It seems like every day a new city is christened “the next Silicon Valley.” Boulder, Colorado. Detroit, Michigan. The list goes on and on.
So what makes a city “Silicon Valley worthy?”
Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of the Creative Class,” says the magic recipe behind a city becoming a technological hub is attributed to three important factors: “talented people and a high quality of life that keeps them around, technological expertise, and an open-mindedness about new ways of doing things.”
Places like Boulder, Colorado embody Mr. Florida’s trifecta for technological success. Often thought of as a community of rock climbers and hippies whose main concern is legalizing marijuana, this picturesque place has become a magnet for ambitious entrepreneurs. With a population of 100,000 people, it has the most entrepreneurs per capita than any other city in the country. Imagine working out a proposal with talented colleagues over Yerba Mate Tea and then taking a lunch break to hike the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Plus, you don’t have to dump half your pay check into your landlord’s palm to do so. This place reeks of entrepreneurial spirit.
However, when I think of Detroit, Michigan, I think about smokestacks, Ford Motors, and Eminem’s first movie performance in 8 mile. This is not a place I would associate with innovation and growing opportunity, but surprisingly, it’s quickly becoming the core of technology in the Midwest.
After two years of unsuccessful attempts at launching a business in Silicon Valley, the founders of Stik, an online business referral platform, packed their bags and transplanted their idea to Detroit. Reinvigorated by a new pool of talent and funded by the hardworking network of investors at Detroit Venture Partners, Stik has grown into a million dollar company.
And Stik isn’t alone. Quikly, a startup that helps users take advantage of daily deals, moved from Philadelphia to Detroit in 2012. SocioCast also joined the Detroit scene, helping companies optimize their advertising campaigns across web and mobile platforms.
People are excited about Detroit and the thriving startup culture that has taken hold there.
Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and a Detroit native, sees this city as a palette for technological greatness. “If you want to really get in at the ground floor of something very special, you want to come to Detroit because you’re going to find things — it’s not only very exciting but less expensive. You’re going to find great, motivated people. Your people are the most important thing you have in these kinds of businesses,” Gilbert says.
What about places that seem to have the secret recipe and just aren’t making the cut, like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for example?
Philadelphia is home to some of the top colleges on the east coast, like University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. The cost of living is half of what you’ll find in New York City and with community events like Philly Tech Week and Philly Tech Meetup, the city is trying to nurture an environment for entrepreneurs where they can get their dreams off the ground. Yet, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the “City of Brotherly Love” ranks dead last among the 15 biggest metropolitan cities in terms of startup activity.
So is it really the culture and the people that make a city worthy of the “next Silicon Valley” title or is it just the interest of investors with deep pockets and big dreams?
What do you think?
By Jacqueline Monti