The Geography of “Smart” vs. “Entrepreneurial” Cities

Does high intelligence translate into the making of an entrepreneurial atmosphere? Said a different way, could mingling with smart people increase the chances of a successful tech startup?

Two reports have emerged that pinpointed the "Ten Most Promising Tech Hubs to Watch in 2014" as well as "The Smartest Cities in America" (See article in VentureBeat; and see the interactive map from Lumosity). The former was published by Techie.com and the later by Lumosity, the brain exercise company.

The first thing that would come to mind is that the San Francisco Bay Area would rank first in both categories with the prominence of successful companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. co-mingle with Stanford Univeristy and University of California, Berkeley. But these reports focused on "emerging" tech hubs, not the well-established. So, here is the list of the top ten tech hubs to watch:

Atlanta, GA Burlington, VT
Champaign/Urbana, IL Detroit, MI
Ft. Collins, CO Huntsville, AL
Kansas City, KS/MO Orlando, FL
Sioux Falls, SD St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN

And the "smartest cities?" (in order of "smarts")

1. Ithaca, NY
2. State College, PA
3. Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN
4. Iowa City, IA
5. Ames, IA
6. Ann Arbor, MI
7. Bloomington, IN
8. Madison, WI
9. Lawrence, KS
10. Pullman, WA

So, is there a correlation? Here's a very crude map of Lumonsity's smart cities (red dots) and the most promising tech hubs (blue dots) [click for larger image).

There answer is ... not really. Kansas City/Lawrence, Kansas, and Detroit/Ann Arbor, Michigan come close but what I was looking for was a direct correlation of tech hub and smart city.

What drew my initial curiosity was that I live in Huntsville and have lived in Sioux Falls. I'm quite familiar with the entrepreneurial community in Huntsville but was certainly surprised to see Sioux Falls make it onto the list. Huntsville ranked low on the Lumosity smart list (349 out of 478) and Sioux Falls was not ranked at all in terms of "smartness". But what you should take away from this is there is not always the business support (angel investors, etc.) that could encourage bright, highly motivated individuals to start a company. Conversely, perhaps smart money may want to look at places like State College (Penn State Univ.) and Ithaca (Cornell) to work with economic development organizations to spur a start up environment.


Published Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Written by Joe Francica