In the race to create the ultimate startup, where you are can be just as important as what you do.

The place you set down your roots and call home for your new business is probably one of your first major decisions (after what you’ll do and what you’ll call yourself). Want that home office in the center of it all? Prefer to set up headquarters away from the hustle and bustle?

How much will your physical address impact your ability to provide your goods or services?

That prime location will be here for some startups, there for others.

Regardless of your wares or services, some places are just more startup-friendly. Whether it’s the presence of local advocacy groups, tax incentives, simplified zoning ordinances or proximity to resources – a work force, similar businesses, or a climate conducive to your startup – location is key.

Five of the Best Places to Launch Your Startup

Here are five spots that have it going on as hubs of startup activity:

1.    Silicon Valley

Despite all the trendy spots that have popped up on the startup scene – think Atlanta, Austin, Portland – it’s tough to argue against such a concentration of entrepreneurship and venture capital.

Silicon Valley is where the action is. Tradition is there, too. Startups from 2012, such as Arista, Box and Splunk have grown to the post-startup stage of 500-plus employees and valuations from $1-$5 billion. All were born in Silicon Valley.

It’s also where Cloudera, Hortonworks and Violin Memory originated. Oh, and another startup you might be familiar with? Pinterest.

Inside the numbers: Mattermark, a San Francisco company, tracks growth rates in six areas: Facebook page likes, inbound links from other sites, LinkedIn followers, mobile downloads (where applicable), Twitter followers, and website traffic.

Their recent report of such momentum found that five of the top 10 were from Silicon Valley and San Francisco, including Estimote, 7 Cups of Tea and Raynforest.

2.    Seattle

Washingtonians have more cash in their coffers, because there’s no state income tax. More than 770 startups call Seattle home. The Startup Ecosystem Report of 2012 ranked Seattle the world’s fourth-leading home for startups, behind only Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Los Angeles.

StartupSeattle, a grassroots movement to aid local startups with connections and other resources, has the city’s support, too. The organization promotes Seattle neighborhoods that have a diverse blend of established companies and startups, living space, and other amenities conducive to growing a business.

StartupSeattle has an initiative to connect high school students to opportunities to work with startups.

Inside the numbers: Housing costs in Seattle are roughly half of what they are in San Francisco ($805,500 median sale price) according to a report from GoodApril, a Bay Area tax-planning service. You can get office space in Seattle for two-thirds of what it would cost by the bay ($49.40 per square foot).

3.    Houston

Texas also has no state income tax, and in 2012, Houston loaned more than $250 million to small businesses. The prevalence of venture capital firms and incubators has propelled startups such as omNovia Technologies, Spotmau Corporation, and The Stracka Design Company to the top.

Houston, a hub to the oil and gas industry, held up well during the American financial crisis, and drew a fair share of entrepreneurship, such as accelerators, hackathons and meetups. The startup scene begets startups, such as January Advisors, a consulting firm that specializes in startup strategy and design.

Kraftwurx, a privately funded platform that gives clients the power to design anything for 3D printing, got its start in Cypress, in Northwest Houston.

Inside the numbers: According to a January Advisors post, you can rent office space for four employees in the upstart neighborhood Rice Village for about $700 a month.

4.    Boulder, Colo.

There’s plenty of support at the foot of the Rockies. No matter the size or scope of your startup, Boulder has resources for networks and crowd sharing. Entities such as Boulder Data, Boulder.me, and House of Genius offer support for the exchange of ideas, mixer events and incubators.

Intangibles come into play when you talk Boulder. It’s an outdoorsman’s dream, picturesque and brimming with activity, never a microbrewery or coffee shop out of walking – or biking – distance. But an idyllic mode of living means little without the startup structure you seek in the first place.

Inside the numbers: Boulder County, with a population of 300,000, is a top-20 metro area in terms of GDP. Boulder’s 5.4% unemployment rate is nearly two points lower than the current national average.

5.    Las Vegas

Sin City has a lot of good going for it these days. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh moved his company to Las Vegas’ downtown in 2005, and now bankrolls a revitalization project – to the tune of $350 million – to transform the area into one of the nation’s startup havens.

Hsieh’s model can serve as cornerstone. He brought about 2,000 jobs to town, and moved Zappos into the former city hall. Nearby apartments, where he and some employees live, is part of it, so everyone can live and work in common urban space.

A surplus of vacant buildings can transform into a startup community quickly.

Inside the numbers: Zappos’ investment breakdown, according to downtownproject.com:

  • $200 million in real estate
  • $50 million in small businesses
  • $50 million in education
  • $50 million in tech startups

The project’s objectives include development of ground-level activities and the co-working capital of the world, in less than 5 years.

As you examine the extent of support and development for small businesses in each city, consider your Internet options. Google Fiber has helped individuals and businesses alike gain access to lightning fast fiber Internet, but it’s availability is limited to just a few cities. Other providers like CenturyLink and Verizon have also launched fiber Internet in various cities throughout the country, so be sure to check out the technology infrastructure of each city carefully.

Choose thoughtfully – your business will be tied to your home base, and there are some awesome places to choose from.


Rose Haywood is an Internet tech writer, social media junkie and freelance marketing consultant. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA.