20 Great Places To Start A Business After the Pandemic

METHODOLOGY: We started with the 400 fastest-growing metro areas ranked by Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities 2021 Foundations for Growth and Recovery. We considered each area’s ranking on the list of the Kauffman Foundation Index of Growth in Entrepreneurship, Metropolitan Area and City Trends, which examined the rate of startup growth, the share of scaleups, the high-growth company density and the density of venture-capital backed business exits.Many other lists that rank ecosystems, such as those examining venture capital to startups, only look at the largest cities in the United States. To capture the possibility of local venture capital investment that could flow to smaller cities, we looked at state-level data from PriceWaterhouse Coopers MoneyTree survey, which ranked level of venture capital investment in Q4 2020. PWC only uses large deals, but statewide rankings offer some insight into how much capital is available in that state. We used each state’s ranking on the Heartland Forward Most Dynamic Metropolitan Index, which considers performance-based metrics such as GDP and job growth, but notably it takes into account the proportion of total jobs at young firms and the educational attainment of potential employees. We also used the 2019 ranking of states’ business tax environments by the Tax Foundation. Cities in the Milken Institute report were rank-ordered in each category according to their ranking in the individual lists. The rankings were then assigned a point value. We weighted each of these five criteria equally. When several cities in one state were close to each other in the rankings and in geography, we combined them into a single ecosystem. When a city was missing in a ranking we weighted the average of the overall score in that column. In cases where ecosystems have a significant media buzz, we gave them a bonus score, which moved the following ecosystems up in the rankings: Denver – Aurora- Fort Collins – Boulder, Indianapolis, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Washington, D. C., Miami – Punta Gorda, Salt Lake City – Provo – Orem.

The cities on the list have many things in common: many are large metropolitan areas, state capitals, and most have more than one university in the area. One little noticed phenomenon is that many are blue cities in red states. Companies that located in those areas get the advantage of the greater diversity of cities and what’s often a less regulated, lower-tax environment. Many of these cities and ecosystems are seen as second-tier compared with the big entrepreneurship hubs of Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. But they generally are large enough to have strong Internet connections and solid transportation options, which gives them an advantage over even smaller and rural hubs. Read more about Times of E’s list and what makes it different here.

1. Austin and San Antonio, Texas

Elon Musk made a huge deal when he moved his Tesla empire to Austin at the end of 2020, but the area was on the fast track of startup growth long before that. Austin is the home of companies such as grocery chain Whole Foods and job-listing website Indeed. About 80 miles south, the city of San Antonio is encouraging entrepreneurs to solve city-identified problems. It’s also home to major colleges and universities, so its talent pool is bountiful. The area is ranked number one because of its combination of high startup rate and low cost of living. It’s no wonder some are calling it the “next Silicon Valley.”

Events and Meetups:

There are plenty of small meetup groups that range from niche to broad, such as Austin Hardware Startup Meetup or Feminist Hack ATX, in Austin, or the San Antonio Entrepreneur Meetup Group in San Antonio. There’s also Austin Startup Week, a 5-day event that showcases startups and brings entrepreneurs together in the city, powered by Capitol Factory. The city also hosts the annual South by Southwest festival, which attracts close to 500,000 people to the city. 

The Founders Institute, a national incubator, published a detailed guide of Austin on its website with more resources, including incubators and accelerators for each level of development. There’s a more detailed list of San Antonio resources on entrepreneur resource and information group FundingSage’s website.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Several coworking spaces create communities for entrepreneurs, such as Cubes on the Quonest or Geekdom in San Antonio. Entrepreneurs tended to gather at coffee places around Austin before the pandemic, such as Houndstooth and Radio Coffee, according to Maria Brown-Spence, the program manager at the city’s Entrepreneur Foundation. The Domain area in Austin is also a popular location for entrepreneurs, she said.

Outdoor Activities:

Austin is near multiple lakes, such as Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis. Mueller Lake Park, in the northeast, holds food truck events with live music. People tend to walk their dogs in the areas and have picnics, Brown-Spence said. In San Antonio, you can hike the Leon Creek Greenway, or bike the Salado Creek Greenway on the northwest part of the city. Or, visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a nine-mile path through historical missions. 

