Best Cities for Entrepreneurs – The Best Startup Scenes That Deliver!
Every year, thousands of ambitious founders in the United States across industries pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. But one key decision can make or break a startup: choosing the right city to launch and grow.
The ideal location provides critical access to early-stage capital, skilled talent, and a supportive entrepreneurial community.
This article explores the top hubs emerging as the best cities for entrepreneurs in 2023.
We assess locations like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, Seattle, Denver and more based on available funding, deep talent pools, and overall startup ecosystem strength.
Whether you’re in tech, healthcare, consumer goods, or another sector, these cities offer fertile ground for your venture.
Let’s examine the leading options for your next entrepreneurial headquarters!
- The San Francisco Bay Area leads as the top hub for entrepreneurs due to unparalleled access to venture capital funding, tech talent, and an innovative startup ecosystem.
- New York City comes second given its proximity to Wall Street financing and a massive, diverse talent base ideal for industries like FinTech, e-commerce, and media.
- Los Angeles now boasts a thriving local startup community across sectors like tech, healthcare, and entertainment.
- Boston punches far above its weight with elite universities supplying tech talent and brainpower. The city also boasts the highest concentration of VC funding outside of Silicon Valley.
- More affordable alternatives like Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Miami are emerging onto the startup scene by leveraging top engineering talent and more cost-effective operating environments.
- Seattle stands out for its depth of tech talent feeding off Microsoft, Amazon, and a highly educated population.
- All leading startup cities offer unique advantages – entrepreneurs should assess their priorities like funding, talent, costs, and lifestyle needs when choosing a location.
Best Cities for Entrepreneurs in the United States
1. San Francisco – The Top City for Entrepreneurs
With its epicenter in Silicon Valley, San Francisco has emerged as the top destination for entrepreneurs looking to launch high-growth startups.
Abundant access to venture capital, a huge pool of talented workers, and a culture of openness and innovation make the Bay Area uniquely suited for ambitious founders with game-changing ideas.
Access to Funding
San Francisco and Silicon Valley are home to the world’s most prominent venture capital firms and angel investor networks.
In 2018 alone, Bay Area startups attracted nearly $30 billion in VC funding. For context, that’s more than Boston, New York, and Los Angeles combined.
Some of the top-tier VC firms based in the region include:
- Andreessen Horowitz
- Bessemer Venture Partners
- Kleiner Perkins
Having these major investors nearby gives entrepreneurs unparalleled access to capital and mentorship.
Locals often say that within 10 miles of San Francisco, you can find every resource needed to build a successful startup.
Abundant Tech Talent
With Stanford, UC Berkeley, and other feeder colleges and coding academies churning out engineers, San Francisco enjoys a bottomless pool of technical talent.
Savvy entrepreneurs have their pick of exceptionally skilled developers, designers, product managers, and data scientists ready to build innovative products.
In fact, the Bay Area employed over 250,000 tech workers in 2019 across sectors like:
- Computer systems design
- Data processing
- Scientific R&D
- Computer manufacturing
For founders looking to scale quickly, this world-class talent base is indispensable. And San Francisco offers the highest salaries and best perks for attracting top-notch employees.
The city also continues to draw international talent, with immigrants launching over half of Silicon Valley startups.
Culture of Innovation
More than anything, San Francisco is known for its culture of openness, creativity, and innovation. People expect to collaborate across disciplines and are comfortable challenging the status quo.
Failure is seen as a badge of honor, not a mark of shame.
This entrepreneurial spirit emanates from Silicon Valley tech giants like Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Uber, and Salesforce.
It trickles down to the VC ecosystem, coworking spaces, incubators, and more. There’s also no shortage of networking events, conferences, pitch competitions, and growth hacking workshops.
The collaborative culture fosters the rapid exchange of ideas and information. Trends like social media, mobile commerce, sharing economy apps, and artificial intelligence have flourished here.
For entrepreneurs with big ideas, there may be no better place to test concepts and build community.
In summary, San Francisco offers startups the complete package of funding, talent, and culture needed to thrive.
While costs are high, the resources cannot be replicated anywhere else. It’s no wonder that most successful startups – including Airbnb, Uber, Pinterest, and so many more – were hatched in the Bay Area.
For the ambitious entrepreneur, San Francisco remains the land of opportunity.
2. New York City – A Leading Hub for Entrepreneurs
As a global financial, media, and cultural capital, New York City has emerged as a premier destination for ambitious entrepreneurs across industries.
Access to world-class talent and investors, coupled with an innovative, fast-paced environment make NYC ideal for launching breakout startups.
