Startup Cities

Updated TLC Rules a Win for Startups



Last month the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission issued proposed rules for for-hire-vehicle and ridesharing services, many of which raised concerns for the startup community. Particularly troubling was a broadly written rule that could have required all software updates to be pre-approved by the TLC. Also of concern was a rule prohibiting the use of more than one electronic device outside whatever was provided by a dispatcher. This rule could have been especially damaging for new market entrants trying to compete with larger incumbents.

After vigorous public debate and a fairly contentious hearing, the TLC voted today on an updated set of rules which, while still not perfect, address many of the tech community’s concerns. Some of the more significant changes include:


  • Software and user interface review have been taken out of the rules. Instead, rideshare companies must notify the TLC of any changes to the ways in which they comply with passenger or driver facing requirements.
  • The number of handheld devices has been expanded. While we still question the purported safety value of placing a limit on electronic devices, the fact that most drivers will now be able to access rideshare apps on two separate devices is a noted improvement to the previous draft.
  • Violations will not impact all bases operated by a single company. Violations by a single driver affiliated with one company base will no longer have the potential to shut down a rideshare company’s entire operation.
  • Companies that operate bases will not have to pay a separate $1,000 technology fee. Companies without bases of their own that want to partner with existing bases will still have the opportunity to do so by through the new technology license.


To their credit, the TLC demonstrated a real willingness to come to the table with rideshare companies, and worked towards smart regulations that protect both riders and innovation. As the sharing economy continues to expand into even more facets of American life, we hope to see similar commitment to open collaboration from other regulatory agencies in New York City and beyond.

How Entrepreneurs are Building the Next New Orleans


This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.

New Orleans, home of jazz, Mardi Gras - and startups - was the last stop on a whirlwind tour of the Southeast. As the city nears the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this summer and its 300th birthday in 2018, New Orleanians are more optimistic than ever about the city’s future and its continued economic growth. New Orleans has experienced 5 consecutive years of net in-migration, and since 2006 the greater metro area’s GDP has grown 20%.

As Tim Williamson, CEO and Founder of the Idea Village explained, local entrepreneurs aren’t trying to build the “next Silicon Valley”, but rather the “next New Orleans”. To grow new companies and chart the city’s forward-looking economic path, entrepreneurs, business leaders and local policymakers draw from the city’s many cultural assets and industry expertise, as well as the city’s history of perseverance.

New Orleans culture was on full display throughout our visit and peaked during a mini pitch competition aboard a Mardi Gras parade float, led by the “Krewe de Nieux”. As the colorful float rolled through the city’s streets, entrepreneurs shared stories about their growing businesses in food, health and wellness, music and even the shipbuilding industry. The afternoon’s pitch competition, at the brand new home for Jazz music in New Orleans, also featured companies with New Orleans cultural roots: WhereY’art, for instance, is an online community for artists and art-lovers. Other young companies in New Orleans, many of which have strong social missions, are building education and environmental solutions.

ROTR Float

We also visited the BioInnovation Center, a technology business incubator where dozens of life sciences startups are creating new life-sustaining technologies. They benefit from biotech talent in the region and work with researchers from major area institutions including Tulane, LSU Health Sciences Center, Xavier and the University of New Orleans.

Another important piece of New Orleans cultural heritage is its diverse population, and local leaders are working to make sure New Orleans’ entrepreneurial future is even more diverse. One of the best examples of these efforts is PowerMoves, a program designed to increase the number of venture-backed minority-founded companies locally and nationally. At its helm is Earl Robinson who told us he hopes PowerMoves can help this country “reimagine the way people value African Americans’ contributions to society,” not only as athletes or musicians, but also as entrepreneurs. The program is clearly doing something right—a Power Moves company, GoToInterview, won the $100,000 pitch competition in New Orleans. CEO and Founder Crystal McDonald has built a software solution for employers in industries with high workforce turnover.


Perhaps the greatest asset New Orleans entrepreneurs have is the city’s sense of community. New Orleans has a history of connecting people through its many festivals and seasons—Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, even Saints season. But continued growth of the startup ecosystem will also hinge on fostering and attracting talent and capital. There’s plenty of money in New Orleans, but very little is committed to funding new ventures. Hopefully, the Rise of the Rest stop helped inspire a little more investment from the many people who care about the future of this great American city.

Ensuring Entrepreneurs are Part of Atlanta’s Bright Future



This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.


With over five million people, sixteen Fortune 500 companies and one of the top-ranked undergraduate engineering programs in the nation, it may be unfair to call Atlanta a city on the rise. Yet, the city’s environment for early stage entrepreneurs and new sources of innovation is still developing in many ways. The Rise of the Rest tour, with Steve Case at the helm, spent its fourth day on the road in Atlanta to learn from this vast, diverse city and to inspire the wider business, policy and educational leaders here to support its many entrepreneurs.

One of the Atlanta startup community’s challenges is fragmentation. Despite the proliferation of entrepreneurial activity, with 130 square miles and several city centers, Atlanta can be a sprawling place to navigate for both businesses and residents. Recognizing this challenge, David Cummings founded the Atlanta Tech Village in 2013 in an effort to bring the community together. Today, over 240 early and mid-stage tech companies are based there. SalesLoft calls the ATV home and Yik Yak did until recently—the messaging app experienced such rapid growth that they’ve now relocated to a new office space to accommodate an expanding team. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Tech Village continues to grow and newer centers for budding entrepreneurs have followed such as the Opportunity Hub.


We also got a sense of how Atlanta’s later stage technology startup companies are becoming part of a more connected Atlanta. The Ponce City Market is an 8,000 square foot space (in the old Sears Roebuck building) in an historic Atlanta neighborhood undergoing transformation, retrofitted for retail, residential apartments and offices. Cardlytics and Mailchimp showed off new startup-chic offices with lounges and snack rooms that rival any Silicon Valley startup’s digs. The Atlanta Business Journal reports Twitter may set up an Atlanta office there as well.

Yet another tech industry hub is the Atlanta Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech University. The ATDC brings together Georgia Tech students, industry experts and corporate partners through its incubator program and many resources. The center has enabled Georgia Tech students in engineering and computer science to find another career path after graduation—contributing their talents to a startup is made just as viable as working for a large corporation or going into research. These graduates remain a huge source of talent throughout the region.


