Exploring Entrepreneurial Hubs Off the Beaten Path

What makes an entrepreneurial ecosystem flourish outside of Silicon Valley? Can startups be successful anywhere in the U.S.? While “anywhere” may be too tall a task, there seems to be growing evidence that startup communities are getting stronger throughout the country.

A September 2012 study from the Kauffman Foundation examining 30 years of Inc. 500 firm data showed a high numbers of fast-growing firms in concentrated in unexpected locations—like Salt Lake City, Indianapolis and Buffalo. That study pointed to a presence of a “highly skilled labor force” as the most critical factor—without it, factors like venture capital investment, research universities and federal R&D funding weren’t worth tracking.

This week, five “lesser-known entrepreneurial hubs” get a look from The Accelerators blog’s “Discussion of the Week: Heartland U.S.A.” on WSJ.com—starting with Boulder, Colorado.

Seven “mentors” weigh in on the topic on the opening day:

  • David Cohen, founder and CEO, TechStars
  • Chris Moody, CEO, Gnip
  • Brad Bernthal, Director of Silicon Flatirons Center’s Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Scott Case, CEO, Startup America Partnership
  • Niel Robertson, CEO, Trada
  • Carly Gloge, CEO, Ubooly
  • Pete Sheinbaum, founder and CEO, LinkSmart

Cohen points to a “unique” approach for Boulder that may not truly be unique, but it’s definitely working.

Boulder has developed a reputation for its distinctly “open door” nature and inclusive ecosystem. Everyone has something to contribute. There’s a true spirit of community, with everybody helping each other, giving back, making introductions and sharing information with others.

Sheinbaum gives a nod to Boulder’s community of entrepreneurs and its creative thinkers, but also gives credit to supportive state and local government—particularly for its relaxed tax and regulatory environment.

The rest of the Heartland U.S.A. series will explore Memphis, Washington DC, Omaha and Portland, Oregon.

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