Wall Street Provides Access to Capital
With Wall Street anchored in lower Manhattan, New York puts entrepreneurs in close proximity to the world’s largest investment banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds.
Major VC firms like Bessemer, Insight Partners, and Union Square Ventures are also based in the city.
In 2019, NYC startups attracted over $14 billion in VC funding – the most of any US metro area outside Silicon Valley.
For context, here are some of the major VC deals in the city:
- Peloton ($550 million)
- UiPath ($568 million)
- WeWork ($2 billion)
- Datadog ($748 million)
- Compass ($370 million)
NYC also boasts a highly active angel investor community. Groups like New York Angels provide critical early funding and mentorship for early-stage startups.
World-Class Talent Base
NYC is home to some of the top universities on earth, including Columbia, NYU, Cornell Tech, and more nearby feeder schools. This produces an exceptional base of talent across areas like:
The city also attracts highly skilled workers from around the globe, speaking virtually every language and bringing innovative ideas. For founders seeking top-tier talent, NYC’s diverse and educated workforce is a major draw.
Buzzing With Innovation
More broadly, NYC is renowned for its energy, diversity, and innovative spirit. People expect bold ideas and creative solutions.
They embrace Kafkaesque work cultures which promote intense collaboration. Failure is viewed as a learning process rather than a roadblock.
Certain sectors thrive in this ecosystem, including:
- Smart Cities
Coworking spaces provide flexible work environments for bootstrapping startups. Accelerators like TechStars and DreamIt Ventures provide intensive mentoring.
And tech conferences like Adweek, Dumbo Demo Day, and NY Tech Day foster valuable networking.
For the ambitious entrepreneur, NYC provides the fast-paced, innovative ecosystem required to turn bold ideas into successful startups. Costs may be daunting, but the rewards can be monumental.
3. Los Angeles – An Emerging Startup Hotspot for Entrepreneurs
With its ties to Hollywood and home to UCLA, Los Angeles has a creative and innovative spirit that is driving new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
A thriving startup ecosystem, access to funding, and exceptional quality of life make LA an attractive option for ambitious founders.
LA Startup Ecosystem in Growth Mode
In recent years, Los Angeles has cultivated a vibrant network of incubators, coworking spaces, and accelerator programs to support the local startup community. Some of the most influential organizations include:
- Launchpad LA
These programs assist early-stage startups by providing education, mentorship, and access to investors. They help founders navigate the LA ecosystem and build momentum.
Moreover, LA is now home to over a dozen startup “unicorns” valued at over $1 billion, including Dollar Shave Club, Ring, Snap, and Bird. These high-growth companies inspire local entrepreneurs to dream big.
Access to Capital Through VC Firms and Angels
Although not yet on par with Silicon Valley, VC funding is accelerating in LA. Nearly $8 billion was invested in local startups in 2021. Some prominent VC firms in the region include:
- Upfront Ventures
- Fifth Wall Ventures
- M13 Ventures
- BAM Ventures
The city also has a growing network of angel investors looking to fund the next innovative startup. Groups like Tech Coast Angels, Golden Seeds, and Sand Hill Angels are engaged in the community.
Lifestyle Appeal for Entrepreneurs
While startup costs are not cheap, Los Angeles offers an attractive lifestyle for entrepreneurs. The sunny beaches, Mediterranean climate, diversity, food, arts, and culture provide a high quality of life.
For founders spending long hours at the office, LA offers plenty of activities for work-life balance.
Additionally, the relatively affordable housing (compared to San Francisco and NYC) makes bootstrapping a startup possible. And the city’s universities ensure a pipeline of young talent is always available.
For entrepreneurs seeking the complete package of startup ecosystem, funding, and lifestyle, Los Angeles checks all the boxes.
The possibilities for startups are growing exponentially across sectors like tech, healthcare, and entertainment.
As LA continues to come into its own as a startup hub, founders should keep a close eye on emerging opportunities.
4. Boston – An East Coast Startup Hub for Entrepreneurs
With its world-class universities and high concentration of tech talent, Boston has emerged as a leading startup hub for entrepreneurs.
Abundant access to venture capital, accelerator programs, and an innovative ecosystem make Beantown a prime location to launch a high-growth business.
Elite Universities Cultivate Tech Talent
The Greater Boston area is home to some of the most prestigious universities on earth, including Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Tufts, and more.
Every year, these institutions churn out exceptionally skilled graduates in fields like:
- Computer science
Many students also pursue entrepreneurship through university incubators and accelerators. This results in a highly educated talent pipeline ideal for powering innovative startups.