2. Provo, Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah 

Silicon Slopes, or the area between Provo and Salt Lake City in Utah, is booming with startup activity. The Provo-Orem area in particular, known as Utah Valley, has been a hub for startup growth. The Milken Institute ranked its ecosystem as #1 in 2020. An hour north, Salt Lake City is a more populated area and houses many Utah-wide connection groups. The area has quietly been on the rise since 2010.

Events and Meetups:

The area is home to many universities, which offer a slew of events for entrepreneurs. Take Entrepreneurship Week, which is hosted by the Rollins Center of Entrepreneurship at Brigham Young University. It’s one of the largest entrepreneur networking events in the state, according to its website. Outside the universities, accelerators host events, such as RevRoad in the Provo/Orem area, which hosts speakers regularly. In Salt Lake City, Silicon Slopes hosts networking events there as well as 15 other cities in the state. Here’s our story about the evolving Utah ecosystem.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Drinking is against the Mormon faith, which means the bars aren’t as much as center of the entrepreneurship scene. But you can talk shop in restaurants in Provo such as the Black Sheep Cafe, which serves southwestern and Native American food, Station 22, an American restaurant, and Communal, a farm to table restaurant. People tended to gather before the pandemic at restaurants on Center Street, Tom Taylor, the owner of the Startup Building, a coworking space for entrepreneurs, said. iAnd the Vivint Smart Home Arena during a Utah Jazz Game in Salt Lake City, is the place to be, Inc. reports.

Outdoor Activities:

Many people move to Utah for outdoor activities. It’s known for its skiing — the region hosted the 2002 winter Olympics, after all. In its warmer months, its mountains offer hiking trails and biking paths. You can also visit the Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere.

3. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Dallas is stocked  with innovators — 90% of the business makeup is small businesses, sole proprietors and microbusinesses, according to a city press release. But the area also has its fair share of mega-companies such as AT&T, Exxon Mobil and American Airlines. It’s number three on our list for its low taxes, growth in entrepreneurship and the makeup of its labor pool. It ranked number one on Heartland Forward’s analysis of the quality of its labor pool, likely a combination of the strong university presence and the skilled labor required for the energy industry.

Events and Meetups:

Dallas Startup Week brings together thousands of entrepreneurs each spring to connect, speak and collaborate. There’s also EarthX, one of the largest environmental events in the world. It brings together people from private, public, academic and other settings, Dallas Innovates writes.  Dallas also has an active arts scene — it hosts the Dallas International Film Festival each year.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

There’s Open Coffee Clubs, a group that meets at several different locations for a cup of coffee before work to collaborate and network. The Joule Hotel downtown Taschen bookstore is also where many entrepreneurs gather, Dallas Innovates reports. People also connect at Dallas Makerspace.

Outdoor Activities:

The Katy trail runs through the area, which is a perfect place to jog, bike, or just take a stroll. Other trail options include the Sante Fe Trail and the Big Cedar Wilderness Trail. You can also take a sailing trip on White Rock Lake, located in the northeast part of the city, or walk through the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden next to the lake.

4. Miami, Florida

Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, has been pitching the city as a tech hub on Twitter and through panels in an effort to attract entrepreneurs and investors leaving other metro areas, like San Francisco and New York City. The city — which markets itself as the gateway to Latin America — was on the rise before the pandemic. Miami is known for its diversity and the share of its population that are immigrants. With low taxes and high start up rate, Miami ranks #7.

Events and Meetups:

The city hosts numerous entrepreneurial events each year, namely eMerge Americas, a technology conference typically held in the spring, and Black Men Talk Tech, an annual unicorn ambition conference held in the fall. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

The city specializes in Haitian, Cuban and Asian Fusion foods. Refresh Miami, a nonprofit working to connect the startup community, suggests checking out Cuban restaurant Sergio’s, Peruvian restaurant CVI.CHE 105 or Argentine restaurant Grazianos, among dozens of other favorites it lists in its comprehensive guide to the city.

