Tech friendly cities?
February 27, 2015 8:45 PM   Subscribe

What are some cities / metro areas in the U.S. with a fair amount of software and tech companies besides the Bay Area, Seattle, and NYC? I'm looking more for lesser known hubs or places where there is a growing presence, cities that I may have not considered. Where are the jobs in 2015 and where will they be in ten years?

I'm daydreaming of some options for relocating and I'm interested in some off the beaten path locations.
posted by deathpanels to Work & Money (34 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Minneapolis. First google I found.
posted by sanka at 8:47 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, Portland's not bad for tech. Austin was a premier tech city in the '90s and is still going strong, from what I gather. Boston's excellent universities have anchored a tech ecosystem there.

There are also places where huge industries spawn ancillary jobs in tech, like the Washington D.C. area and the Raleigh, NC area.
posted by chrchr at 8:49 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by mkb at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Austin and Raleigh.
posted by Drosera at 8:54 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

LA has quite a bit of tech, but is kind of the opposite of "off the beaten path."
posted by primethyme at 8:59 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Salt Lake City.
posted by carmicha at 9:07 PM on February 27, 2015

Pittsburgh. Google, Disney Research, NREC, and others have local offices, and quite a few faculty at the area universities have their own little spin-offs. There's also a major healthcare provider based in the city (UPMC), and a number of biotech firms.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:09 PM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

Most big metro areas have some tech presence, though not necessarily high-profile. Smaller cities? Chattanooga is making a push with its municipal broadband. Kansas City (MO and KS) has Google Fiber and a tech presence in certain sectors. Follow the bandwidth.
posted by holgate at 9:12 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Chicago has three related tech scenes: a bunch of start-ups (just a few Google hits from "start-up chicago"), old-school companies like McMaster-Carr, and some finance stuff due to CBOE and CME (e.g., Jump Trading, Chopper, Belvedere).

I'm less familiar with Madison, WI but I also have some friends who are quite happy there.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:14 PM on February 27, 2015

Come to Chicago! It's way cheaper than SF/NYC, it's an awesome city, and there's a booming tech sector.
posted by protocoach at 9:29 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was going to mention Madison WI as well.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:39 PM on February 27, 2015

Bethesda, MD
posted by invisible ink at 9:50 PM on February 27, 2015

Boulder, CO. Top Employers
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 10:53 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Madison has a pretty good support network for startups, and certainly a good supply of interested people thanks to the university. Lots of High Tech Happy Hour nights and the like, too. I know several people who have started up their own tech companies. Google has an office, and the whole city practically bends over backwards for Epic.
posted by St. Hubbins at 10:58 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by oceanjesse at 11:05 PM on February 27, 2015

Dallas, TX and the Research Triangle area in North Carolina.
posted by neushoorn at 11:06 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I live in SF and the other places that come to mind are Austin, Cambridge, and Boulder. Lots of VCs hence lots of tech.
posted by amaire at 12:11 AM on February 28, 2015

This is especially off the beaten path for a question about the US, but Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario has a rapidly growing tech / start-up scene. Plenty of engineers coming out of the University of Waterloo, several prolific start-up incubators, some bigger tech companies (Google, OpenText, BlackBerry, etc.), and tech-friendly culture and governments.
posted by parudox at 1:39 AM on February 28, 2015

Response by poster: I'm in Chicago! :) Looking at other options after living here for most of a decade.
posted by deathpanels at 3:48 AM on February 28, 2015

RTP absolutely for a well established scene. Atlanta is working on making a go as well
posted by hydropsyche at 4:07 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Northern Virginia
posted by apartment dweller at 4:35 AM on February 28, 2015

Southeastern Michigan for automotive embedded controls - it's really booming.
posted by rfs at 5:15 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pittsburgh and Chattanooga were the ones I was going to mention.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:00 AM on February 28, 2015

If you want very very early stages of becoming a tech hub check out Huntsville AL.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:09 AM on February 28, 2015

St. Louis ... Basically 0% unemployment for software developers. A big incubator downtown called T-Rex. Lots of little startups and more and more money flowing in.
posted by Jacob G at 7:29 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I love Minneapolis but I would NOT recommend it for people in tech... A lot of big, old companies that don't hire anyone new, and a couple small innovative companies that drastically underpay their employees (but have free beer and ping pong!). I know 4 developers who have moved to the west coast in the last month....
posted by miyabo at 7:37 AM on February 28, 2015

Los Angeles - in addition to the fast-moving startuppy "Silicon Beach", there's also the gigantic tech industry attached to the studios, as well as a growing tech stretch near Pasadena

Provo, UT (no, really)

St. Louis, MO
posted by erst at 8:16 AM on February 28, 2015

I'd say Atlanta in a heartbeat. It's bigger than RTP and has many major employers here (both HQ and regional offices).
posted by heathrowga at 9:27 AM on February 28, 2015

Denver is full of tech as well as the Glorious People's Republic of Boulder.

