapolis
  • [Minneapolis / St. Paul / Bloomington]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 17
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 247
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 23
  • Population With College Degree: 37%
  • Research Centers: U. Minnesota
  • San Diego
  • [San Diego / Carlsbad / San Marco]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 7
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 72
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 20
  • Population With College Degree: 34%
  • Research Centers: U.C. San Diego
  • St. Louis
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 33
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 464
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 182
  • Population With College Degree: 28%
  • Research Centers: Washington U. St. Louis
  • Tampa, Fla.
  • [Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 35
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 53
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 184
  • Population With College Degree: 25%
  • Research Centers: U. South Florida
  • Baltimore
  • [Baltimore / Towson]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 32
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 406
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 89
  • Population With College Degree: 34%
  • Research Centers: Johns Hopkins U., U. Maryland
  • Denver
  • [Denver / Aurora / Broomfield]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 18
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 48
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 105
  • Population With College Degree: 37%
  • Research Centers: U. Colorado Denver
  • Pittsburgh
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 46
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 757
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 160
  • Population With College Degree: 28%
  • Research Centers: Carnegie Mellon U.
  • Portland, Ore.
  • [Portland / Vancouver / Hillsboro]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 27
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 450
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 25
  • Population With College Degree: 33%
  • Research Centers: Portland State
  • Sacramento, Calif.
  • [Sacramento / Arden-Arcade / Roseville]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 54
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 88
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 120
  • Population With College Degree: 30%
  • Research Centers: U.C. Davis
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • [San Jose / Sunnyvale / Santa Clara]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 1
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 125
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 1
  • Population With College Degree: 43%
  • Research Centers: Stanford U.
  • Austin, Texas
  • [Austin / Round Rock / San Marcos]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 20
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 16
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 9
  • Population With College Degree: 39%
  • Research Centers: U. Texas Austin
  • New Orleans
  • [New Orleans / Metairie-Kenner]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 105
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 140
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 172
  • Population With College Degree: 25%
  • Research Centers: Tulane U.
  • Salt Lake City
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 34
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 28
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 128
  • Population With College Degree: 30%
  • Rochester, N.Y.
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 55
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 270
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 19
  • Population With College Degree: 31%
  • Research Centers: U. Rochester; RIT
  • Huntsville, Ala.
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 22
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 69
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 167
  • Population With College Degree: 34%
  • Research Centers: U. Alabama Huntsville
  • Rochester, Minn.
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 114
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 372
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 2
  • Population With College Degree: 34%
  • Research Centers: Mayo Clinic
  • Burlington, Vt.
  • [Burlington / South Burlington]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 90
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No.527
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 3
  • Population With College Degree: 38%
  • Research Centers: U. Vermont
  • Boise, Idaho
  • [Boise City / Nampa]
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 65
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No.120
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 4
  • Population With College Degree: 28%
  • Research Centers: Boise State
  • Boulder, Colo.
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No.
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No.34
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 6
  • Population With College Degree: 57%
  • Research Centers: U. Colorado Boulder
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • High-Tech Economy Ranking (Milken): No. 57
  • Startup-Birthrate Ranking: No. 158
  • Accepted-Patents Ranking: No. 26
  • Population With College Degree: 29%
  • Research Centers: U. Arizona
Map by Alex Miel, text by Brian Resnick

Here's how to read it:

    Milken High-Tech Economy Ranking: Using 2007 Data, the Milken Institute ranks North American metropolitan regions on their ability to sustain technological industries. The ranking is out of 393 regions and is compiled from an algorithm which combines the regions' share of North American wages, regions' share of North American employment, and other geographic factors. Citation: North America's High-Tech Economy: The Geography of Knowledge-Based Industries

    Start-Up-Birthrate Ranking: Start-up birthrate is calculated by dividing the number of new establishments with 20 or fewer employees (start-ups) by the initial number of establishments with 20 or fewer employees. The rankings on the map are out of 939 MSAs. However, it is important to note that a high birthrate does not necessarily imply overall business growth (start-up death rate can also be calculated). What it does suggest are the areas of the country were people are taking risks on new business ideas. Citation: 2008 data from the U.S. Businesses Division of the Census Bureau

    Start-Up NationAccepted-Patents Ranking: Patents can take several years to process, which makes accepted patent per 100,000 residents a good lagging measure of innovation. The disclaimer here is that a high number of patents per capita is not the perfect proxy for start-up development. For instance, Corvallis Oregon has one of the highest per capita accepted patent rates (No. 12 in 2008). But most of the patent there stems from Hewlett Packard, not start-ups. We chose accepted patents rather than submitted patents per capita to better reflect invention quality. Ranking is out of 365 metropolitan statistical areas. Citation: Patent database assembled by Deborah Strumsky (UNC-Charlotte) and Jose Lobo (Arizona State University).

    Entrepreneurs Per Million People: The Kauffman foundation publishes a yearly report on entrepreneurial activity, and calculates a ratio of first-time business owners (entrepreneurs) to the general population. The report provides data for the top 15 largest MSAs. Citation: Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity: 1996-2010

    Population With College Degrees: It's not enough to have inventions, entrepreneurs, and a thriving high-tech environment, start-ups need qualified labor. The higher percentage of the population with advanced degrees, the larger the pool of top-tier workers. Citation: U.S. census data on highest levels of educational attainment.

    Research Centers: Research universities can play a key role in driving innovation in their own backyards. Graduate students tend to start companies with support (data storage, computing power, professors' advice) from the university. Faculty members tend to be early financial backers and can provide critical introductions to venture capital. The schools themselves sometimes take a stake in promising start-ups. It all adds up to a virtuous cycle that can benefit both the entrepreneurs and the research centers.
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Brian Resnick is a staff correspondent at National Journal and a former producer of The Atlantic's National channel.

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