Outdoor Activities: 

Miami is steps away from the beach. With that comes typical beach activities– such as sailing, biking and scuba diving.  It’s also about an hour away from Everglades National Park, which is about 1.5 million acres.

5. Seattle, Washington

Seattle has long been the West Coast’s second tech hub, quieter, rainier, and more livable. It’s a rich place for successful companies — Amazon, Starbucks and Boeing made their debut in the Emerald City. In the new environment, Seattle gathered momentum from its underlying strength, turning in a strong performance across categories. Seattle’s strength appears to be lifting Portland and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, as well.

Events and Meetups:

One major event is MozCon, a conference for those in the marketing field. GeekWire, a tech news company in Seattle, holds events throughout the year for tech entrepreneurs, which attract thousands, according to its website. Boulder, Colorado-based Techstars also hosts Seattle Startup Week each October, an event that connects entrepreneurs in the area. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

There’s many groups creating their own gathering places Seattle. Take Startups Open Coffee, which connects entrepreneurs and investors each week to collaborate, or AfricaTown Seattle a group working to connect African entrepreneurs. Some popular restaurants in the area are Meesha in Fremont, which is a modern take on Indian food, Communion R&B, which serves food its chef calls “Seattle Soul,” and Sunny Hill, which serves American food. 

FundingSage has more resources for entrepreneurs listed on its website. 

Outdoor Activities:

There’s a wide range of outside activities to do in and around Seattle. You can take a mountain bike tour near Mount Rainier, located south of the city, or just explore Mount Rainier National Park. In colder months, there’s skiing and snowboarding on the mountain. There’s plenty of beach options along Puget Sound, which is about 30 minutes downtown — spend the day at Alki Beach, and bring your dog. 

6. Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder, Colorado

Denver has been one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas for a while, as people from the East and West coasts flock to Colorado for its easier pace of life and access to the outdoors. It’s home to environmental companies and a cluster of marijuana businesses.

Boulder has benefitted from a the presence of a nearby National Lab and an early cluster of food companies. About 64 miles north of Denver, Fort Collins is a college town many move to in order to travel by bike and be outdoors. The area also home to the University of Denver and University of Colorado, Boulder, and Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University, as well as many eateries, pubs and shops. The area ranks 6th on the list, nudged upwards by its educated population and the presence of a strong investor community, anchored by Foundry Group, one of the oldest major investment firms located off the East and West coasts.

Events and Meetups:

The Downtown Denver Partnership hosted its first annual Denver Startup Week last year, drawing 23,000 views on Youtube, according to its website. On a smaller scale, there are many groups, both broad and niche, that host networking and speaker events on a regular basis, such as the Momtrepreneur Network, a group for moms who also own businesses, and Green Entrepreneur, a group for entrepreneurs creating green businesses. Techstars hosts Fort Collins Startup Week annually, as well. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Some spots people tend to gather in Fort Collins is Raska International Cuisine, a Black-owned restaurant located near Colorado State University, said Shannon Hein, a business specialist at the City of Fort Collins. There’s also Wolverine Farm Letterhouse and Publick House, a multifunctional space with a cafe, art studio and gathering area. The business even hosts small weddings, she said. Some other popular spots in Fort Collins are Maker Folk, an artisan space with a market, and Bean Cycle Roasters, a coffee shop. 

In Denver, the Commons on Champa community workspace is where many entrepreneurs gather to network and share ideas. Some popular restaurants are Safta, an Israeli-inspired restaurant in the River North Art District and Jovanina’s Broken Italian, an Italian restaurant in Lower Downtown, according to the city’s website. For restaurants in Boulder’s small and welll-developed dining scene, try The Kitchen or Corrida.

Outdoor Activities:

The area offers an abundance of mountain and lake activities, and one of the crown jewels of the Southwest, the Red Rocks Ampitheatre, which hosts stand-out live music and is a natural feature in its own right. In Fort Collins, people like to sit on rocks near Horsetooth Reservoir, and bike and walk its many trails.  A white water rafting park opened in the area last year. There’s also many breweries with patios and food trucks that offer outdoor dining.