(both are nice, I just grew up in Boulder and always enjoy it's peculiarities)
posted by nickggully at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2015

Dallas, TX, more specifically, the Richardson - Plano tech corridor. Near UT-Dallas which has an excellent CS, Software Engineering department.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 12:11 PM on February 28, 2015

Best answer: Everyone wants a tech sector. Chances are that no one is going to have one that is anything like the Bay Area, but some will achieve a robust formula of their own. It may take some much longer than others though.

Rather than just listing places I think are worth looking at, I'll also explain why.

Salt Lake City/Wasatch Front: Fairly low cost of living. Long, relatively steady, economic expansion and a business/startup friendly environment. Excellent year-round outdoor recreation opportunities (for one thing, you can leave work at lunch and get in a full afternoon of excellent skiing, or get up early and take hike before work, weather permitting). Plus, its actually been a tech center for years. The University of Utah was one of the early computer science programs in the country and responsible for educating a lot of early industry leaders (Ed Catmull, John Warnock, Jim Clark, Allen Kay...). Most of them went on to commercial glory in the bay area, but in doing so, they had the example of their UofU professors Ivan Sutherland and Dave Evans, who started an early tech startup based in SLC called Evans & Sutherland that made cutting edge computer graphics systems. Less than an hour to the south, BYU also had a CS program, and Provo/Orem ended up being home to Novell and WordPerfect, both dominant software companies in their field, before Microsoft beat them into the ground.

Why these things matter: At least historically, the research universities developed talent and technology that startups ended up commercializing. Early startup successes generated capital, experience & ideas; attracted talent; and provided examples that lead to the spawning of more startups. Low cost of living, other economic opportunities, and lifestyle attractions help keep people in the area after their startup succeeds, or fails (or more importantly, during cyclic declines in investment funding), helping build the pool of human capital needed for a successful "high tech" startup sector.

Boulder: I don't know a lot about larger history there, but I know that it has proximity to a sizable research university and proximity to outdoor recreation. It certainly helps that there is lots of locally grown capital from mining and petroleum, and I'm sure it doesn't hurt that people with mining money often have wealth tied up in land holdings, giving them an incentive to invest locally. I do know that at least one successful VC who has been determined to nurture the tech/startup ecosystem there, with some clear signs of success and progress.

Kitchener-Waterloo: I know a lot about SLC because I grew up there. I was long puzzled though by why there were so many computer graphics companies from a part of Canada I'd never heard of until someone pointed out that Kitchener-Waterloo was really close to Detroit, and that a lot of those early CG companies had the auto industry as early investors/customers. I don't know if the auto-industry ties are enough these days, but its clear that there have been other successes, and failures, in the intervening years, surviving multiple cycles helps build robustness. I imagine that the success of Blackberry helped spawn more startups, and investors, and its collapse has freed a lot of human capital.

Portland, Or: I loved Portland the first time I visited, 25 years ago. I'm not the only one, and people have been moving to Portland for years because they love it often despite its economy. That seems like it is changing now. Portland's tech roots started in hardware. Tektronics was hugely important early high tech company around which attracted a presence of other large hardware companies, like HP and Intel. They all spawned other hardware companies, along with software companies that served the semiconductor industry. More recently, Portland has been attracting refugees from Seattle and Silicon valley, not to mention the rest of the damn country, and a new wave of larger tech companies have been establishing offices there in order to tap into the talent pool. The presence of these companies helps attract even more talent to Portland, who may go on to startups, and it also helps keep people in portland if their startup crashes, and, probably even more importantly, when there is a cyclic decline in startup capital.

I know less about it, but Boise Idaho may be worth a look too.

I think the thing I'd really think about in considering the suggestions here is what happens when the supply of money that is currently funding these budding tech startup hubs ebbs, because it will ebb. The global economy ebbs and flows. In recessions, everyone tightens their belt a little. Tax revenues drop, when they do, people will look more closely at the government economic development programs. The companies those programs invested in will be feeling the effect of the recession too, and almost certainly fall short of the promises that shook the funds loose, leaving them politically vulnerable. VCs will hunker down, and focus on funding the strongest among their last wave of investments, while stopping the bleeding at the rest.

Startup hubs in places that people would want to be anyway, because of the combination of cost of living, amenities, and other employment options, are going to be able to soak up these cycles, and in doing so, actually grow stronger because companies that are doing well find it easier to find talent. When things loosen up again, they'll be raring to go. The ones in marginal areas are going to have trouble, unless they've been careful to grow slowly to establish a good foundation, and secure enough investment to keep that foundation through downturns.
posted by Good Brain at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by mrfuga0 at 9:26 PM on February 28, 2015

Seconding the Bethesda and NoVa suggestions above, the DC metro area has a pretty heavy tech presence. As you might expect it trends heavily toward military/gov't contracting, but there's a lot of range as to what that actually entails, and it seems to have largely weathered/grown during the recession.

That may not be off the beaten path for others, I suppose, but before moving here from the Bay Area I never really imagined DC as much of a tech hub.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:16 PM on March 1, 2015

There was a recent article in Popular Mechanics (which nowdays is more of a Popular Mechanics, Technology, and Science magazine):
The 14 Best Startup Cities in America
posted by eye of newt at 11:29 PM on March 2, 2015

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