The 50 Best U.S. Cities for Starting a Business in 2020

We have the key to the city--or 50 cities, to be exact. For the 2020 Surge Cities index, Inc. and innovation policy company Startup Genome analyzed troves of data on seven essential indicators--such as early-stage funding and job creation--to determine the 50 best areas for startup growth. In the following dispatches, you'll find a road map for turning forgotten ZIP codes into boomtowns--or simply for answering the age-old question: Where should you go next? From Charleston to Chattanooga, the answers may surprise you.

While tourism, the military, and medicine have dominated in Charleston for decades, a growing tech-startup contingent has found champions in the alumni of the city's early successful startups. These include HR software maker BenefitFocus, which went public in 2013, and Automated Trading Desk, a high-frequency trading pioneer that was acquired by Citigroup in 2007 for $680 million. New-wave Charleston tech companies tend to excel in enterprise software geared toward nonprofits, the real estate industry, human resources, and government. Meanwhile, a cadre of new packaged-goods brands--including Cannonborough Craft Soda and the New Primal beef jerky--is building on the South Carolina city’s strong food culture. While startup funding has lagged--Charleston ranks first for net business creation, yet 32nd for early-stage funding deals--“that tide is starting to turn,” says Patrick Bryant, a co-founder of the Harbor Entrepreneur Center co-working space. Increasingly, Bryant notes, VCs from Atlanta, Charlotte, and New York City are starting to pay attention. --Tom Foster