7. Nashville, Tennessee

The Music City has raised countless successful country singers. The same can be said about startups. Nashville has a growing number of companies forming, many in ethical fashion and health care. The city was ranked the best place for women-owned businesses in 2016 by WalletHub. Its high startup rate landed it the number five spot in our list.

Events and Meetups:

Each year, the city hosts 36/86, an entrepreneur and technology conference, named for the area’s coordinates. The event will be held virtually this year, expanding its attendee pool. There’s also the annual Nashville Entrepreneur Week, a free event to connect with and learn from other entrepreneurs. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

As in many cities, there are many coworking spaces, where people can network. There’s Center 615, which offers indoor and outdoor working spaces, and Collaborate Nashville, which also hosts resources for entrepreneurs, such as bookkeeping and marketing services. Belmont University students congregate at Bongo Java, one of the city’s oldest coffee shops, to start companies, and entrepreneurs meet at Pinewood Social, a coffee shop that turns into a craft bar at night, according to Inc. Some other popular restaurants are Cafe Roze in East Nashville, the 404 Kitchen or Brown’s Diner, according to a Thrillist list.

FundingSage has a comprehensive list of more resources in the city on its website. 

Outdoor Activities:

There’s large outdoor music venues, as you may expect, such as Ascend Amphitheater, which can hold 6,800 people. You can bike the nearly 20 miles of paths along the city’s greenways. Rent a bike from vendors or bring your own. You can walk, jog or sit and enjoy Centennial park, located in Midtown. Kayak or paddleboard down the Cumberland River, or zipline over trees in one of the area’s multiple zipline parks. 

8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida

The Tampa area has been raising tech companies, particularly those in cybersecurity. More recently, companies in this area, like Just Protect and OPSWAT, relocated from Silicon Valley and New York City to the area.  “We have the playbook for success: the right people, the right resources, and the right experience,” said one of the area’s largest entrepreneurs, Brian Murphy, who recently joined the board of Embarc Collective, a group working to continue startup growth in the area, in a news release. The state’s absent personal income tax makes it appealing, and its warm weather and growing investor community does, too. 

Events and Meetups:

The Black Wall Street Experience and Business Expo gathers minority business owners to connect and learn about the history of Black Wall Street in celebration of Juneteenth. There’s Techstars-hosted Tampa Bay Startup Week, which connects and celebrates entrepreneurs in the area. Smaller groups also have regular meetups, such as ENGAGE, which hosts monthly speaker and networking events. FundingSage has a list of more resources for entrepreneurs on its website.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Bern’s Steakhouse, which the Tampa Bay Times calls a “classic Tampa steakhouse,” opened in 1956 and is located on Howard Street. The Columbia Restaurant, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the state, offers Spanish and Cuban food. El Cap serves a burger people rave about, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The Tampa Bay Times lists 22 other iconic eateries in the city in this article.

Outdoor Activities:

Go fishing or swimming off Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach. Visit Bok Tower Gardens, located between Tampa and Orlando near the citrus groves. For a longer trip, head 30 minutes or so from the city to Hillsborough River State Park, which has more than 7 miles of hiking trails.

9. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh is one prong of the “Research Triangle,” which is the area between Duke University, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The universities have made the area abundant with resources for entrepreneurs and engineers. The city is number nine on our list because of its performance in broader measures of business health outside technology, including its growth since the pandemic and state tax environment. 

Events and Meetups:

Innovate Raleigh, an accelerator group, hosts an annual summit with a hefty lineup of speakers. Duke University (located a few miles northwest in Durham) and North Carolina State University also host many entrepreneurship events, such as mentoring and speaker nights. Though, some are for students of the universities only. Innovate Raleigh worked with the city to create Innovation Triangle, which published a detailed list of resources for entrepreneurs on its website. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

There’s the Research Triangle Park, a community for entrepreneurs and home to more than 200 companies and 50,000 experts in fields including microelectronics, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and environmental science. Popular bars and restaurants include Raleigh Beer Garden, Watts and Ward, and The Pit.

