The Most Innovative Metropolitan Areas in the USA in 2020
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In the US, the contraction MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) is used to describe geographical regions with high population density and close economic ties between urban centers. Centered on 2 or 3 main cities at a time, each MSA has its unique economic profile, key industries and social culture.

In order to look for the MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Area) with the most potential for startups, EqualOcean generated the list of US MSAs, ranked by the value of the total funding that local companies received in 2019. The results summarize all investment data from Crunchbase, supported by demographic data from

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward came first in both total funding and VC funding, with San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara coming third. A similarity of the two California MSAs is that they both have a high proportion of VC funding. As the world financial center, New York came second, with a balanced value across VC investments and other types. Based on the value of the world’s top Biopharma industry center, companies in the greater Boston area received the 5th most funding, with a notable proportion of startups. With the fast development of high-tech industries such as aerospace, bioscience and clean energy, the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area is listed 7th, after greater LA and greater Chicago, these being the second and third largest cities in the US. Famous for incubators and accelerator programs, San Diego also attracted substantial investments. The last two MSAs listed in the top 10 are Pittsburgh and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area, each boasting its own unique and strong set of industries. With the advanced manufacturing of Pittsburgh and the aviation and software industries of Seattle, many major companies have advantages in applying their technologies in local industries.

1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

In 2019, San Francisco retained its dominance as the US IT center. Among 1500+ financing records in Crunchbase, the largest proportion is in the sectors of AI, software engineering and the internet. With more than 70% of the total funding being VC funding, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward is undoubtfully the most innovative area in the US.

2. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA(Greater New York area)

With hundreds of VCs and IBs in Manhattan Island, New York’s financial industry provides strong support to all major industries. With the second largest total amount of financing, all types of funding flow to diversified companies in the Healthcare, AI, Fin-tech, E-commerce industries. In 2019, New York had the most non-VC funding, including various kinds of debt financing, IPO, second market purchasing and M&A.

3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Similar to San Francisco, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area is also promised as the world’s high technology center. With the smallest population (2 million) among the top 15 MSAs on the list, it has the third highest number and rank for value of investments. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area has the most active atmosphere for startups. Almost 80% of the funding in this area is VC-related. Supported by world-leading talent pipeline, startups are thriving in high-tech industries such as AI, SaaS, Blockchain and Biotech.

4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (greater Los Angeles area)

Unlike the impression it sometimes gives, LA provides much more than sports and Films. With the 4th largest number in total funding in 2019, the software, healthcare and finance industries developed rapidly. Based on the world’s largest movie industry, related industries such as animation production, game and advertising also attract a large number of startups.

5. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH (Boston metropolitan area)

As the US’s top biopharma and healthcare center, Boston’s metropolitan area also received a large amount of funding in 2019. In fact, except for healthcare-related industries, software, robots and other high-tech industries also helped Boston come 5th in the list. For startups, Toast (SaaS), Desktop Metal (3D printing) and DataRobot (AI) have all attracted USD 400+ million funding. The high-tech industry is backed by first-class talent resources in Boston. Here we also find the greatest concentration of the country’s top-tier universities.

6.  Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (Greater Chicago area)

As a traditional industrial and financial center, Chicago has a diversified business profile. Business and finance-related companies appear the most in the 2019 financing records. There are also many notable startups in the greater Chicago area blooming recently. For example, VillageMD (healthcare analytics) and Boro (Financial service) have received USD 100 million level aggregate funding before series C financing.

7. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

With less than 3 million people and high altitudes, Denver-Aurora-Lakewood has, however, become a haven for a large number of growing companies in aviation, telecommunication and energy. Early-stage companies also made a great contribution to Denver’s recent high-speed development. Companies like ArcherDX (founded after 2015) and Inscripta (founded after 2015)  have received more than USD 150 million funding.

8. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA

With a location only 120 miles south of LA, the San Diego-Carlsbad area has a totally different look. Apart from defense/military, San Diego is also famous for its incubators, new tech, and VC funding. Furthermore, healthcare is playing an increasingly important role in local industry, with almost half the number of financing activities recorded in 2019 being related to healthcare and biotech. For example, Human Longevity and Acutus Medical both received more than USD 300 million after being established.

9. Pittsburgh, PA

As a traditional manufacturing city, 2019 data shows 95% of non-VC investments among the aggregate value. Advanced manufacturing and the IT industry make the greatest contribution to Pittsburgh’s growth. With top IT talents in the US, companies that apply AI and Big data technology to manufacturing are expected to witness a fast-paced development in Pittsburgh.

10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

With Microsoft and Boeing located here, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area is most famous for the aerospace and IT industries. In recent years, the greater Seattle area also developed a diversified economy. There is a notable number of startups in the biotechnology, enterprise services and port-related sectors. As an illustration, Convoy (logistics, founded in 2015) and Remitly (fin-tech, founded in 2011) have both received USD 400+ million funding since being established.

*Contributor: Linyan Feng
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