The 10 best cities for founders — and 9 of them beat San Francisco
Finding the best cities for founders and their startups for the longest runway, optimal success and general happiness can be tricky. We did the math based on real data — and the results aren’t what you’d expect.
Underneath the income, living costs & quality of life preferences you can toggle in Teleport Cities, there are 180 different data dimensions from 70+ different sources for 250+ cities, with topics ranging from an active tech scene to pollution and travel connectivity.
We’ve got a super secret internal data visualization tool in the making, so we figured we’d have a look at some of the sweetest places to live for certain professions. We’ve already revealed the best cities for software engineers — let’s continue with founders.
Expectations vs reality
The classic “best startup cities” or “best cities for founders” lists you see in the news mostly seem to take into account the quality of the startup and funding scene. We believe that those aspects, although extremely important, are just the tip of the iceberg.
Here’s what our top 5 cities list on Teleport would look like if we only took into account two things: quality of the startup scene and available VC funding:
And it’s completely predictable. Silicon Valley, NY, London…we’ve seen it all before. However, is this actually a full representation of what founders are really interested in or should keep in mind? Let’s see.
What are founders looking for (according to Teleport data)?
These are the top 5 preferences our founder friends toggle when using Teleport Cities:
- Lively startup scene
- Low living costs (consumer price index)
- Low pollution
- High safety
- Time spent on paying taxes
These preferences are quite general — most of our users are interested in safety, low pollution and low living costs, regardless of their profession.
To make the list very specific to founders and their needs, we added:
- Venture capital score
- Rent prices
- Download speed
- Monthly office rent
- Lack of labor restrictions
- Airport connectivity
- Time it takes to open a business (amount of bureaucracy)
Now, all we need to do put all those layers in one pot and see what comes out of it.
The top 5 cities for startup founders
When we combine all the aforementioned layers, we get this list:
(Edit: some users have found possible incompatibilites in the safety scores displayed in the chart above. We will review the data when possible and update the ranking in the next revision, should there be changes.)
The results pretty much speak for themselves — out of the high ranking cities in the traditional startup + VC based ranking above, the best performer based on the new criteria is Los Angeles, and it doesn’t even make it into the top 5.
Also, there’s enough of a difference between the scores to make a ranking list, but it’s still a tight race, which means that it’s that much more important to understand how a city matches all your personal preferences. Teleport Cities offers many more data layers than we have here, so make sure you check it out before making any decisions.
We’ll zoom in a bit on the top 5 (Atlanta, Chicago, Berlin, Dallas and Bengaluru) to give you a better overview of what these cities have to offer, but feel free to check the other locations for yourself on Teleport Cities.
Since our founder friends have their own top 5 preferences that we haven’t fiddled with, let’s see what the top 5 cities look like in comparison based on those criteria:
All the top 5 cities are doing equally well on all aspects here, with three main exceptions: Chicago and Atlanta aren’t performing great when it comes to safety; Bengaluru is a huge outlier with high levels of pollution; and Bengaluru is also a lot cheaper (consumer index wise) than all the other cities.
And now let’s compare the layers we stuck on top:
If you’re looking for a lot of VC options, then all of the cities are doing equally well. Same goes for low office rent and rent index (with the slight exception of Chicago, which is a bit more expensive).
Notable differences we can see are Berlin having a lot of labor restrictions; Bengaluru being extra cheap compared to the other cities; and Bengaluru also scoring quite low on airport connectivity and download speed.
Different cities, different runway
Besides comparing life quality and other data points when deciding where to establish your company, you should check out Teleport Runway — a tool for planning your team’s budget and comparing costs in your current location to other cities.
Here’s an example — say you’re a startup with 2 software engineers, a marketing manager, a UX designer, a data scientist and a project manager, and you have 500k in hand. Here’s the difference in your runway in San Francisco Bay Area versus Atlanta (the winner in our ranking):
As you can see, hiring this team of 6 in Atlanta would reduce your burn rate by $190K per year over San Francisco Bay Area, extending your runway by 3 months. So, besides defining the cities with the environment that you need, it’s definitely worth looking into how your finances would change in different locations.
Successful startups in our top cities
Want to see which other startups have come from our top five locations or what the environment is like?
On each city profile, we have a specific startup scene widget — largely powered by our friends at Funderbeam — , where you can see the number of startups in the city and how much they have received funding, a list of active startups you might know, coworking spaces, work spaces for rent, and a list of startup events and meetups in the city.
Check out the startup scenes in:
Top cities for founders in Asia, Europe and the US:
Don’t want to move too far? Here are the top 10 founder-friendly cities by continent in Europe, Asia and the US (did your city make any of the lists? Feel free to share it!).
Come check out Teleport and find out which city fits you best!