Outdoor Activities:

Take a stroll outside and admire Raleigh’s Oak trees, which the city is known for and produced its nickname “City of Oaks.” Walk, bike or just enjoy some outdoor time in Pullen Park, the first public park in North Carolina, or Lake Crabtree County Park, located west of the city. There’s also the Neuse River trail that runs along the river southeast of the city.

10. San Francisco and San Jose, California

San Francisco and San Jose’s ecosystems, more commonly known as Silicon Valley, has been the world center of high-tech entrepreneurship for the past two decades. Its ecosystem is vast as thousands of entrepreneurs and investors moved to the area over the last few decades to start companies. Though, the ecosystem lost some points in our ranking due to increasing tax rates and the flow of early-stage deals out of the Valley, it’s still growing fast enough to rank on most lists, including our.

Events and Meetups:

The area is home to many events, and entrepreneurs will likely find a niche group for them. From the Silicon Vikings, a group that connects Silicon Valley and the Nordics/Balatics, to Tech N’ The City, which connects women in tech, to SiliconHouse, a networking group located in a house just outside the city, there’s a group and event for most. The Founders Institute lists dozens of other meetups and events on its website.  

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Google, Apple and Facebook call Silicon Valley home, which means entrepreneurs can run into their next investor, partner or employee while waiting in line for coffee. Investor and entrepreneur Lucy Guo, who lived in San Francisco for years before moving to New York and more recently to Miami, recommends Philz Coffee, Tartine Bakery, Sightglass Coffee and brunch spot Craftsman and Wolves as places typically crawling with those in the entrepreneur world, at least in the pre-pandemic world. 

Outdoor Activities:

The Bay Area’s moderate weather makes it a place to enjoy outdoor activities year-round. You can bike or hike the 32-mile Iron Horse Regional Trail or 3.4-mile Lands End trail. Located on the Pacific Ocean, there’s also many beaches. For a lengthier trip, San Francisco is about four hours from Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe is in reach, too.

11. Atlanta, Georgia

Monster companies were born in Atlanta, including Coca-Cola, Mailchimp and Chick Fil A. Its ecosystem is diverse, with more than half the city’s population being of color. It’s home to three Black universities and Georgia Tech, which has one of the largest incubators in the city. Atlanta also has launched a public/private partnership to make Georgia a tech capital through inclusive innovation. It fiscally supports ideas to expand programs in Georgia. Atlanta places number 11, as the big companies, universities and strong entertainment cluster are spawning startups that in turn generated buzz during the pandemic. As one of the capitals of the Old South, it’s a place in transition.

Events and Meetups:

The city hosts the Atlanta Tech Summit, which brings together tech entrepreneurs and leaders to discuss recent IT trends. Plenty of groups also host regular meetings. One is the Gathering Spot, an entrepreneur group that started in Atlanta which hosts networking events fairly regularly. Digital Undivided, a support organization for Black women, has a home in the city, too.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

One spot for entrepreneurs to connect is the Civic Innovation Center, a group that hosts meetups, and has pivoted to virtual. Another group, called Creative Mornings hosts a breakfast gathering, where a speaker presents and entrepreneurs can network. That program is being offered virtually as well

Georgia is obviously known for its southern food, accompanied by, what else, a Coke. One spot to get fried chicken is the Busy Bee Cafe  downtown. There’s also Staplehouse, a nationally recognized restaurant that’s transformed into a market during the pandemic.

Outdoor Activities:

You can “shoot the hooch,” or paddleboard, kayak, tube or canoe up the Chattahoochee River.  Climb Stone Mountain — a vestige of the city’s history in the Confederacy — or hike the Beltline East trail. The city is also close to waterfalls, which you can explore. If you’re more into city activities, you can take a bike tour, or walk through one of the city’s farmers markets.

12. Bend, Oregon

Bend is one of the smallest places on this list, with a population of about 93,000 people — it was just too far from Portland (three hours) to keep us from combining the two fast-growing ecosystems. Though, Bend packs a big punch when it comes to startups.

“Bend fights way above its weight class and is professional scale for its size,” wrote Steve Blank, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who helped launch the lean startup movement, wrote in a 2014 Forbes piece. “Its ability to do so is tied to the deep entrepreneurial DNA that permeates the region (a very similar characteristic to Silicon Valley), originally out of necessity and now out of strategy.” 

