With so many small businesses trying to make it, and with local governments forever seeking to attract entrepreneurs and give their city an economic boost, a recently raised question has been making headlines and causing a flurry of discussion among inquiring business minds. In a policy brief published by Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, economists William Kerr and Edward Glaeser ask the question: What makes a city entrepreneurial?

According to the report (based on two articles by Glaeser and Kerr: Clusters of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship: How Much of the Spatial Distribution Can We Explain?) there are several factors regarding the correlation between geography and entrepreneurship:

  • High levels of entrepreneurship (that is, the number of small businesses in an area) closely corresponds with regional economic growth (and conversely, areas with fewer new start ups are associated with a decline in job growth).

  • The greater the number of small businesses, the greater the infrastructure (i.e., the presence of venture capitalists, independent suppliers and an entrepreneurial culture) and therefore the easier it is for new businesses to enter the marketplace.
  • Startup growth tends to be greater in areas with a more educated workforce (who in turn tend to gravitate towards areas with favorable climates).
  • A profusion of small, independent businesses bodes well for an area’s sustained economic growth.

  • Strategies to improve a city’s quality of life go a long way in attracting bright young entrepreneurs.

  • There is a strong link between educational institutions and certain types of businesses (for example, the success of Silicon Valley is attributed in part to the involvement of students and faculty from Stanford University).


Under30CEO.com recently polled their readership to discover which cities offered the best resources, schools, events, climate and social scene for a young entrepreneur. Here’s what they ended up with:

  1. New York, NY  As the home of several industries, including “Silicon Alley,” it’s got the biggest scene of them all.
  2. San Francisco, CA  Its proximity to Silicon Valley means it’s a hub for high-tech.
  3. Austin, TX  The capital of live music begets a burgeoning corporate culture and a low cost of living.
  4. Boston, MA  Education, education, education. Beantown’s a hub for brains, incubators and deep pockets.
  5. Denver, CO  It’s a growing center for folks who like to work hard (inside), then play hard (outside).
  6. Chicago, IL  It’s a longtime financial center that’s slowly ceding its khaki culture to a more digital community who doesn’t like living out in the ‘burbs.
  7. San Diego, CA  Big tourism and big population allows this sunny clime to take advantage of California’s smartest.
  8. Portland, OR  Major green credentials, a temperate climate and a growing local food scene (plus one hell of a cup of coffee) has Portland on the radar of many young entrepreneurs.
  9. Washington, D.C.  President Obama may be a Democrat, but his youth has inspired younger folks of all political persuasions to relocate to the nation’s capital in a wave not seen since the 1950s.
  10. Seattle, WA  This hub for technology and industry — from Amazon and Microsoft to Boeing and Starbucks — is also a doorstep to Asia. It doesn’t hurt that it has a highly-educated population, either.

So when it comes to entrepreneurship, how does your city measure up?