Once upon a time, it was believed that mythical startup success could only be found in one place: Silicon Valley. In a land where you’re surrounded by unicorns (the companies, not the animals) it could be hard to see how the magic of Silicon Valley could possibly be replicated elsewhere. Outside of the San Francisco region, however, companies small and large understand that each region of the United States has something unique to offer. Whether companies are looking for warmer weather, friendlier people, lower cost of living, or a less stressful lifestyle, there is one region that has it all: The South.
An attractive option for startups and entrepreneurs looking for the “next” Silicon Valley, the Southern United States is showing fast growth in areas of innovation and fundraising. Robert Half Technology, a staffing and recruiting firm specializing in the technology industry, surveyed CIOs across the U.S. to find the top 10 cities for startup growth. The results? Cities like Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia made the top five.
Just below the Mason-Dixon line, you’ll find thriving startup communities throughout the South. Cities like Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Birmingham, Alabama are abundant with tech entrepreneurs looking to make a difference close to home.
“I moved to Nashville over 6 years ago from NYC to start a family,” said Stephen Glicken, the founder of a ticketing technology company called Project Admission. “I love living here and it has been amazing to watch the tech community grow, especially in the last few years.”
Modern Day Misconceptions
Like Glicken, many business leaders come to the South from other parts of the country looking for a better pace of life. Many business leaders in this area could work anywhere in the world, but know there is something special about the South. Some city-dwellers might have the misconception that innovation isn’t a top priority for Southern businesses, but they are sorely mistaken.
Tommy Mayfield, the founder of Wyndy, a Birmingham, Alabama-based app that connects parents to local, trusted college sitters, knows firsthand how receptive the region has been to modern technologies, once thought to be accepted by residents in places like San Francisco or Hong Kong.
“Watching Shipt’s journey and reflecting on our own experience with Wyndy, I have come to believe that technology platforms can start and grow within the South,” said Mayfield. “There are plenty of tech-savvy customers in cities across the South and if a company is solving a real problem, there’s no reason why the earliest adopters can’t be found right here.”
That “It” Factor
There are other benefits of starting a company in the South, too.
“Did I mention vinegar-based pulled pork?” said Doron Gordon, founder, and CEO of Samanage, an enterprise service desk and IT asset-management provider located in Cary, NC. The Carolinas are known for their unique barbeque, but Gordon also noted that tech jobs in the general Raleigh area grew forty percent from 2010 to 2015, proving that leadership and talent are valuing the South more and more as a new tech hub.
If you’re not from around these parts, you might not realize how important the distinct flavors of barbeque are to each hometown. Just like barbeque chefs once did, entrepreneurs are making a name for themselves in each Southern state. As founders and VC funding continue to flock to the area, we can expect to see a continuation of growth and innovation from our neighbors down South.
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