Atlanta’s pitch competition put a number of promising new businesses on display - including Local Roots, which enables delivery of farm-grown produce to people’s homes, and  eCredable, which has created a platform that calculates alternative credit scores. The pitch competition’s winner was a great example of the best of Atlanta startups: Partpic has a diverse team and innovative technology that identifies parts via mobile images, in much the same way Shazam can identify a song.

What we saw in Atlanta was just a slice of a widespread movement made up of many leaders committed to the city’s future. With continued support, a focus on inclusive entrepreneurship that reflects Atlanta’s diverse population, and the engagement of (and capital from) the city’s biggest companies like Coca Cola and UPS, Atlanta’s entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to build on the city’s success.

Silicon Harbor is Building Momentum in South Carolina



This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.


From one Carolina to the next! The Rise of the Rest tour stopped in Charleston, South Carolina today - a mid-size coastal town known for its well-preserved historical architecture, renowned Southern cuisine and a lively college atmosphere.

But are there startups here? At a breakfast with Charleston’s mayor of 39 years and local business leaders, John Osbourne, director of the local entrepreneur center, noted how the city’s evolved over the past few decades. It’s become a place where people come not only to vacation, attend school or even retire, but also a place people build businesses. “We’re at a tipping point,” said John, suggesting the city’s myriad entrepreneurship-centered activities are beginning to coalesce into a wider movement.


In addition to the region’s larger technology presence - with companies like Boeing - a number of newer and thriving technology companies set an example for the what’s possible here. We visited People Matter, a human resources software company that’s grown to over 200 employees since 2009. Levelwing, a data analytics firm, was originally founded in New York, but relocated to Charleston when it decided to expand.

The afternoon’s pitch competition showcased a diverse array of earlier stage companies, all with viable business strategies and creative approaches to developed industries. Eatabit built a product for online food ordering, OpenAngler has created the first online reservation system for fishing charter reservations and Dynepic’s devices turn standard kids’ toys into digitally connected smart toys. The winning startup, Bidr, offers solutions for fundraising event organizers to automate the bidding process. The hope is that $100,000 in new capital will ensure the company’s continued growth and serve as a catalyst for other entrepreneurs and investors to turn their attention towards Charleston.


South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also joined Steve Case for a conversation about economic development in her state and the key role entrepreneurs play in that growth. She’s excited about the momentum in Charleston and hopes it spreads throughout the state. While the Charleston startup community is still young, it could soon give even more entrepreneurs reason to visit and to stay.

The Triangle’s on Top: Here’s a Region Serious about Startups



This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.


After our first stop in Richmond, Virginia, the tour continued south to the Triangle in North Carolina. This area—encompassing the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—has already experienced significant success in its innovation and technology economy. Its top universities, leading healthcare and biotech companies, as well as world class research facilities at Research Triangle Park have all contributed to the region’s emergence as a center for tech talent as well as startup density and success. STEM jobs here grew by 39% in the past ten years—more than any other region in the country. And in 2014, 59 companies in the area were acquired and six went public.

These impressive numbers tell part of the story, but during our whirlwind day across the region, we learned there’s a lot more to building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem beyond existing industry leadership. Much of the local startup activity takes place within several impressive and energetic co-working spaces: HQ Raleigh in Raleigh, and American Underground, which has locations in Raleigh, Durham, and in a retrofitted old tobacco factory—a reclaimed relic of the region’s old economy. American Underground is home to over 850 entrepreneurs who come from the area’s many universities or decide to locate their companies here due to the ease of access to great talent, support and mentorship. And antother group of young entrepreneurs finds that kind of support right at home: the Thinkhouse is Raleigh is a live-in dormitory for startup founders.


What’s also exciting about this cohesive community is its genuine commitment to expanding opportunity and diversity: it’s a topic that’s top of mind for local leaders across industries. We spent some of the day with Talib Graves-Manns, founder of an education startup called RainbowMe and Durham’s Code2040 Entrepreneur in Residence. In addition to building his company, he is helping create a network of black entrepreneurs in the region. There are also organizations dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs, like Soar Triangle and e51.


The day’s pitch competition was an opportunity for Raleigh-Durham to showcase many promising early stage ventures, as well as the support community that helps them succeed. The winner of Steve Case’s $100,000 investment was Archive Social, which provides tools that enable governments take greater advantage of social media. Archive Social presented themselves as a unique outcome of the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem with roots in a local accelerator, capital from local funds, and clients in local and state governments.


The Triangle is a model of how a region can leverage its many resources, even across independent counties and cities, to cultivate future generations of economic growth. And with their commitment to inclusive entrepreneurship, we hope they can set a national example.

Richmond’s on the Rise


 This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.

We’re back on the road again, this time traveling through the Southeast, visiting some of America’s oldest cities where entrepreneurs from across the region are creating new ventures. We kicked off the tour in Richmond, Virginia, a town steeped in history, but with passion and promise for innovation. The sense of the new is palpable on the city’s streets where restaurants, independent retail shops, and theaters are popping up or undergoing renovations after years of vacancy. But perhaps Richmond’s greatest advantage in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is the tight knit community that has galvanized around the startup economy. It’s one of these places where everyone seems to know and support one another.

The day began with a conversation among Steve Case, Richmond’s entrepreneurial leaders as well as three Virginia governors, two of whom are now Senators, and Richmond’s mayor. Governor Terry McAuliffe and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine remarked on the tremendous growth of the state’s economy over the past few decades and the vast opportunities that lie ahead, for Richmond in particular.


We witnessed some of that opportunity and innovation in the making during a startup tour around this city. We met a number of companies that have grown out of the early stage accelerator Lighthouse Labs. Nudge is a software service that integrates data from health tracking devices. Blue Ocean Brain offers a micro-learning platform within companies to stimulate creativity and critical thinking. Maxx Potential facilitates technical workforce development by matching apprentices with companies in need of tech talent. Their program selectively identifies candidates and provides them with both coaching and on the job training, building a tech workforce that’s 100% on-shore. We also visited the headquarters of Evatran, whose slim and sleek device - a charging pad called Plugless Power - wirelessly charges electric vehicles.

