Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
Our first in a series examining the changing geography of venture capital and high-tech companies.
Author's note: Start-up companies are a driving force in high-tech innovation and economic growth. Venture capital-backed companies like Intel, Apple, Genentech, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have powered the rise of whole new industries and shaped the way we live and work. Silicon Valley has long been the world's center for high-tech start-ups. Over the next few weeks, I'll be looking at the new geography of venture capital and high-tech start-ups and the rise of new start-up cities in the United States. I'll be also track to what degree start-up communities are shifting from their traditional locations in the suburbs to urban centers.
America's start-up geography, with its well-established high-tech clusters in Silicon Valley and along Boston's Route 128, as well as more recent concentrations in urban centers like San Francisco and lower Manhattan, has been much discussed.
But what does the world's start-up geography look like? What are the major start-up cities across the globe?
Up until now, good data on the geography of start-ups outside the United States has been very hard, if not impossible, to come by. That's why a relatively new ranking of start-up cities across the globe by SeedTable is so interesting. SeedTable is a discovery platform that's built on the open-source database of more than 100,000 technology companies, investors, and entrepreneurs available at CrunchBase (one of the TechCrunch publications). SeedTable has information on more than 42,500 companies founded since 2002, including whether the companies are angel- or venture capital-funded (angel funders invest their own money; venture capitalists raise money from others), and whether the funder has exited, either by IPO or acquisition. The data cover 150 cities worldwide. It is reported by separate city or municipality, so the Martin Prosperity Institute's Zara Matheson organized the data by metro area and then mapped it by three major categories: global start-ups, companies receiving angel funding, and companies receiving institutional venture capital.
The first map tracks start-ups across the cities of the world. New York tops the list with 144, besting San Francisco's 135. London is next with 90, followed by San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (Silicon Valley) with 66, and Los Angeles with 64. Toronto and Boston-Cambridge tied for sixth with 34 each, Chicago is eighth with 31, Berlin ninth with 27, and Bangalore 10th with 26. Austin (23), Seattle (22), and São Paulo (21) each have more than 20 start-ups. Another 20 cities are home to 10 or more start-ups: Istanbul with 19; Vancouver and Moscow each with 17; New Delhi (15); Paris, and Atlanta with 14 each; Washington, D.C., Amsterdam, and Miami with 12 each; San Diego, Madrid, Singapore, and Sydney with 11 apiece; and Barcelona, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Dallas-Fort Worth, Mumbai, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, with 10 start-ups each.
The second map charts the leading locations for companies receiving angel funding. Angel funding comes typically from wealthy individuals, often established entrepreneurs who invest their own personal funds in start-up companies. San Francisco now tops the list with 138 companies receiving angel funding, followed by New York with 117. London is again third with 62. San Jose is fourth with 60, Boston-Cambridge fifth with 50 and L.A. sixth with 48. Chicago and Philadelphia are tied for seventh with 19, and Seattle and Portland tied for 10th with 18 apiece. Nine more cities have 10 or more companies receiving angel funding: Toronto (17), D.C. (14), Berlin, and Paris (13 each), Atlanta, Barcelona and Boulder (12 each), Dublin (11), and Cincinnati (10).
The third map above charts the locations of companies that attracted venture capital funding. Now the ranking changes considerably. San Francisco tops the list with 354, followed by Boston-Cambridge with 248, and San Jose with 216. New York is fourth with 160 and London fifth with 73. L.A. is sixth with 65, Seattle seventh with 57, San Diego eighth with 48, Austin ninth with 47, and Chicago 10th with 29. There are seven additional cities with 20 or more venture capital backed companies: Berlin (25), Toronto and Boulder (22 each), D.C., Paris, and Atlanta (21 each), and Denver with 20.
The big takeaways? For one, these maps speak to the urban shift in the underlying model for high-technology start-ups. With its high-tech companies clustered in office parks along highway interchanges, Silicon Valley is the classic suburban nerdistan. But, at least according to these data, it appears to have been eclipsed by three more-urbanized areas. New York and London, admittedly much larger cities, both top it on start-up activity and the number of angel-funded companies, while the center of gravity for high-tech in the Bay Area has shifted somewhat from the valley to its more-urban neighbor San Francisco, which tops it in start-up activity, angel-funded, and venture capital-backed companies.
The globalization of start-ups is the second big takeaway. American cities and metros — like Boston-Cambridge, L.A., Seattle, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Austin, as well as New York and San Francisco — all do very well. But London now ranks in the very top tier of start-up cities, while Toronto and Vancouver in Canada; Berlin (so much for the argument that Berlin is a lagging bohemian center with hardly any tech or entrepreneurial future), Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Madrid, and Barcelona in Europe; Bangalore, New Delhi, and Mumbai in India; Singapore and Sydney in the Asia Pacific region; and Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro in South America each have significant clusters of start-up activity.
The world, as I have written, is spiky, with its most intensive economic activity concentrated in a relative handful of places. Global tech is no exception — and it is taking a decidedly urban turn.
All maps by the Martin Prosperity Institute's Zara Matheson; Map data via Seedtable