In this week’s roundup of watercooler talk from the region’s startup hubs, we have the dish on Chicago’s booming startup density, Uber and Lyft’s Austin tantrum, and Denver’s No. 3 rank for digital economy readiness. Check out more in this series here.
How does a 4 million square-foot Chicago building — the second-largest in the world — go from being an art, boutique and furniture supermall to a tech mecca?
Simple. Startups tend to advantageously collaborate and connect with each other, needing both space to grow and density to succeed.
So when tech incubator 1871 decided in 2012 to move to the Mart to take advantage of its massive size, it wasn’t long before up-and-coming startups like MATTER, Yelp and GoHealth also decided to call the behemoth home. Today, brands like Motorola, BrainTree, Razorfish and Allstate’s innovation hub have joined the Mart collaboration train.
In fact, more than a third of the Mart is now techie heaven, and it looks to keep growing as both established tech companies and startups find more and more advantages in rubbing elbows with their like-minded fellows.
It’s a good lesson to keep in mind as Kansas City develops its own coworking and tech communities, even if it doesn’t have one mammoth building to put everyone in.
Uber and Lyft’s hard-stop on rides within Austin city limits following Proposition 1’s failing to pass left a huge vacuum in local transportation.
While Uber and Lyft’s leaving Austin amounts to a giant hissy fit — losing Prop 1 didn’t mandate that the companies stop ride-sharing services, just that they perform fingerprint-based background checks. It’s effectively opened the market for smaller companies to fill the void.
It was a void that adds up to 100 percent of the area’s on-demand ride sharing marketplace and 30 percent of the total taxi services. Already seven ridesharing companies have rolled their proverbial eyes at Uber and Lyft, and are now setting up shop within the bounds of city regulations.
Among the companies immediately taking advantage of Uber and Lyft throwing in the towel are Get Me, Canadian car service InstaRyde and even a local, non-profit effort called RideAustin.
Both Uber and Lyft have a history of leaving communities that don’t march to their tune, so the move was not only expected if Prop 1 failed, it was planned for.
Kansas City may have scored second-to-last place in digital economy readiness, but our friendly neighbor Denver earned near-top marks.
The city ranked No. 3 on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Innovation That Matters” report. It comes as no surprise that the startup hub’s third place spot was in large part due to Denver’s healthy quality of life. In addition, the report gave two big thumbs up for having a:
- strong supply of educated young people from area universities
- lively local culture
- well-connected startup ecosystem
- well-established energy sector
Factors that kept the city from ranking over No. 1 Boston and No. 2 Silicon Valley were its relative lack of density in education-, health- and smart city-tech sectors; limited capital; and few globalization efforts.