At the center of Richmond’s startup ecosystem is the team behind New Richmond Ventures, a group with a mission to make their city a “world-class ecosystem of entrepreneurial talent, patient capital, and innovative start-ups.” By leading local capital investment, developing mentors, and forging relationships among businesses in the region, NRV is one of the Richmond startup community’s biggest assets.

The day’s final events included a pitch competition featuring eight local startups with a range of products and ideas: from a plant-based protein powder in hundreds of stores (also employing regional chickpea farmers) to a software that streamlines the 1099 tax return process for independently contracted employees. Ultimately, Wealthforge, which creates online tools to simplify raising capital for both startups and investors (as well as those platforms enabled by the 2012 passage of the JOBS Act) took home the $100,000 prize.

Today’s greatest takeaway about Virginia’s capital city? It might just be one of the startup world’s best kept secrets. With community, talent, leadership, and broad-based political support, Richmond is certainly on the rise.

Taking the Tour Down South


Engine is thrilled to be participating in Revolution’s third Rise of the Rest Tour along with the teams from UpGlobal and Google for Entrepreneurs. Rise of the Rest is a road show to highlight and support entrepreneurship across America. The cities lined up for this May’s trip include Richmond, Raleigh-Durham, Charleston, Atlanta, and New Orleans. In addition to convening civic leaders, local entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators, the visit to each city includes a pitch competition among local startups. The winning company will receive $100,000 in funding from Revolution Ventures to launch or grow its business.

As Revolution’s Steve Case put it, these are “some of America’s oldest cities where entrepreneurs are creating some of the newest businesses, innovations, and jobs.” The Engine team on board the bus will be especially interested in learning how each city is uniquely fostering entrepreneurship and supporting the growth of innovation and technology jobs. During the past two tours we've seen that regions take different approaches to expanding their entrepreneurial ecosystems - whether building on the success of incumbent industries, benefiting from supportive local government policies, or tapping into the talent pool of nearby universities. The stories from America's Southeast will be sure to offer new perspectives important to our national policymakers on issues from connectivity to capital access.

We’ll be in Richmond, Virginia on May 4th; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina on May 5th; Charleston, South Carolina on May 6th; Atlanta, Georgia on May 7th; and New Orleans, Louisiana on May 8th. If you're an entrepreneur, a community organization, or government leader and want to make sure we visit your startup or hear your story along the way, please visit the Rise of the Rest site or reach out to

Rising Urban Inequality and the Role Technology Must Play


While the San Francisco Bay Area is home to many of the country’s most successful startups and innovations in technology, it’s also a region of staggering inequalities. NPR reported last year that one-third of the households in Santa Clara County, where Google, Apple and hundreds of high-tech startups have their headquarters, don’t earn enough to cover basic income expenses. And in the city of San Francisco, troves of data confirm the already apparent trends in rising income inequality, increasing poverty rates, and a shrinking middle class. With these realities, it’s not surprising that anger, resentment, and frustration, among longtime residents in San Francisco watching their neighborhoods become increasingly unaffordable have been directed to newcomers working for technology companies, both big and small. But, as many have suspected, tech startups may not be responsible for this kind of increasing inequality, after all.

That’s what renowned urban economist Richard Florida concluded in a recent study that examined the relationship between high-tech startups and increasing inequality in cities throughout the country. Florida and his partner at the Martin Prosperity Institute charted venture capital investment in startups against the two primary measures of inequality: wage and income disparity. In urban tech hubs across the country from Boston to Seattle, they found a fairly high correlation between wage inequality and venture capital investment. Notably, however, this same trend did not hold when charting venture capital investment against the more common measure of inequality: the Gini coefficient, a measurement based on income distribution within an economy. Income inequality didn’t necessarily increase as venture capital investment in a given area did.

These mixed results are evidently limited in the extent to which they can diagnose urban challenges. Perhaps these findings can only demonstrate that urban inequity is a complex matter with dozens of factors. Whether it’s simply correlation or more significantly (though not addressed in this study), causation, inequality has myriad historical, political, and economic sources, even city by city. (And for a formidable, detailed account of what's happened in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out this Tech Crunch article.)

To put it another way: the data shows us that urban tech startups aren’t worsening inequality—that means there’s a lot of room for startups to make things better for a wider range of citizens.

We already know these new businesses create jobs, supply municipal tax revenue, and can make urban life more efficient and convenient. Yet urban innovation—technology for local governments, neighborhoods, and schools; tools to create safer streets, smarter public transit, and more efficient energy use—may still be in its infancy.

As startup hubs continue to expand across the country, they’ll play an increasingly important role in the urban fabric of their host cities. For the sake of long term economic prosperity, it’s incumbent upon burgeoning entrepreneurs as well as urban policymakers to understand existing inequities and think about how technology can create a “more inclusive urbanism,” as Florida puts it.

This includes not only building tools for a more diverse and urban public, but also training a new generation of citizens to contribute to creating that technology. Examples of organizations already doing this work aren’t hard to find. In San Francisco, an organization called Missionbit offers public school students free coding classes. Another exciting pogram we’ve seen is the Coalition for Queens, an organization with the mission to “increase economic opportunity and transform the world’s most diverse community into a leading hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.” With the support of both local government and technology experts, the organization has launched an entrepreneurial and computer programming program for low-income New Yorkers called Access Code. As they grow and add alumni to their network, the Coalition for Queens and programs like it could serve as models for cities both new and established as centers for startups—in creating more diverse and participatory startup ecosystems and perhaps a new technologically-empowered middle class.


In Colorado, the Future of High Speed Internet is Up to Voters


Nov. 5, 2014 Update: Boulder voters overwhelmingly approved the measure to give their city authority to create municipal internet. 

As truly high speed Internet access becomes more and more crucial for businesses and consumers, cities are stepping up to provide their citizens with the next generation fiber networks that the incumbent commercial ISPs are simply unwilling to build. But in the case of Boulder, Colorado, despite the fact that nearly 100 miles of high speed fiber already lie beneath its streets, the city is barred from investing in and expanding the network to the wider public. That’s because in Colorado, as well as in dozens of other states, prohibitive state laws—laws practically written by the large ISPs—block municipalities from building or operating competing networks.

