The Power Of A Creative City And A University As A Feeder



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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.


  • http://abdallahalhakim.tumblr.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I could not agree more. it is a shame when people who have spent few years at university and are highly trained end up leaving because of lack of opportunities. I have seen this in Toronto with the life science graduates.

  • http://www.mills-scofield.com/ Deb Mills-Scofield

    This is so incredibly obvious that it’s stunning more city/university combo’s don’t really see it and leverage it –

  • http://twitter.com/Start_Fast StartFast

    Brad, congrats to you and the Boulder tech community on the rankings!
    These are great points and ones we have been implementing across Upstate NY. As you saw on your visit last year, the region’s cities host half a million college students across over a hundred colleges and universities. Applications to business mentor-led programs like the Syracuse Student Sandbox are doubling each year and new accelerators like StartFast (Syracuse), Z80 Labs (Buffalo), Grandslam Alley (Albany) are beginning to attract more experienced entrepreneurs from around the world. Key to our value proposition is the ability to find tech talent and design/communications interns from all of these institutions. Another amazing asset is the enormous number of university alumni all across the country who are enthusiastically supporting these startups with advice, connections, and capital.