Venture Capital Fuels Innovation
Boston sits at the epicenter of the Venture Capital industry. Firms like Battery Ventures, General Catalyst, and Spark Capital attract founders from around the world.
In 2021, Boston-based startups received over $20 billion in funding. Below are some top deals:
|Ginkgo Bioworks||$1.6 billion|
This enormous pool of capital enables entrepreneurs to scale disruptive technologies. It also attracts coastal VC firms to open local offices.
Cutting-Edge Innovation Across Sectors
Boston’s potent blend of brains and bucks has made it a petri dish for innovation across sectors like:
- Clean energy
Prominent startups launched here include TripAdvisor, Wayfair, Zipcar, and Cybereason. Several unicorns are emerging as well, especially in biotech.
The city also houses accelerator programs like MassChallenge, LearnLux, and Techstars to propel startups forward. Coworking spaces provide affordable office space and networking events.
For any founder with a big vision, Boston offers the talent, funding, and infrastructure to make it a reality. The startup energy is palpable across the city.
5. Austin – The Southern Startup Hub for Entrepreneurs
With its vibrant culture and affordable cost of living, Austin has emerged as a magnet for entrepreneurs in recent years.
A blossoming startup scene, ample tech talent, and an open-minded spirit make ATX a standout option for launching a business.
Hotbed of Tech Innovation
Austin boasts a bustling startup scene across sectors like:
- Financial Tech
- Clean Energy
Homegrown startups include Wildfire, BigCommerce, and Yeti. The city has also attracted Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and indeed to open major hubs.
Prominent accelerators and co-working spaces like Capital Factory, Mass Challenge, and WeWork Labs provide resources for scaling startups in Austin.
Tech conferences like SXSW bring founders together and keep innovation buzzing.
Access to Engineering Talent
With the University of Texas anchoring in Austin, entrepreneurs enjoy access to top-notch engineering and computer science talent.
The city imports young professionals from across the country eager to work in the “Silicon Hills.”
Austin startups raised over $1.5 billion in VC funding last year to build out teams. Salaries also remain highly competitive compared to coastal tech hubs.
For startups seeking to scale, Austin provides a dependable talent pipeline.
Quality of Life for Entrepreneurs
Austin is consistently ranked among the best cities for quality of life in the US. It offers:
- Mild winters and sunny weather 300+ days a year
- Outdoor activities like hiking, biking, swimming, and kayaking
- A vibrant food scene with award-winning BBQ and Tex-Mex
- World-class live music and cultural festivals
Moreover, Austin remains very affordable compared to Silicon Valley and NYC. The cost of living is 20% below the national average. This allows entrepreneurs’ funding to go far when building their startups.
For founders seeking a balanced lifestyle and welcoming startup community, Austin has become a go-to destination. Opportunities are expanding exponentially as the tech sector blossoms.
6. Seattle – The Pacific Northwest’s Startup Hub
With its roots in tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing, Seattle has cultivated a vibrant startup ecosystem for entrepreneurs.
Abundant tech talent, access to capital, and a high quality of life make the Emerald City a leading hub for new ventures.
Deep Pool of Tech Talent
Seattle boasts one of the country’s most highly educated workforce, with many professionals drawn to tech leaders like Microsoft and Amazon as well as startups. The metro area employs over 160,000 workers in computer science and engineering.
Top local feeder schools include the University of Washington and Seattle University, which groom future generations of talent.
Seattle also attracts young professionals from across the country eager to work for innovative companies.
For startups seeking to scale quickly, this robust tech workforce is indispensable. And salaries remain competitive, although not as lofty as the Bay Area.
Venture Capital and Angel Investors
While not yet on par with Silicon Valley, Seattle enjoys expanding access to venture capital and angel investors. Top-tier VC firms like Madrona Venture Group and Ignition Partners are located in the city.
In 2021, Seattle startups raised over $3 billion in VC funding. Notable deals include:
- Convoy ($400 million)
- Auth0 ($350 million)
- Outreach ($200 million)
- Skilljar ($33 million)
Active angel networks like the Alliance of Angels and Seattle Angel Conference provide early funding and mentoring to fledgling startups as well.
Quality of Life for Entrepreneurs
Beyond resources, Seattle offers an exceptional quality of life for entrepreneurs. The city provides:
- Mild, sunny summers and moderate winters
- Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, skiing and cycling
- Rich arts and music culture
- Excellent dining scene with fresh seafood and produce
Moreover, Seattle’s cost of living remains 20% below San Francisco and NYC. This allows founders to stretch their capital further when bootstrapping a company.
For entrepreneurs who value work-life balance along with access to talent and capital, Seattle ticks all the boxes.
