Jul 10, 2013

More than technology: Startup communities cultivate art, entrepreneurs

Ansley Kilgore

Startup communities cultivate art, entrepreneursThe Atlantic Cities posted an article last month on the leading metro areas for venture capital, based on number of deals and the dollar amounts of each deal. Earlier this year, Mashable.com posted a similar list from the National Venture Capital Association. A spokesperson from the NVCA stated that these cities “tend to have strong universities where technology is developed and research is completed and commercialized.” Both lists are a great read for any aspiring entrepreneur looking to relocate from SmallTown, USA to a larger metropolitan area, or even for someone who wants to validate their city is the right place to be.

But universities crank out more than just tech research. Many universities in the same cities graduate aspiring artists and musicians who, in turn, help drive the creative scene and cultural landscape of the city. The Jail Break reported on Artbistro (a division of Monster.com), who posted a list of top 25 cities for artists and designers in 2010. CNBC followed up in 2011 with their list (slideshow) of top ten cities for “young people”, with criteria focusing on art, culture, cost of living and employment.

The creative desire spurring technological innovation is similar to the inspiration that creative artists have when producing groundbreaking art. So it’s no surprise that many of the cities with the highest number of startups and venture funding are also cities with a strong arts community. Some of the cities that showed up on all four lists are Boston (in which Internap is sponsoring an event with GigaOM on Thursday), as well as Austin and Seattle. Internap’s home city of Atlanta made it to three of the lists, as did several California cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles (the list for “young people” assumes they want a lower cost of living, which isn’t always a reality in the larger urban hives). A few cities with large surrounding metropolitan areas made it to all four lists if you include their immediate neighbors, like Denver/Boulder and New York City/Newark.

Correlations between data like this aren’t new, of course, and there’s no shortage of interpretations looking for cause-and-effect. Naturally, I’ll throw in my opinion as well: Startups don’t just thrive where there’s VC money. Startups are usually founded by neophiles who have passion and zeal around an idea and want to create something to share with the world (just like artists do). They tend to thrive in cities that have a flourishing arts community, because, like artists, entrepreneurs tend to focus on the new, the exciting and the interesting. They all start from the same creative impulses; while one group moves towards the arts, the other moves toward technology and business. These groups continue to intermingle, creating a symbiotic culture that defines and redefines the city. Venture capital will go looking for the best and the brightest to get the best returns on funding opportunities, leading them to the same cities where artists and entrepreneurs already live.

Whether you’re an artistic entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial artist, you may want to check out events centered around the startup community. Internap is sponsoring a few of these events in Boston and Atlanta. If you’re in the area, we highly encourage you to attend.

GigaOM Boston – July 11, 2013

GigaOM Atlanta – July 17, 2013

TechZulu Final Friday – July 26, 2013

Venture Atlanta – October 22-23, 2013

If you’re interested in the source data for the correlations above, here is the Excel file of the lists compiled from the linked articles. Feel free to manipulate the data and draw your own correlations, and share your comments below.

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Ansley Kilgore

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