Boulder was recently named as America’s Most Creative City based on Richard Florida’s Creative Class index. That’s nice and flattering and the list is fascinating, but not that surprising. The top 10 cities are Boulder, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Ann Arbor, Corvallis, Durham, Washington DC, and Trenton.
Now, let’s look at America’s Most Economically Vibrant College Towns, also based on Richard Florida’s research. The top 10 are Boulder, Ann Arbor, San Jose, Raleigh, Boston, San Francisco, Austin, Trenton, Minneapolis, Washington DC.
While there are a few differences between these two lists, the heavy overlap is powerful and underscores one of the most important inputs of a university into a creative city, that of constantly getting fresh blood in the system.
There is a bi-directional link here – a university attracts young, smart, creative people. If the community is a creative one, these young, smart, creative people will stay and do interesting, creative, and entrepreneurial things. If the community isn’t creative, even if the university is fantastic, the young, smart, creative people will move somewhere else. These creative people are at the core of continual renewal in a startup community.
In my experience with many universities, they don’t get this and view themselves as a leader, rather than a feeder, into the startup community. By being an attractor of young, smart, creative people into a community and then a feeder of them into the startup community, a university can have incredible impact long term on a startup community.
It’s easy to see that dynamic in some of the cities listed above.
Mark Suster has an awesome post up titled Why Technology is Driving More Urban Renewal. He talks about what is happening with startup communities in San Francisco (the city, not “Silicon Valley”, “the peninsula”, or “the bay area”). He touches on New York City and references a great post by Fred Wilson titled Cause & Effect. He touches on the VC migration in Boston from “the suburbs” (Waltham) to Cambridge and downtown Boston. And he signals that his firm – GRP – is moving from the startup wasteland of Beverly Hills to the startup rich neighborhood of Santa Monica / Venice Beach.