The Emerald City will continue to nurture startups across sectors like cloud computing, e-commerce, gaming, and enterprise software.
7. Denver – A Rising Startup Ecosystem in the Rockies
With its highly educated workforce and renowned quality of life, Denver has cultivated a thriving startup community for entrepreneurs in recent years.
Access to venture capital, accelerator programs, and major corporations provides resources for scaling innovative companies.
Homegrown Tech Giants Anchor Ecosystem
Denver serves as headquarters for a number of major tech corporations, including:
- Arrow Electronics
These established companies help anchor the startup ecosystem by providing well-educated talent, executive mentors, and acquisition opportunities. They help attract coastal VC firms to open Denver offices as well.
Prominent recent startups launched in Denver include Guild Education, SendGrid, and Zenman Energy.
Venture Capital Activity Rising
Historically lagging behind coastal hubs, VC investment in Denver startups has surged in recent years. The metro raised nearly $4 billion in 2021, with top deals including:
- InBank ($177 million)
- Guild Education ($175 million)
- ID mission ($145 million)
- Thrilling ($20 million)
Local firms like the Colorado Venture Fund and Mergelane Ventures provide early-stage capital and guidance to emerging startups. Angel groups like Rockies Venture Club bolster the funding landscape as well.
Highly Educated, Desirable Lifestyle
With a landscape dominated by the Rocky Mountains, Denver offers world-class outdoor recreation, 300+ days of sunshine, and a vibrant cultural scene.
The city also boasts one of the country’s most highly educated populations, fueled by universities like CU Boulder and downtown Denver. Open-minded, active, and entrepreneurial, Denver residents provide an ideal talent base.
For founders seeking a balanced, optimistic approach to startup life, Denver presents abundant opportunities across sectors like renewable energy, biotech, and software. Costs also remain affordable relative to the coasts.
As the startup ecosystem matures, Denver will solidify its position among the country’s top emerging tech hubs. The Mile High City provides fertile ground for ambitious entrepreneurs ready to elevate their ventures.
8. Chicago – The Midwest’s Startup Powerhouse
As the economic capital of the Midwest, Chicago has emerged as a major hub for high-growth startups across industries.
Abundant technical talent, moderate costs, and access to capital help local entrepreneurs thrive.
Broad Base of Engineering Talent
With leading engineering schools like the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Northwestern, and the Illinois Institute of Technology, metro Chicago produces a pipeline of skilled graduates coveted by startups.
The region employs over 140,000 workers in computer science and math occupations. Top technology employers include major companies like Motorola, Boeing, Willis Towers Watson, and Salesforce.
For startups seeking to scale teams quickly, Chicago offers a dependable well of technical talent. Salaries also remain reasonable compared to coastal tech centers.
Vibrant Network of Investors and Accelerators
Chicago is home to an expanding network of venture capital firms and startup accelerators catering to local founders.
Prominent VC companies include:
- Chicago Ventures
- Hyde Park Venture Partners
- OCA Ventures
- Pritzker Group
Top accelerators like 1871, Matter, and Techstars provide education, mentors, and access to capital. Events like the Chicago Venture Summit and Momentum Forum connect founders with funding.
Fast-Growing Startup Hub
In recent decades, Chicago has cultivated a thriving startup ecosystem across industries like:
- Financial Technology
- Food & Agriculture
- Healthcare IT
- Consumer Goods
Major local startups include Braintree, CareerBuilder, GrubHub, and SMS Assist. The number of startups in Chicago has grown 40% since 2015, showing no signs of slowing down.
For any entrepreneur looking to build an industry-leading company in the Midwest, Chicago provides the talent, community, and resources to help get there.
Costs are modest, and the business-friendly environment supports innovation across sectors.
9. Atlanta – An Affordable Startup Hub in the South
With a robust talent pipeline and business-friendly environment, Atlanta has emerged as a top destination for cost-conscious entrepreneurs.
Homegrown corporations, access to capital, and a blossoming startup community provide resources for scaling ventures.
Corporate Giants Seed Ecosystem
Atlanta serves as home to over a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including The Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and First Data. These corporate giants help anchor the startup ecosystem in Atlanta.
They provide executive-level mentors for founders and a pipeline of talented professionals with experience scaling national brands. Many startups also find acquisition opportunities in these corporations.
Top Engineering Talent Pipeline
With Georgia Tech, Atlanta enjoys a massive base of skilled engineers to build technical teams. The metro area employs over 250,000 STEM professionals.
For startups like Mailchimp, Calendly, and Greenlight Financial Technology, this tech workforce has been indispensable for scaling from Atlanta. It allows founders to keep labor costs in check.
