Ann Arbor vs. Boulder – How do we compare?
Recap: This fall there are 8 home football games out of the 12 game regular season. We used this rather unprecedented home game advantage as an impetus to ask ourselves how we stack up against other, similar regions. How does Ann Arbor compare to other college towns in the US?
Coming up this Saturday, September 17: game three! University of Michigan vs. University of Colorado. Ann Arbor, MI vs. Boulder, CO.
Boulder feels like a natural comparison to Ann Arbor in many ways: a college town not far from a major metropolitan area, similar population, outdoorsy or even ‘hippie’ vibe, lots of Subarus per capita… However, while Ann Arbor’s startup and technology industry has been gaining momentum the last few years, Boulder has been synonymous with technology startups and the presence of Venture Capital for a long time. TechStars is based in Boulder for a reason, and the ecosystem for tech companies is well-established and flourishing.
A good illustration of this comes from an analysis done by the Brookings institution in March of 2015 that put the spotlight on smaller metropolitan areas with more venture capital deals per capita than the US as a whole. Ann Arbor and Boulder both appeared favorably in this analysis, and though Boulder showing up on the list was probably not a surprise to most startup-savvy folks, Ann Arbor’s presence was.
However, that data is two years old by now, and a recent Pitchbook report on the Top 50 Universities producing VC-backed entrepreneurs (https://pitchbook.com/news/reports/2016-2017-pitchbook-universities ) reveals a key difference between Ann Arbor and Boulder: the role of the University in entrepreneurship. UM produces far more entrepreneurs and deals than CU Boulder, though the cities are more on par with one another (rankings below).
Many questions sprout from this key difference; does it stem from the disparity in research spending, or the far more general history of science and entrepreneurship that grew out of Boulder after WWII and is growing now out of Ann Arbor?
One thing is clear: no matter the result of Saturday’s game, people will continue to compare Boulder to Ann Arbor.