On November 4th, voters in Boulder, as well as Yuma County in eastern Colorado, will decide whether to exempt themselves from the restrictive state law and give their cities the freedom to control the future of their own broadband infrastructure. With no vocal opponents, the referendums seem likely to pass.

For Boulder, the choice could not be more obvious. With the highest startup density and growth of any metropolitan area, the ability for Boulder to independently invest in and expand high speed Internet is integral to maintaining its ascendancy as a hotbed for new business ventures. “We’re in competition to attract and retain the highest quality employers and the highest quality talent,” said a spokesperson for Boulder Chamber of Commerce.

The law currently restricting both Boulder, and the much smaller Yuma County, from taking Internet access into their own hands—The "Competition in Utility and Entertainment Services” bill (or SB 152, as it’s commonly called)—passed in the state senate in 2005, and precludes municipal governments from providing broadband services to its citizens. Under the bill, however, a city may seek an exemption under the law and reestablish local control over broadband policy through a referendum. So far, only a few other other Colorado cities have done so. The city of Longmont, just 15 miles north of Boulder, opted out of SB 152 in 2011 and started construction in August to deploy fiber networks across the city. Its new service will be available to consumers November 3.

Just as ISPs lobbied hard to enact these anti-municipal broadband laws, they have fought equally hard against efforts to overturn them. Longmont first sought an exemption from SB 152 in 2009, but failed after telecom companies spent $192,228 to defeat the referendum, compared to only $95 from proponents of the measure. In 2011, Longmont tried again and the referendum passed, despite a record $300,000 campaign by Comcast to prevent it.

Comcast doesn’t seem to be putting money against the Boulder referendum, but has made its opposition to the measure known, writing to Boulder’s local newspaper, "Comcast does not believe that government-owned networks are a good use of municipal funds in areas where the private market is already providing services.” Yet the services they provide are not only slower and more expensive than what municipal gigabit networks pose to offer, the ISP also routinely ranks lower in customer satisfaction than any other company in the industry.

Thus, Comcast’s response isn’t surprising, especially considering its interest in maintaining near-monopoly power in the broadband market. As the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable shows, large ISPs would much rather eliminate potential rivals through acquisitions and legislative restrictions than have to face competition.

As we’ve said before, municipal broadband networks provide consumers with alternatives in markets desperately in need of competition. With the US lagging behind its industrialized peers in fiber deployment and growth, we need to use every tool possible to generate competition in broadband markets and give consumers and businesses the high-speed broadband access they need to thrive in the Internet economy.

Municipalities like Boulder deserve the right to build fiber networks for its citizens when ISPs won’t. We stand behind Colorado voters next Tuesday when they head to the polls to vote “yes.”

Every City Can Be a Startup City: The Promise of Entrepreneurship Across America


You can also read this post on Medium. 

This summer and fall, we rode a bus to cities in the Rustbelt and the Midwest, visiting communities where startups are thriving. The Rise of the Rest bus tour, organized by Steve Case, was inspired by the premise that great ideas, and great companies, can and should start anywhere. The cities we visited were vibrant examples of this belief, and the tour celebrated their successes in building startup communities and we hope, will help accelerate their growth.

Along the way, we also learned what it means to create and enhance the right ecosystem to facilitate emerging businesses in cities not traditionally considered hotbeds for startups.

That ecosystem is a powerful thing. “A community’s entrepreneur support network […] is critical for new firms to succeed,” wrote Yasuyuki Motoyama, Ph.D. and Karren K. Watkins in a recent report for the Kauffman Foundation. They examine the connections among entrepreneurs and organizations that make up this network, many of which were on display during our tour. In Des Moines, for example, one startup founder inspired another to take off. In Minneapolis and Cincinnati, long-established Fortune 500 companies are offering mentorship and other resources to new entrepreneurs.

What else does it take to form a startup ecosystem? Rise of the Rest sponsor UpGlobal, an organization that promotes and coordinates networks of startups around the world published a recent report entitled “Fostering a Startup and Innovation Ecosystem.” They point to five essential ingredients for a healthy startup ecosystem: talent, density, culture, capital, and the right regulatory environment. These ingredients are not geographically specific, and each city or region has the power to uniquely cultivate them in ways that complement and build on local resources.

Talent: Many of the cities we visited are within miles of major universities with talented, ambitious students who may have a vested interest in building businesses in their college towns. In Madison, at least two of the founders we visited were University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates and in Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon University has spun out dozens of local startups through collaborations among students, professors and the local business community. And talent doesn’t just come from universities. Take Minneapolis, which has a high concentration of health professionals. It’s no surprise that health-tech is a growing sector there.

Density: Bringing people together can enable great things. Through business clusters in downtown areas like Kansas City’s Crossroads district or Nashville’s Trolley Barns, home to the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, entrepreneurs find space, support, and ideas. City planners and neighborhood associations are integral in facilitating the development of spaces like these.

Culture: In each city we visited, there was palpable excitement around entrepreneurship from the local political leaders, to the university representatives, to the business and investor community. Fostering a culture that prizes openness and creativity, accepts some level of risk and failure, and promotes opportunities at startups as well as their leaders is essential to supporting the startup ecosystem.

Capital: Access to capital cannot be underestimated. As we toured the country, it became more and more clear that raising money is one of the biggest challenges startups face. In some cities, like Nashville, we’ve seen local governments really commit to the startup community, which helps drive capital. But far and away the most important way to increase the flow of capital is to engage local investors and bring in more non-local investors, including those form the coasts. In each city we visited, this remained a major roadblock to the growth of the local startup ecosystems.

Regulatory Environment: As we know well here at Engine, good policy is critical for fostering the startup ecosystem. In some instances, local governments have recognized this by creating tax incentives for new businesses. Yet at the national level, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Many of the factors laid out here — especially talent and access to capital — are uniquely in the purview of federal government. The time for comprehensive immigration reform, which is necessary to increase talent pools, has long passed. And while passage of the JOBS Act was an important first start, there’s still much work to be done to ensure that capital flows from investors to startups.

These factors are each essential, but they’re not isolated. We know there’s a lot more policymakers can do to attract and retain talent in their districts and in this country, to encourage urban density and make capital accessible.

We believe every city in America has the potential to be a startup city and we’re working with policymakers to help make that happen.

