Few people realize it these days, but the name “Silicon Valley” has been a household word since before Microsoft, before Apple computers even existed.
The name itself actually goes all the way back to 1971; when writer Don Hoefler first used it to describe the Southern portion of San Francisco’s Bay Area. And in that fact lies the real secret to Silicon Valley’s success; that the area didn’t become known for technology just because of a single company’s success or one person’s bright idea.
Instead, it’s taken decades of deliberate and careful planning—a collective effort to build the legal and political infrastructure necessary to support high-tech industry … it took old-fashioned social clubs like the “Homebrew Computer Club” along with the development of Stanford Industrial Park and so many other factors—
In short, it was no mean feat creating the Silicon Valley we know today. But the area’s also reaping the fruits of its hard work …
Now, today, Silicon Valley alone accounts for a whopping one-third of all Venture Capital investments in the country. The area is home to dozens of major companies, hundreds of successful companies and thousands upon thousands of startups. As a testament to the area’s success, San Francisco has one of the country’s best job markets … and one of its most expensive real estate markets.
But they’re not alone in their tech success.
Other American cities have been watching, they’ve seen the successes of Silicon Valley, and they’ve been working for years to emulate that success in various hotspots all over the country.
For entrepreneurs and new tech workers alike, these cities can offer the same explosive potential as California’s Silicon Valley—just without the massive price of admission. You can expect less local competition, more breathing room, and a completely different local flavor.
So let’s take a look at America’s “Silicon Cities:” The Country’s 6 best Tech Havens …
#6 Boston, Mass
Boston is an easy in here, since the city contains a whopping 53 institutions of higher learning in its 48 square miles.
That massive edge in higher learning gives Boston a natural leg-up in complex fields of emerging technology, like Biotech and high-end software. The city’s Department of Innovation & Technology is proof of their commitment to go out of their way supporting local business.
The culture is a distinct one, but it’s also endearing, and there’s plenty to do in and around the city.
#5 Raleigh, NC
We’ll admit a bit of a bias on this one since a member of our team is from Raleigh, but the proof of the city’s successful tech industry is pretty obvious. Where Boston has dozens of colleges, Raleigh has just a few—but one of them is North Carolina State University, offering some of the country’s best tech-oriented programs.
Combined with adjacent cities Durham & Chapel Hill (and the universities within), the area is home to the Research Triangle Park, one of the world’s largest research parks and a phenomenal place for more academic tech pursuits.
#4 Portland, OR
If you can get past the hipster stigma (or perhaps if that’s your cup of tea), you’ll find that Portland can be an exceedingly open-minded and friendly place to work for cutting-edge tech companies.
Already nicknamed “Silicon Forest” the area of greater Portland is home to Xerox, Hewlett Packard, Epson, and a number of other major tech companies and manufacturers. It’s also home to Intel’s largest and most sophisticated campus, meaning that the ‘Silicon’ moniker is more than just a clever comparison here …
#3 Baltimore, MD
Baltimore gets a bit of a bad rap these days, thanks in no small part to shows like the Wire, but in reality it’s not a bad city to set up shop.
While there aren’t many major tech companies in the city, it’s still home to dozens of small, esoteric, but fast-growing companies like Fuhu, Superfish, Crescendo Bioscience and more. If you’re ready to do the work and redefine the tech industry one day at a time … Baltimore is a perfect place to do it. The seafood alone makes the place worthwhile.
#2 Austin, Texas
Emerging as a Southern epicenter for tech and small businesses, Austin has earned the title of “Top Innovative City” from Forbes, and is home to all sorts of major companies; from 3M to Cisco Systems, AMD microprocessors, Samsung Group and dozens more.
Called “Silicon Hills” by the locals, Austin’s also home to thriving real estate, medical, and public sectors, offering impressive opportunities across the board.
#1 Washington, DC
One of the world’s biggest tech addicts—the US Federal Government—happens to attract an impressive variety of the top government tech giants. So much so that people are wondering whether or not the government will continue to be more prominent than the area’s tech sector, named “#1 New Tech Hot Spot” by Forbes back in 2013.
With extremely competitive tech incentives a growing “critical mass” of startups and talent, DC residents and local politicians hope that the tech sector will revitalize some of the area’s rougher neighborhoods and usher in a new era of Capitol City competitiveness.
The Hidden, Deciding Factor
And this list is by no means comprehensive.
There are easily dozens of American cities with impressive tech prospects and appealing lifestyle opportunities. But the real question—the deciding factor here—is finding the right culture for both your business and your employees.
For Silicon Valley this was never any problem. The area was always home to some of the world’s most curious and tech-friendly people, going all the way back to their thriving HAM radio community and beyond. Silicon Valley had that perfect mix of inquisitive culture, good infrastructure, and reliable support.
And while most of the cities on our list weren’t quite so lucky, they’re also not too far off from figuring out the formula … they’re adapting it to fit their culture and creating their own, unique version of Silicon Valley success right in their own back yard …
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