These days, the city has been coined the remote working capital of the country, and long before the pandemic. Bend has a cluster of breweries, and has raised many companies in software, hardware, medical-technology and aviation.

Events and Meetups:

One of the largest angel conferences in the Pacific Northwest takes place in Bend, The Bend Venture Conference. It gathers hundreds of entrepreneurs and companies for a funding competition bonanza — close to $500,000 in investments and awards were given to founders last year. The Bend Chamber of Commerce also runs many events for entrepreneurs, as well as smaller groups around the area. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

The area is called “Beervana” for a reason — it produces a third of all the beer in the state and is home to roughly two dozen breweries. Some craft beer spots include the 10 Barrel brewing company and Boneyard Brewery. There are also many food cart lots with a variety of types of food to grab for a quick and cheap lunch or dinner.

Outdoor Activities:

“If you like skiing, hiking, biking, rafting, golfing, camping, fishing, picnicking, rock climbing, and startups – you’d like Bend,” Blank wrote in his Forbes piece. The area offers plenty of outdoor fun —  it’s practically guaranteed that if you like the outdoors, you can find something you like to do. Take a trip to the Cascade Mountains or Mt. Bachelor to ski or hike, or ride your kayak down Deschutes River.

13. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix  has made some changes in the last few years that have made it easier for founders to start companies there, such as reducing regulations to attract real estate tech and finance startups and increasing venture capital, according to Inc. Its efforts are making a difference, as it landed the number 13 spot on our list — but it still doesn’t rank in the Kauffman list, which measures entrepreneurial activity.

Events and Meetups:

In the category of niche events, the city holds the annual Dentist Entrepreneur Organization Summit, which hosts speakers and attracts entrepreneurs to network and learn about recent developments in the space. There’s also  PHX Startup Week, which brings together entrepreneurs, investors and supporters across the state. FundingSage has a list of other resources for entrepreneurs on its website. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

There are several coworking spaces in the area, including The Department and WorkUnity. Sharing a border with Mexico, many restaurants have a Mexican-American flair. Some options are Los Reyes de la Torta, Rito’s Mexican Food, or Nogales Hot Dogs, according to the Phoenix New Times.

Outdoor Activities:

Phoenix is a desert city, and with that comes heat. Hike or horseback ride at one of the area’s canyons, such as the Echo Canyon Trail or Cholla Trail. Or rock climb or mountain bike the McDowell Mountains and Pinnacle Peak.

14. Boise, Idaho

Boise? Yes, Boise. The capital city of the spud state is beginning to grow startups across many sectors. In 2020, Inc. ranked the city as number 5 on its surge city list — a ranking of the best places in the U.S. to start a business, which turned up a similar group of cities as the Milken Institute’s list.  On our list, the city ranks number 14th, pulled down by its slow startup growth rate (it doesn’t show up in the Kauffman ranking) and negative tax environment. 

Events and Meetups:

Techstars hosts startup weeks across the country (it’s come up on this list a number of times), including one in Boise. The capital city also is the meeting spot for Built in Idaho, a group connecting entrepreneurs in the state. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Tiam Rastegar, the executive director of Trailhead, a group that was created as a spot for entrepreneurs to gather and collaborate, said many coffee shops tend to be hubs for innovators, such as The District and Slow by Slow. He said Trailhead is also a place many go to collaborate. 

Outdoor Activities: 

Boise is full of outdoor activities — it’s the reason many people choose to live there. Rastegar describes it as an “outdoor heaven.” You can do everything from skiing, rafting, biking, hiking, parasailing, ziplining and white water rafting. 

15. Indianapolis, Indiana

Smack in the middle of the country, Indianapolis is quietly growing a reputation as a home for Midwestern entrepreneurship. While there’s more than 860,000 people living in this Midwestern city, Rick Proctor at the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce says the city is compact. You can get around on foot or by bike pretty easily. The area is known for automotive and agriculture companies. Its business environment ranks in the top 10, it’s beginning to show up on measures of new companies (ranking 20 on the Kauffman Foundation list) — and it grew during during the pandemic.