If you’d like to help us join that fight, make sure you sign up for our newsletter here

Kansas City: It Takes a Village (and Fiber)


This week we’re traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. Read our earlier updates from Madison, Minneapolis, and Des Moines.

We continued our tour across the Midwest today in Kansas City, a city with a rich history of entrepreneurship and a growing startup community taking off on the back of its incredibly fast, low-cost Internet access, courtesy of Google Fiber.

Notable in Kansas City is its engaged civic servants—we were joined this morning by Sen. Jerry Moran, Mayor Sly James (from KC, Missouri), and Mayor Mark Holland (from KC, Kansas)—and its community institutions, namely, the Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Foundation’s role in supporting entrepreneurship is acutely felt both here in Kansas City and throughout the nation, and its roots in the local community provide the basis for a city that has launched an initiative to be “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.”


The Kansas City Startup Village anchors the city’s startup community. The Startup Village—a collection of homes hooked up to Google Fiber—provides office space for startups seeking to disrupt search (more on them below), using eye biometrics for security verification, and creating platforms to increase user engagement. Perhaps most importantly, the Startup Village might be the country’s first “Fiberhood”—a startup community that grew out of fast Internet access, proving that reliable and affordable Internet really does drive economic growth.

Like other communities we’ve visited in the Midwest, we met startups in Kansas City committed to making a difference. One was MindMixer, a company creating tools for citizens to engage with their local governments. But also like the other Midwestern communities, Kansas City has to contend with a culture traditionally averse to risk, a lesson we heard from local investors. The good news is that with the support of the Kauffman Foundation and the excitement local startups have generated, the community here is clearly on the road to continued growth.

That promised growth was on display during the day’s pitch competition, where we saw companies looking to disrupt post-college job placement, making government payments, and expanding personal wearables into the world of basketball. And today’s winner—, a Startup Village resident—takes search and turns it on its head by adding visual and social collaboration. As Steve Case put it, the company is trying to disrupt Google by relying on Google Fiber.

The importance of that fiber here cannot be understated. The availability of fast and cheap Internet access has clearly helped make Kansas City an American startup destination. An engaged investor community, led by Kauffman Foundation (and amazing community cheerleader and Rise of the Rest bus tour guide Lesa Mitchell), also helps. Together, they’re putting Kansas City on the entrepreneurial map.

Des Moines: Startups Thrive in Middle Iowa


This week we’re traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. Stay tuned for updates from Kansas City and St. Louis.

Every four years, thousands of reporters descend on Des Moines to follow every move of presidential hopefuls at the Iowa caucuses, but there’s another reason to visit this small city in central Iowa. Its startup scene, which accounts for at least part of the reasons that Forbes named Des Moines the #1 City for Young Professionals in 2014, is on the rise.

So, why Des Moines? “I just happened to have been here and this place is awesome,” said Ben Milne, founder and CEO of the payment platform, Dwolla, one of the Des Moines’ most successful startups. But there’s clearly more to it.

Aside from the political caucuses, Des Moines is a major center for insurance and  agribusiness—industries that many startups have built business strategies around. The region has a reputation for hard-working residents as well as a low cost of doing business—17 percent below the national average. It’s also attracted a younger population in recent years through revitalization projects that added urban gardens, new retail, and entertainment venues to their downtown.

We stopped by Dwolla’s offices, where the company employs more than 40 people (with more in San Francisco, New York, and Kansas City). Founded in 2008, Dwolla has become a household name around Des Moines (and the entire country), inspiring others to start and keep their businesses here. Down the street, we visited Gravitate, a brand new co-working space where we met many startups, including Tikly. Tikly’s founder, Emma Peterson, told a story that highlights Des Moines’ strong community: it was none other than Dwolla’s Ben Milne who encouraged her to start her growing business.

We were also joined by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds who both trumpeted the startup activity across the state, including in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, where tour partners Seed Here Studio are based. Co-founders Andy Stoll and Amanda West lived all over the country and the world before returning to Iowa to grow the grassroots entrepreneurial and creative communities here in Iowa.

"In 2008, Cedar Rapids experienced the fourth worst natural disaster in US history, Amanda said. "Watching our state work through the clean-up process, we saw an opportunity to help the region not only rebuild but reimagine a classic American city for the Innovation Age. The movement today in Iowa is 2000+ people strong with many leaders. It’s amazing to see what is possible  just a few short years when brilliant people get connected."


The pitch competition featured many more startups and their ideas to improve construction worksite efficiency, update classroom technology, digitalize baby books, and eliminate medical appointment waiting times. The winner, Bawte, is poised to solve the age-old problem of cataloging the products you own, along with their  warranties and attendant details.

The network of startups in Des Moines is still “percolating,” as Dwolla’s Milne put it. Steve Case, along with our own Julie Samuels, gave some advice on what the community here can do to support it. “You need to get your stories out here,” Julie said. “People need to know what’s going on here in Iowa.”

There is a lot happening in Iowa. The engaged, tight-knit startup community is supporting its youngest members and creating jobs that are bringing Iowans back home. We can’t wait to see what percolates out of Des Moines next.

Minneapolis: Land of Lakes...and Startups


This week we’re traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. Stay tuned for updates from Des Moines, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

After driving 270 miles across the state of Wisconsin, we rolled into the Twin Cities that span the Mississippi River and spent Tuesday there. With over 3 million residents in the metro area and an impressive 18 Fortune 500 companies, including major brand names like Target and General Mills, Minneapolis and St. Paul are an economic force. There is a culture of hard work, innovation, and industrial success in the Twin Cities, so it’s not surprising that startups are increasingly becoming part of the economic landscape.

“Entrepreneurial energy is sweeping across this region,” remarked one business leader at our roundtable breakfast that kicked off another packed day of startup visits, a luncheon at the University of Minnesota, a livecast conversation with Steve Case, and finally, a pitch competition featuring ten CEOs.

We began the tour at CoCo, the nucleus of startup activity in Minneapolis, located on the historic trading floor of what was once the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. They’ve kept some of the old exchange boards intact, but on the floor are dozens of small businesses. We met teams from Zipnosis, Estate Map, Apruve, Rowbot, and others - each with a unique solution that capitalizes on existing markets and expertise in their hometown. And later, we stopped by Field Nation and Sports NGin, who’ve experienced substantial growth in the past year and have their own office spaces downtown.

