4 Entrepreneurial Cities To Keep Your Eye On

by Tim Jahn on July 11, 2011

Two years ago, the Chicago startup/entrepreneur scene looked nothing like it does today.

Excelerate Labs, a local startup incubator, is currently in their second summer class of startups. Resources like the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, TiE Midwest, and SCORE Chicago provide tools and advice founders need to get their ideas off the ground.

Companies like Lightbank, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, Sandbox Industries, and New World Ventures invest in great ideas. Sites like Technori, Tech.li, BuiltInChicago, and Midventures keep a constant pulse on the activity buzzing in this old town.

If there was ever a time to be building a business in Chicago, that time is now.

In my regular interviews with creative entrepreneurs and meeting new people with new ideas, I’ve noticed a bunch of other communities popping up all over the US, outside the traditional Silicon Valley.

Durham, NC

Durham is part of the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham triangle area in North Carolina. From the folks I’ve spoken with out there, Durham seems to be the hub of activity. They have an old tobacco factory that has been converted into startup offices and meeting spaces.

Events include Startup Weekend, Big Top (a new kind of career fair), Launch Madness, ExitEvent, Hackers and Founders, happy hours, Meetups, user groups, and more. Companies including ShoeBoxed, iContact, ChannelAdvisor, Lulu, ReverbNation, and Alexa call the triangle area home.

Indianapolis, IN

After I attended The Combine conference in Bloomington, IN last fall, I became more and more aware of the growing startup scene in the Indy area. Bloomington is home to Sproutbox, an innovative take on the traditional startup incubator by founders Mike Trotzke and Brad Wisler.

Matt Hunkler created the Verge Meetup group in Indianapolis about a year ago and now gathers hundreds of local entrepreneurs monthly to pitch their ideas, drink beer, and chow on some pizza.

There’s the Orr Entrepreneurship Fellowships and Indy is also home to names like Angie’s List, ExactTarget, ChaCha, and FormStack.

Kansas City, MO

Home to the renowned Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City is a force to be reckoned with.

With the recent Think Big Kansas City conference, startups like Zaarly setting up shop in town, and groups like the Cowtown Computer Congress, there’s enough energy to go around.

Several sites such as KCSourceLink, Entrepreneurial Exchange, and Kansas City IT Professionals keep the community connected and aware of everything that’s happening.

Omaha, NE

I first discovered Omaha, Nebraska in 2010 when I attended the Big Omaha conference. Coming up on its fourth year, this amazing conference surrounded around innovation and entrepreneurship attracts hundreds of the most innovative minds from all over the country, with an emphasis on the Midwest.

Jeff Slobotski, Danny Schreiber, and the entire Silicon Prairie News team shine a spotlight on the Omaha scene every day. There are plenty of events like Startup Weekends, Silicon Prairie News meetups, Cornstalks, and many more.

Join our newsletter and get everything Unpluggd!

  • https://www.budgetsketch.com/ Bill Barnett

    All four cities sound like hotbeds of entrepreneurship but there’s another great one just down I-74 from Indy, Cincinnati. Investors at Queen City Angels and Blue Chip Ventures help fund startups at The Brandery (seed stage accelerator) and CincyTech (incurabor for high growth startups). Cincinnati also has a vibrant tech community well documented by the TechLife Cincinnati meetup group which aggregates dozens of local tech meetup groups. Cincinnati has several coworking spaces, including the one I help found (Cincinnati Coworks) and one of the first lean startup circles in the country. Cincinnati continues to maintain its strong tradition of innovation.

    • http://www.BeyondThePedway.com Tim Jahn

      Thanks for the heads up on Cincinnati Bill! Another city I had no idea had so much activity going on. I love that there is so much energy in these cities supporting entrepreneurship.

    • http://www.generalinformatics.com Fred Phillips

      And check out the new Water Technologies Innovation Cluster, centered around Cincinnati’s EPA laboratory and UC.

  • http://twitter.com/thinkbigKC Herb Sih

    I agree regarding Kansas City! We are the founders of Think Big Kansas City, which was created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, because we felt we needed to connect more entrepreneurs (who normally have their heads down working!) to other serious entrepreneurs, people with ideas, investors, startups, talent and more. But there is great talent all around the country and emerging fast as a real force.

    Think Big Baltimore, our first expansion partnership city, blew folks away on July 13th. And other cities are host to entrepreneurs who have come to realize that the dream of a 30 year career, retirement gold watch and a big fat pension is forever gone. We all need to realize that through collaborative efforts, we can all help create new companies, more jobs and restore this country to a place of economic stability. That is why we create our for profit incubator, startup accelerator and angel capital fund. We need to find, fund and build more companies around collaboartive teams, so the historical statistic of 7 new jobs created for every new startup can be restored (currently 4.9 new jobs).

    • http://www.BeyondThePedway.com Tim Jahn

      Think Big Kansas City looked really cool and I heard some great things about it! That’s cool that you expanded to Baltimore too. Would love to chat more with you about that!

  • Ryan Brewer

    I think Omaha and Kansas City have the most potential because of their central location in the US. Not to bash on the others, but Kansas City is the most central and therefore my favorite!

    • http://www.BeyondThePedway.com Tim Jahn

      Omaha is an amazing city, especially with Big Omaha and what SPN is doing for the scene. Kansas City is hopping too! We’ll be doing our first Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event there in the near future. Maybe see ya there? :)
      Thanks for the comment!