When Money Under 30, a personal finance information website directed at young adults, recently published a piece called “8 Rising Tech Cities (That Aren’t San Francisco or Austin),” it probably raised a few eyebrows. On this list of places that “will be known as technology leaders in no time” were the likes of Cambridge, Mass., and Raleigh, N.C. You thought those cities had already pretty much made a name for themselves in technology, right?
So did I. And beyond that, why on earth was Austin, of all places, lumped in the same category with San Francisco, while all of these other cities were being presented as alternatives? I felt like a crotchety old man when I raised those questions in a recent interview with David Weliver, founding editor and publisher of Money Under 30. But for all I knew, this thing was going viral, and millions of young people around the world who didn’t know any better were getting a terribly skewed understanding of established tech cities vs. “rising” tech cities in the United States.
Weliver could not have been more gracious, and he readily agreed that some fixes were in order. And being a Bostonian, he had a sense of humor about it. “I think the writer may need to reconsider that language,” he said. “Because I agree, being from the Boston area, Cambridge is pretty established.”
The piece has indeed been fixed — the new headline is “8 Thriving Tech Cities (That Aren’t San Francisco)”, and that line proclaiming that these places “will be known as technology leaders in no time” has been axed. With those fixes made, a slightly condensed version of the list is worth sharing here:
Raleigh, N.C. — Part of the fabled “research triangle,” Raleigh is a major tech hub in the Southeast. North Carolina State is located in the city, and is very tech-focused. In fact, in 2014, 23 percent of N.C. State students chose some type of engineering as their major. Tech companies like Lulu, Citrix ShareFile, and Cree Inc. are all located in Raleigh, making it one of the country’s most desirable tech cities.
Burlington, Vt. — Burlington is a little different than most tech cities you’ll find. It’s the largest city in Vermont with a population of 42,000. But what’s really interesting is that, as of 2014, 100 percent of Burlington’s power comes from renewable resources, like wind and water. It’s home to the University of Vermont, which ranks highly for its medical programs and is credited as a top 100 school in the United States by U.S. News. BioTek Instruments, LPA Design, and Reading Plus are three tech companies located in or near Burlington.
Cambridge, Mass. — Part of the Boston metro area, Cambridge is home to two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard and MIT. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in one of the Harvard dorms. Together, these institutions are producing some of the most innovative and intelligent graduates in the country. Biotech companies like Biogen, Novartis, Genzyme and Takeda Pharmaceuticals are big employers in Cambridge. In addition, R&D organizations like Draper Laboratory and the Broad Institute are located here.
Portland, Ore. — Portland isn’t just for hipsters anymore. Places like San Francisco and Seattle are well-known as tech hubs, but the cost of living is simply unaffordable for many. While Portland isn’t cheap, it’s definitely less expensive than the major tech hubs. A lot of people in the tech industry are moving here, and companies are following. In fact, the greater Portland area has been named the “Silicon Forest” for the numerous tech companies concentrated in northwest Oregon.
Los Angeles — The West Side of Los Angeles is becoming known as “Silicon Beach” for its dense population of tech-heavy companies. One of the major moves came in 2014, when Google purchased 12 acres in Playa Vista. Other companies like YouTube, Buzzfeed and Yahoo have opened offices in the region, and many startups are buying old warehouses and buildings to renovate into offices. Some of the newer startups located in this region include Swagbucks, Snapchat, Hulu and Nasty Gal.
Nashville — Most of us think of Nashville as the home of country music, but it’s becoming much more than that. Nashville is quickly turning into one of the hottest tech cities in the South. In the past five years, tech jobs have increased 38 percent in sectors like health care and IT. Growing tech companies like LeanKit, ForceX and Emma are all located in Nashville. Tech accelerator Jumpstart Foundry has “graduated” 48 startups from its summer program since its inception six years ago — including InvisionHeart, a company that created a handheld, FDA-approved ECG machine. Also contributing to the innovative mood around Music City is the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, whose startup accelerator has helped more than 200 companies launch in the last five years.
Atlanta — Atlanta is becoming a startup hotspot. The Atlanta Tech Village offers office space for companies as small as one person, and is designed to be an affordable place for startups to get their businesses rolling. Startups get things like office space, parking, mailboxes, conference rooms, Wi-Fi and other amenities without taking on the significant overhead for themselves. The Tech Village currently houses over 170 startups and counting. According to Entrepreneur, one of Atlanta’s major advantages as a tech hub is the easy access new startups have to big, established corporations based in the city, like Coca-Cola and UPS.
Indianapolis — Indianapolis is home to over 150 tech companies, including Salesforce, Angie’s List and Mobi. An organization called TechPoint is also headquartered here. Its mission is to promote and accelerate the growth of Indiana’s tech community through various programs and initiatives. This type of group will ensure that there are tech companies and jobs in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future. For education, you’ll find Butler University located in the city.
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.