Senator Amy Klobuchar also joined our crew for part of the ride. She shed light on the economic prowess of the area, (Minneapolis has the lowest unemployment rate of any major metro area, she told us), and discussed ways to support the startup community through policy and legislation as well as efforts like the Rise of the Rest.  

With Sen. Klobuchar on board, we learned about the Neighborhood Development Center, a 20-year-old organization in Minneapolis that trains, finances, and offers retail locations to low-income entrepreneurs, many of whom come from the Twin Cities' large immigrant and refugee community. The NDC’s premiere business space is the Midtown Global Market, a formerly vacant building that’s revitalized the surrounding neighborhood of South Minneapolis. The internationally themed public market hosts over 40 independent businesses selling speciality foods and products and has created 475 jobs in its time. The stories we heard here from entrepreneurs who had come to Minneapolis from all over the world were truly inspiring—a testament to how supporting entrepreneurship in its many forms can benefit a city’s residents, and its neighborhoods, at all levels of society.

The tour wrapped up at the Pitch Competition and the winner - 75F - took home $100,000 to help expand their business that makes wireless sensors and software to regulate building temperatures and thereby reduce energy use and costs.

75F winnerWhat became obvious to us during our visit to this accomplished city is that there’s still immense potential for growth in the concentration and network of startups here. There’s room for the startup community to encourage more collaboration, garner more support and become more recognized in this city where the Fortune 500 companies remain the dominant economic influence. Steve Case and the Rise of the Rest team shared ideas about how to enliven this startup ecosystem, including encouraging big businesses to become customers of smaller ones, creating opportunities for mentorship, and sponsoring more initiatives like the Minnesota Cup, an annual competition that rewards new business ideas. Considering how things are going, we look forward to seeing what the entrepreneurs of the Twin Cities do next.





Madison: Thinking Big with Small Town Hearts


This week we’re traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. Stay tuned for updates from Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Kansas City.

Madison, Wisconsin is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state capital, and a growing and proud community of startups. We kicked off the second phase of the Rise of the Rest tour in Madison and found a tight-knit, collaborative, and supportive community of emerging businesses. Startups in Madison are creating new products in healthcare and education, taking advantage of local expertise in some of city’s top industries. They’re launching online marketplaces to revolutionize local rental markets and building platforms that crowdsource knowledge and passion for hobbies like craft beer and fishing.


On Monday, we visited many of these companies on a whirlwind tour of Madison. In addition to the innovative ideas coming out of each business we came across, we also experienced a real sense of pride and community here. One of the entrepreneurs explained the Madison ethos: “Thinking big with small town hearts.” “Madison is a perfect playground for validation because everyone’s on a first-name basis,” said a partner at 100state, a co-working space and organization supporting startup community.

Madisonians are energized about their city’s possibilities, thanks to established and engaged institutions like the Chamber of Commerce, the 43,000-student university, large anchor companies like American Family Insurance and Epic, and newer incubators and accelerators (including the local gener8tor). In fact, according to Capital Entrepreneurs, a local organization fostering the entrepreneurial environment, Madison startups raised over $44 million in 2013. Coupled with an affordable cost of living, that money is poised to go a long way here.

Our visit to Madison wrapped up with a pitch competition, where nine local companies vied for a $100,000 investment. We were encouraged to see that nearly half of pitching companies (including the winner, Solomo) were led by women—a more diverse group than we’ve seen yet.

We loved the friendly spirit and vitality of Madison, and we can't wait to see what great things they come up with.

Watch this space for more updates this week: we’re off to Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City, and St. Louis!

We’re Hitting the Road Again


As our representatives in Congress take to the campaign trail for the November elections, we’re taking a little road trip of our own. Next week, Engine will join Steve Case, Revolution, UpGlobal, and Google for Entrepreneurs on the second phase of the Rise of the Rest Road Tour.

Earlier this year, we joined this roving group visiting four diverse and vibrant cities—Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Nashville— to highlight, energize, and celebrate entrepreneurship. And we found that startup communities are thriving all over the country. They’re building great new products, creating jobs, and revitalizing parts of the country that were hit hard by the economic downturn. We know this narrative holds true in other cities as well—we’ve seen it ourselves in places like Portland and Memphis, too.

That’s why we’re so excited to hit the road again. This time we’ll be stopping in some of the cities that make up the so-called Silicon Prairie.

We’re starting in Madison, Wisconsin, then will make our way to Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City, and St. Louis. At each stop, emerging businesses and their founders, civic leaders, and local personalities will gather for conversation with Steve Case, participate in a $100,000 pitch competition, and come together over happy hours. And we’ll be on hand to remind startups how important it is to be engaged in policy issues (let us know if you’d like to catch up in any of those places!).

What we already know is that Silicon Valley and New York City aren’t the only hubs for new economic activity—and that incubators, accelerators, and innovation districts are sprouting up across the country. We’re excited to see in person just how these new and emerging startup communities are, as Steve Case put it, “innovating in ways specific to the economic heritage of their region.”

These cities have long-established industries in health sciences and financial services to build from, strong networks of colleges and universities from which to source talent, and support from local governments thrilled to welcome new business opportunities. That’s not to mention how the cost of living in cities across the Midwest makes them attractive for putting down roots.

We’ll be posting highlights from each city throughout the week. Follow us as we go and we’ll let you know what we find!

More information on the Rise of the Rest road tour, including times and locations for specific events in each city, is available at and by following #riseofrest on Twitter and Instagram.


Startup Day Across America 2014


The story of startups isn’t just happening in the Bay Area or New York City. It’s happening all over the country, as we’ve learned through our growing “Startup Cities” initiative, our recent road trip with Steve Case highlighting the “Rise of the Rest,” the labor economic research we’ve done to highlight the growing impact young companies have on communities, our political work in Washington and around the country urging policymakers to support and create better conditions for startup growth.

At Engine, we’re committed to fighting from and for the startup community to grow opportunity and strengthen communities. And that’s why, for the second year running, we’re working with the Congressional Innovation Caucus and friends in our own community like 1776 and the National Venture Capital Association to come together and celebrate startups with Startup Day Across America. Startup Day is an opportunity for Members of Congress, their staff and other policymakers to meet with entrepreneurs, tour their businesses, and get a sense for how they are creating economic opportunity, right at home.

