For the last two decades, we’ve celebrated one model of innovation: Silicon Valley. Its sprawling suburban setup has undoubtedly worked well, but there are signs that the Valley’s appeal is waning. As the skyrocketing cost of living becomes anything but liveable, industry talent is looking elsewhere to lead the next tech boom. Seeking accessible locations that are more conducive to diversity, creativity and collaboration, I doubt that they’ll replicate the Bay area’s suburban model.
I began my career in San Francisco supporting tech startups during the 1990s boom, and now I believe it’s time to rethink the Silicon Valley business model. The good news is we’re already on our way. Unexpected places around the USA are fostering their own burgeoning tech communities. Many places have the potential to do it better and more inclusively than Silicon Valley.
U.S. cities are growing faster than the country as a whole, with soaring downtown populations and corporations moving back from isolated suburbs. This is a marked reverse of the trend of the past few decades, when many companies settled on the outskirts of cities. The reason is commonsensical: the best and brightest talent are flocking out of the suburbs and into to urban areas. City centers, well-connected through transportation and offering a rich quality of life, attract these rising stars. Tech giants in the suburbs of Silicon Valley are spending hundreds of millions building inaccessible, self-contained corporate campuses in an attempt to replicate this, but they’re very much missing the point. Employees don’t want unaffordable housing with long commutes to a job where they work in isolation. They prefer the accessibility, infrastructure and cultural vibrancy that cities provide and where innovation thrives.
A recent study found that more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas, making cities the critical driver of economic growth and prosperity. The world's 123 largest metro areas contain slightly more than one-eighth of the global population, but generate nearly one-third of the global economic output.They also account for nearly half of the most important research universities, generate 65 percent of all patents and attract 82 percent of all venture capital.
You don't see those results in the suburbs. In no particular order, here are a five U.S. cities attracting engineers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.