Events and Meetups:

Porter points to the Indiana Block Expo, a group that supports minority entrepreneurs and hosts events supporting the community, such as its Minority Small Business series and the InnoPower Minority Business Conference, which gathers minority entrepreneurs to the city to network and learn from speakers. There’s also the Indiana Conference for Women, which connects women in business in Indiana and the Midwest.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Some co-working spaces where entrepreneurs connect are The Speak Easy, the first collaborative space in Central Indiana and Level Two, which is geographically outside the city, but supports small businesses, Proctor said. 

Entrepreneurs tend to seek out local restaurants for meetings, he said. Some in the city include St. Elmo Steakhouse, Bazbeaux Pizza and Cafe Patachou. 

Outdoor Activities:

You can zipline through Eagle Creek Park or take a walk Cultural Trail, which the city recently announced it will be expanding soon. You can also pull up to a drive-in movie theater or catch a band at the HiFi, an outdoor music venue, where Proctor said can be a gathering spot for entrepreneurs, too.

16. San Diego, California

San Diego is known for its beaches and sun — founders there enjoy living miles from some of the country’s best beaches while running their company. Funding is abundant, as well — startups raised $6.1 billion in venture capital last year, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. The city shares the Bay Area’s hefty taxes, but also the wealth of funding opportunities in California overall. It’s hard to tell for sure if some of the Valley’s rich network will continue heading south but stay in-state, but it seems likely — and interestingly, the metro area already ranks on lists of startup growth.

Events and Meetups:

The University of California, San Diego hosts the annual IGNITE event, which connects the campus with other entrepreneurs for networking and collaboration, according to its website. During the last two years, the event has awarded $580,000 to founders. There’s also San Diego Startup Week, which brings together the community of entrepreneurs and investors. More recently, it’s transformed into Startup Month — its  speakers are sprawled across 30 days virtually. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Ansir Coworking Space, located in the new ScaleMatrixLife Science and Technology Launch Center, offers affordable space for entrepreneurs. There’s also Hera Hub, a coworking space for women inspired by a spa. FundingSage lists more coworking options and resources on its website.

Grab an Acai bowl from Swami’s Cafe for breakfast, or a Surf & Turf Burrito from Lunch Libre. Head to Davanti Enoteca for its Bloody Mary Bar or indulge in some Duck Confit Mac n’ Cheese from Urban Solace. These are some of the must-have dishes to eat in the city, according to Spoon University. The website names plenty of other options around the city in this article.

Outdoor Activities:

The weather is almost always warm in San Diego, and it’s right next to the beach, so there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had. Head to one of its beaches to swim, sunbathe or surf. You can kayak through the La Jolla Sea Caves, or bike down the San Diego Coast. Rollerblade down the Mission Beach Boardwalk, or head to Chiano Park to look at its dozens of murals.

17. Houston, Texas

Houston offers an abundance of resources and low taxes. The city is one of the most diverse areas in the country, and there’s many resources and funds directed at women, too, Startup Genome writes. Companies in AI, energy and life sciences are thriving here.  

Events and Meetups:

Impact Hub, an incubator in Houston, holds regular events to connect entrepreneurs. Techstars recently announced Houston Startup Week, an annual event launching this year. There’s groups that hold regular meetings, such as Girl Develop It Houston, which teaches women and non binary people how to develop software. The Founders Institute has a thorough list of resources in Houston, including more events, meetups and funding resources.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Houston’s diversity is evident in its restaurants — you can find over 70 different types of cuisines in the city, according to the Washington Post.  Try the chicken fried steak at Frank’s Americana, or the Viet Cajun Crawfish at Cajun Kitchen, Thrillist recommends. The media site suggests more dishes in this article

Some coworking spaces where entrepreneurs collaborate include The Cannon, located in the Founders District, and The Cowork Lab on Yale Street.

Outdoor Activities:

Enjoy a beer on one of its many restaurants’ patios, or visit Urban Harvest’s famous farmers market on Saturdays. You can take a hike or ride your bike through Buffalo Bend National Park or Buffalo Bayou Park, or relax on one of Houston’s many beaches. 

