The South: The Next U.S. Tech Cluster?

September 5, 2013
 

By: Erin
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MIT Technology Review recently posted an infographic highlighting the world's top technology innovation clusters, categorized as locations with dense interconnected technology companies, customers and suppliers. Surprisingly, or maybe not, Silicon Valley and Boston are the only two U.S. locations listed. However, there is another flourishing tech hub in the U.S. we think deserves a little shout out: the South. From Atlanta to Durham, new accelerator programs and startups are gaining traction and recognition every day. In fact, last week, 18 Georgia companies landed on the Inc. 500 list.
So, beyond the delicious food and abundant southern hospitality, why are tech gurus putting down roots in the South? Experts have addressed that question repeatedly in Fast Company's “Why Here” column. Below, we extract from several recent columns that demonstrate why the Southern states are likely to host the next U.S. tech cluster.
WHY YOU SHOULD START A COMPANY IN...ATLANTA: “Any startup community needs three great things: leadership, world class universities where intellectual property is being developed, and a ready and able workforce. Atlanta has all three of those things. On the university side we have Georgia Tech and Emory. Georgia Tech has a broad platform of technologies that they deliver and Emory has great life science capabilities. Then on the leadership side, we have a lot of leaders in Atlanta that stem back from a software company in the 1980's called MSA. For example, Tom Noonan, who was the CEO of Internet Security Systems, was a sales person at MSA. And the CEO of one of my portfolio companies, Vocalocity, was also at MSA." – Alan Taetle, general partner at venture capital firm Noro-Moseley Partners
WHY GREENVILLE IS THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY'S NEXT BIG THING: “Raising money can be a challenge for early stage companies, Brenda Laakso, vice president of NEXT says, especially as venture-capital investors continue shying away from funding in the $1 million to $5 million range (what she calls ‘the valley of death'). Currently though, new businesses in Greenville can seek funding from the Upstate Carolina Angel Network (UCAN) or SC Launch. Portfolio ranked South Carolina fourth in the nation for small business vitality thanks in part to state programs like SC Launch, which has provided more than 251 high-tech, innovative companies with early stage funding and commercialization support. Thanks to the recession, local banks have been slow to give loans to unproven tech startups, Laakso says. Business and community leaders recognize there needs to be more rigor to the application process so a few have formed Innovative Commercial Solutions (ICS) to help early stage companies do market analysis to see if there are obstacles before they start.”
WHY YOU SHOULD START A COMPANY IN... RALEIGH-DURHAM: “Most cities are lucky to have one tech startup accelerator, like TechStars or Y Combinator. Raleigh-Durham has four. One, Joystick Labs, focuses on the area's burgeoning gaming community; Launchbox Digital is a standard franchised incubator; and Bull City Forward and Durham Coworking are local efforts. It's a lot of startup activity for an area that has long been known as Research Triangle Park (RTP), marked by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill at each of its points, where tech giants have established major hubs, including IBM, Cisco, Nortel, Sony Ericsson, GlaxoSmithKline and others. This legacy of tech giants, especially in the life sciences community, gives RTP a leg up on other areas when it comes to talent and intellectual capital. And Durham is where much of the latest startup activity is clustered, beginning with the conversion of the American Tobacco Campus building into an entrepreneurial hub.”
What other U.S. tech clusters do you think deserve recognition?

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