Investor Community Makes Gains
Historically trailing other regions, venture capital and angel investing in Atlanta startups is on the rise. The metro saw VC deals totaling over $1.5 billion in 2020.
Prominent local investors include Tech Square Ventures, BLH Venture Partners, and Atlanta Ventures. National firms like Andreessen Horowitz and Greycroft Partners are also investing more in the region.
Low Cost of Living
A huge advantage for Atlanta entrepreneurs is the city’s very reasonable cost of living. At 15% below the national average, Atlanta allows founders to stretch dollars much further.
With sunny weather and an international cultural scene, the city also provides a great quality of life. For startups seeking affordability along with resources, Atlanta stands out.
Opportunities for entrepreneurs are expanding, especially in logistics, fintech, healthcare IT, and consumer goods. As the ecosystem matures, Atlanta’s startup potential will only continue rising.
10. Miami – A Rising Startup Hub for Entrepreneurs
With its cultural diversity and ties to Latin America, Miami is an emerging startup hub offering founders unique opportunities.
A vibrant investor ecosystem, targeted accelerator programs, and a diverse workforce help get startups off the ground.
Investor Community Growing Fast
Historically short on access to capital, Miami’s funding landscape has expanded enormously in recent years. Local VC firms include:
- Krillion Ventures
- Sabal Ventures
- Las Olas Venture Capital
- Tami Capital
In 2021, Miami startups saw deals totaling over $2.7 billion. The city also boasts an active angel investor community. Conferences like eMerge Americas connect investors and founders.
Tailored Accelerator Programs
Miami has developed targeted startup accelerator programs catering to key industries:
- Fintech – Venture Cafe Miami, Miami Fintech Hub
- Healthcare – Healthcare Innovation Pitch Program
- Transport/Logistics – TheParallel.VC, Transitory
These accelerators help provide education, mentors, and access to capital for taking concepts to market.
Access to Multicultural, Multilingual Talent
With its Caribbean influences and proximity to Latin America, Miami offers startups access to exceptionally diverse, multilingual talent. Over 70% of residents are of multicultural or Hispanic origin.
For startups focused on international expansion or serving niche cultural markets, Miami’s workforce offers a major edge. Costs also remain lower than in traditional tech hubs.
Lifestyle Appeal for Entrepreneurs
Miami is renowned for its sunny beaches, arts and culture, cuisine, and nightlife. For entrepreneurs spending long hours building startups, the Magic City provides a high quality of life.
Compared to traditional tech hubs, Miami remains more affordable in areas like housing, entertainment, healthcare, and living costs. This allows the founders’ capital to go further.
As the startup ecosystem evolves, Miami is becoming a hub for media, logistics, healthcare IT, fintech, and LatAm expansion. Founders should keep an eye on emerging opportunities.
Conclusion – The Best Cities for Entrepreneurs in the U.S.
- The top cities for entrepreneurs offer abundant resources like access to capital, strong talent pools, and supportive startup communities.
- Leading startup hubs include San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Austin given their innovative ecosystems.
- Affordable cities like Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, and Miami provide cheaper alternatives while still offering growing startup scenes.
- Tech talent and engineering workforces are indispensable in cities like Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, and Austin.
- The most venture capital activity concentrates in San Francisco, NYC, Los Angeles, and Boston – over $20 billion invested per year.
- Quality of life and lifestyle appeal shine in hubs like Denver, Austin, Miami, and Seattle relative to coastal tech centers.
- Every major city offers unique advantages – entrepreneurs should weigh funding, talent, costs, and culture in selecting the ideal location.
FAQs – Top Entrepreneurial Cities in the United States
What is the best city for entrepreneurs?
The San Francisco Bay Area leads as the #1 American city for entrepreneurs thanks to its unrivaled access to venture capital, abundance of tech talent, and culture of innovation.
What is the most affordable city for entrepreneurs?
More affordable cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Miami allow entrepreneurs’ limited capital to go further regarding costs like real estate, hiring, living expenses, and more.
What city has the most venture capital funding for startups?
The San Francisco Bay Area sees the most VC funding activity by far – over $30 billion invested annually – given the concentration of prominent VC firms in Silicon Valley.
Which city has the deepest talent pool for tech startups?
San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and New York have the largest and most skilled tech talent pools fed by influxes of computer science graduates and skilled foreign workers.
What cities have the best quality of life for entrepreneurs?
Hubs like Denver, Austin, Seattle, and Miami tend to offer better work-life balance, outdoor recreation, lower costs, and more relaxed lifestyles compared to coastal tech centers.