Last year’s Startup Day gave more than 100 members of Congress the opportunity to meet with startups in their home districts. This year, with events starting today, we’re hoping for even more participation from new places and new faces. We’ve got events on tap throughout the country, from Kansas City to Columbus, Brooklyn to Seattle and everywhere in between, with more being announced each day.

We’ll be pulling together highlights from these events throughout August both here and on our social channels. Make sure to follow #StartupDay on Twitter to watch startups and government coming together to learn from each other.

And, if you’re interested in hosting a Startup Day event in your hometown this August, let us know and we can connect you with your local Congressional office. (And if you call and do it on your own, let us know and post on #StartupDay!)

Memphis Soul Boosts Startup Economy


Last month, the Engine production team took a trip down South to experience for ourselves the vibrant local startup economy we’d been hearing about in Memphis, Tennessee. We had the opportunity to meet a number of local entrepreneurs, some based full-time in Memphis and some just in town for the summer, participating in an accelerator program at StartCo. Across the board, we found a group of extremely dedicated tech entrepreneurs, many working seven days a week, more than 12 hours a day, to ready their companies for launch -- and a community taking shape that is passionate about building a better future for the city.

Some founders were lifelong Memphians who had chosen to keep their companies there, aiming to bring jobs, vitality, and a new phase of entrepreneurship to their hometown. These founders spoke of Memphis’s rich business history and entrepreneurial spirit. St. Jude, FedEx, and Autozone are among the companies that call Memphis home, and many founders spoke about these companies with an excitement that seemed to inspire their own hard work and dedication. Within the community, we met logistics startups, saw innovation in the healthcare space, and heard about medical device accelerators in the area. These were companies obviously attracted to Memphis for the resources already built into the local economy.

We also found teams from all over the country who had come to reside in the center of downtown Memphis and take advantage of the startup ecosystem that has taken shape there within the last few years. Teams from places such as NYC and Silicon Valley had come to Memphis to focus on building their businesses, looking for a different pace and a less saturated market. They described their year-round homes as having a lot of noise, and they had come to Memphis for the summer to focus on building their product -- finding real benefit living in a place where they could find a little more calm. They were astounded by the abundance of resources at their disposal: talented mentors, investors, and other startup founders -- all ready and willing to help.  


This is not to say that Memphis is lacking a noise of its own -- we were able to meet with entrepreneurs in a variety of backdrops -- from their offices, to blues clubs on Beale Street, to the tops of their tents at BBQ Fest alongside the Mississippi River. The StartCo accelerator uses Memphis in May, an international festival showcasing arts, food, and music, as a networking opportunity for its companies. As one entrepreneur put it, “What better way to build relationships than over beer and barbeque?” By the end of our visit, we had to agree. There was a liveliness and enthusiasm -- at the festival on the river, as well as in the office, that was contagious.


As with the barbeque, startup founders have taken notice, and taken advantage, of the Southern hospitality they have encountered in Memphis. A very common theme in the interviews we conducted was the sense of community, kindness, and the willingness of anyone and everyone to help out. We spoke with the founders of eDivv from NYC, who told us “the best thing about Memphis is everyone knows each other, and everyone is willing to help. They want to see Memphis succeed. It’s a small community within a big city.” Layla Tabatabaie of BarterSugar agrees: “Of all the meetings I’ve had with local residents, professors, and others in the area, they’re all willing to help and they’re all very kind. I think that is something that is sometimes harder to find in places like New York.”

As a Memphian for the vast majority of my life, it was no surprise to hear about the close-knit community as well as the kindness of complete strangers. What I was surprised to hear, though, was how these ingredients of a place I lived for 18 years are fueling a new phase of growth in the local economy. I left for San Francisco without any knowledge of a startup community in Memphis, and it was not until I spent a couple of years involved in the community here that I began to take notice of the activity in my own hometown. It was very exciting to return to Memphis and discover such a vibrant community there -- one so diverse and different than that of Silicon Valley, and one that had not existed in the Memphis I knew.

Whether a lifelong Memphian, or a founder just in town for the summer, everyone we met had a personal interest in boosting the local economy. They hoped to create jobs and bring growth to local businesses, with a heartfelt interest in improving the community they had become a part of. Though the concept of technology startups reviving the local economy may be a fairly new one for Memphis, the passion and dedication of Memphians to make Memphis a better place is not. When we asked locals to sum up Memphis in one word, one we heard quite often was “soul”. It’s easy to see how the history and soul of Memphis are finding their way into a new chapter.  

Watch our Startup Cities, Memphis video here:

Education Startups File Net Neutrality Comments with FCC


As you likely know by now, this summer is key in the fight for net neutrality and an open Internet. It is crucial for stakeholders to take this time to file comments at the Federal Communications Commission explaining why an open Internet is essential to their life and  businesses. Today, with our help, four startups in the education space -- who work directly with students to help them acquire the necessary skills to compete in the very global economy -- did just that.

The comments, filed by Codecademy, CodeCombat, General Assembly and OpenCurriculum, all make the central point that harm to net neutrality is harm to startups. In this case specifically, harm to education startups is harm to the pursuit of knowledge and America’s ability to compete in a global technological marketplace. And all four believe that harm can be mitigated by reclassifying the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

We’ll be working with more startups to file comments as the summer continues. We want to make sure that startups in every industry have a voice in this debate. If you are interested in filing comment for your business, and would like our help, email us at for more information. We hope you’ll join the fight and help us preserve an Internet free and open for innovation.

The existing comments will be posted to the FCC’s comment intake page and are available below for you to read at length:

Overall, these education startups reflect a wider community belief that reclassification is the best (and only) way to achieve the necessary end goal of making sure the Internet does not devolve into a mess of paid prioritization -- or fast and slow lanes. Staying this result is critically important in the field of education, where margins are tight, business is seen as a service, and the outcomes may provide the best fix yet for our economy on the rebound.

From CodeCombat comments:

When CodeCombat first started, resources were scarce, and if we had to negotiate with and pay funds to ISPs, we would have been unable to do so. At that time, we also would not have been able to use the FCC’s standard of “commercial reasonableness” or even a public advocate provided by the FCC to protect our interests. We still may not be able to do so.


