Above the Fold
Above the Fold - In Your Corner
Tom Donohue
Entrepreneurship starts at the local level, in neighborhoods and in cities. That’s been true throughout our history, and it’s true in today’s digital age. But communities that thrived in the past aren’t guaranteed success in the new economy. Increasingly, that success is dependent on public-private cooperation, smart public policies, and a web of partnerships and collaborations.

Innovation That Matters 2016, a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Free Enterprise, and startup incubator 1776, ranks 25 cities based on how well they attract talent, increase investment, develop specializations, connect the community, and build a culture of innovation. Our hope is that this research will help guide entrepreneurs, established industries, and cities as they work together to create the next generation of great American businesses. Boston finished first in this year’s report, with San Francisco, Denver, Raleigh-Durham, and San Diego close behind. These cities are some of the best for new companies. They have succeeded for four reasons.

First, they grappled with the possibilities of the major technological advances of our time—from artificial intelligence to robotics to biosecurity—and embraced the inevitable role these innovations will play in American life.

Second, each city leaned on lessons from its past to imagine and set a map for future prosperity. They used known assets and their unique strengths to foster startups.

Third, these cities didn’t ignore major employers, but instead embraced them and understood that entrepreneurs and corporations benefit from each other’s ideas, capital, and connections. Finally, these communities reexamined regulations through the lens of technological possibility.

The 2016 report confirms the conclusion we drew in last year’s edition: New businesses depend on open, collaborative networks. While the Bay Area was the clear leader in total startup activity, its entrepreneurs said their firms aren’t well integrated with local universities, institutions, or citizens. Boston, in contrast, had slightly less startup activity, but local entrepreneurs indicated stronger connections with local institutions and people and reported a higher quality of life than their counterparts out west.

Denver and Raleigh-Durham also had fewer startups, but stronger ties between new firms, citizens, and community institutions. San Diego ranked well in part because of a strong capital base and a dense community.

We’re at the dawn of an extraordinary technological revolution. The digital economy is still in its infancy. When thinking about how to attract innovators and entrepreneurs, city leaders must write new playbooks. In Innovation That Matters, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and its partners provide a great one.

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