18. Columbus, Ohio

No major industry dominates Columbus, according to a city government report, so there’s ample space for different types of startups to grow. Its home to some mega companies — Huntington Bank and Nationwide are headquartered in the city, and other companies, like Statefarm and JPMorgan Chase, have large operational centers in the area, according to a report by The Garage Group.

Events and Meetups:

TechLife Columbus hosts regular meetings to teach entrepreneurs about new tech and connect them. Techstars hosts Columbus Startup Week each year. There’s also Columbus Startup Weekend, a similar program over a shorter period of time also hosted by Techstars. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

There’s many coworking spaces to meet and collaborate with other entrepreneurs, such as COVA, which also offers childcare, or Qwirk Columbus. For restaurants, try a sustainable, vegetarian burger from Northstar Cafe, or grab a beer at the North Market in Short North. Spoon University suggests 48 other spots to grab a bite in this article.

Outdoor Activities:

Hop on the 330 mile Ohio to Erie Trail with your bike, which runs through Columbus, for a paved leisure bike or longer cycle. You can climb the 35-foot public rock wall in Scioto Audubon Metro Park. You can also paddleboard or kayak amidst the Columbus skyline on the Scioto River.

19. Portland, Oregon

Portland is a hot scene for startups; it’s attracting entrepreneurs. In fact, it’s known locally as “Silicon Forest” as many tech entrepreneurs move from places like the Bay Area to the city. It’s also optimal for working from home — Forbes reported in 2017 that 6% of the city was already working remotely. We covered investment in the area in this article: Raising An Inclusive Fund.

Events:

The annual Oregon Entrepreneur Organization Summit gathers Oregon entrepreneurs in the capital city for one night. There’s Portland Startup Week, hosted by Techstars, a free event for networking, collaborating and learning. The area also hosts TechFestNW, which attracts technology entrepreneurs, investors and innovators from the NorthWest.

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

Cafe Umbria in the Pearl District “functions like a branch office” for founders, Inc. reports. Entrepreneurs also tend to talk over beers and eggs at Proud Mary, according to the same article. 

Outdoor Activities:

Spend the day at Washington Park, which offers hiking or biking trails, a zoo, an arboretum, large fields, among other options. The Lan Su Chinese Garden displays many plants native to China in its botanical experience. Drive an hour to Mt. Hood, and ski or snowboard year-round down the volcano’s slopes. Or kayak through downtown on the Willamette River. 

20. Boston, Massachusetts

For elite VC-funded startups, there have long been only two options, Boston and Silicon Valley. The appearance of both on this list suggests both are holding their own reasonably well in the changing world. Boston’s advantage is huge: It’s home to notable tech and biotech universities — Harvard, MIT and Boston University, to name a few. The city has a hefty fleet of investors, and founders can find support for most stages of a company. these abundant resources for startups, makes it an innovation hub. It’s lower on our list because of what may be a less dynamic economy and the cold weather. When the world went outside last year, Boston had a hard time going.

Events and Meetups:

The Boston Real Estate and Technology Event, or BOSRETECH, brings together real estate tech entrepreneurs to network each year. The Social Entrepreneurship Conference, hosted by Harvard University, connects students and leaders. There’s also Startup Boston Week, hosted by Startup Boston, which connects thousands of entrepreneurs and investors. 

Restaurants and Gathering Places:

There’s clusters of startups in the Seaport, Back Bay, Cambridge, and the Financial District parts of the city, Debi Kleiman, the former Blank Center executive director said in a Babson College article. Check out Oak and Rowan, a new American restaurant in Seaport, Curio Coffee, a coffee shop in Cambridge or Warehouse Bar and Grille in the Financial District 

Outdoor Activities:

Take a ferry to the 114-acre Spectacle Island, the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. Rent a sailboat, kayak or rowboat at Jamaica Pond, located 5 miles south of downtown. Or, rock climb at Quincy Quarries.REI Co-op outlines some other popular outdoor activities in the area on its blog.

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