Almost a million people have learned to code using CodeCombat, including 343,000 students during’s Hour of Code, a campaign that both President Obama and Republicans encouraged and embraced.We’ve also helped thousands of more experienced programmers hone their skills with more advanced levels. In addition, we’ve translated our game into 40 languages so that students around the world can learn to program as well.


We firmly oppose the FCC proposal. We urge the FCC to reclassify ISPs as common carriers under title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to prevent technical discrimination, paid prioritization, interconnection disputes, and the host of other harmful issues which would arise as a result of the adoption of the proposal.

From General Assembly comments:

With national attention on the rising cost of higher education and the crippling debt for recent graduates, General Assembly offers an important outlet for students looking to receive a high return on investment from their education. Over 100,000 students have benefitted from our services, including our 10 - 12 week long immersive programs and our three-month apprenticeship program that provides students with a paid opportunity to further hone their newly-acquired skills on the job.


Clear rules are important in promoting innovative enterprise. The factors of the commercial reasonableness test are too vague to provide certainty. These standards include “harm to consumers” or “to competition” and evaluation of a totality-of-the- circumstances. Such a standard will only lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation that start-ups cannot afford and which will therefore curb entrepreneurial activity to the benefit incumbent players and their legal teams.

General Assembly believes we need strong network neutrality rules that prohibit blocking, discrimination, and access fees. These require reclassification under Title II of the Communications Act. The Internet works well today; allowing ISPs to price discriminate will harm businesses like ours, the general public, and the economic well-being of our country.

From OpenCurriculum comments:

We want to spend our time and resources transforming education, changing the lives of teachers and students, with the awareness that such education will have lasting impact on today’s young people throughout their entire lives and benefit society in general. Asking us to negotiate for “commercially reasonable” deals in light of our larger competitors being willing to pay a premium to keep us out of the market is rigging the market so we (and other entrants) lose. “Comforting” us with the right to hire lawyers and expert witnesses, or wait years for an FCC Ombudsman to win or lose a case whose legal standards are also stacked against us, provides no comfort.


Even if we find ways to pay for premium tiers with different cable and phone companies, this is going to significantly eat into our capital ­ affecting the way we grow and our ability to allow more teachers in the United States and around the world to get access to better quality teaching materials for the future generations.


The FCC should instead reclassify access to the Internet as a common carrier service and forbid unreasonable technical discrimination, define pay­-for­-play deals as inherently unjust and unreasonable, define access fees as inherently unreasonable charges, and apply these rules to both mobile and fixed platforms.

From Codecademy comments:

Codecademy is an innovative solution for schools and students to save money. Our company also has an important impact on job creation. We're building the basic steps of competency to help people start their own companies, websites, apps, and products and get entry level jobs right now. The next big thing, or an innovative solution to a social problem, could be developed by someone who learned how to code using Codecademy.

But none of that may happen if the FCC adopts its fast-lanes proposal and abandons an open Internet.

Nashville's Vibrant Community is No Surprise


Before this trip, I was already one of Nashville's biggest fans. I was lucky to go to school here and spend time in this amazing city. But what struck me today is how the things I love most about Nashville -- its welcoming attitude, its strong sense of community, and its appetite for arts and adventure -- have come together to build a vibrant, engaged, and diversified startup community. And, even more, how that community is helping to cement Nashville's position as one of the nation's most exciting places to be.

It's obvious that the close-knit and supportive community that exists here is driving its success. But it's more than just the startup community's success: it's the success of the whole city. This was true in the other places we visited this week -- but especially so in Nashville. One need look no further than the Trolley Barns, home to the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, the exciting epicenter of what's going on here (thanks in no small part to the community's biggest cheerleader, Michael Burcham). The Trolley Barns, 1930s-era buildings that, yes, did house they city's trollies, have been redeveloped as a home for startups, artists, and now restaurants and businesses. Just a few years ago, they existed in a part of the city devoid of commercial and residential activity. Now it's buzzing.

This was consistent with what we saw at Marathon Village and the BowTruss Building - formerly deserted and underused structures that have or are being renovated to house exciting new businesses, and are making new communities safe and successful. Just more proof that good startups are more than just good business, they're good community.

It's no surprise that Nashville, home for generations to some of the country's best artists, would also be home to some of its most exciting and disruptive startups. It has the support of civic leaders, like Burcham, and elected officials, like Gov. Haslam, who joined us today. And, like most successful communities, it has members who are engaged, helping their compatriots rise to the top, and encouraging them to plug back into the larger cities and communities in which they live.

Nashville, I always knew you had it in you.

Cincinnati's Renaissance


Cincinnati is going through a renaissance in the traditional sense of the word. Leveraging longstanding expertise in brand development, and belief in the power of consumer products and local manufacturing, this accessible city is embracing its artistic roots and rebuilding neighborhoods.

With Proctor and Gamble headquartered in Cincinnati, the city has long been the capital of consumer branding. Now, P&G is deeply involved with the next generation of great consumer products via grants to startup incubator Centrifuse, and mentorship responsibilities for a host of other businesses. Between big businesses getting involved, and the world-class industrial design program at the University of Cincinnati, this truly American city is poised to take full part in the next wave of economic growth through serious innovation.

We started the day in the old brewery district visiting Roadtrippers - one of a few great success stories here. Having grown from 20 people to 140, the company (founded by an Englishman on a green card!) now occupies an entire building. But right down the road, there are still boarded-up homes and old warehouses -- fertile ground for community art projects, but also room for improvement!

Next we moved on to the infamous Over-the-Rhine district to visit The Brandery -- a successful incubator focused on -- you guessed it -- building great brands! As the story goes, the first time the Brandery founders came to tour the space, they took a bullet in their window. Here in Cincinnati, like Pittsburgh, deprived and dangerous neighborhoods are being reclaimed for widespread benefit. Jobs are being created, community services and social areas are being built, and the area is becoming more populated.

People (like Roadtrippers founder) moved to Cincinnati specifically to join the Brandery. In fact, half of the room at the Brandery fireside was made up of Cincinnati transplants. In addition to new faces, more people are staying who might have left a few years ago, and more people are moving back to be a part of what’s going on. All of this is just another testament to the power of entrepreneurship to revitalize the landscapes of our cities and bring jobs back to the rest of the country.