Bikes and Breweries Could Fuel Cities' Startup Success


Cities that rate high in their readiness for the digital economy also rate high among cyclists and craft beer fans.

Is your city friendly to bicycles and to beer? If so, it may also be friendly to startups.

The recent Innovation That Matters report from the Chamber Foundation and 1776 highlighted many of the cities best poised to take advantage of the digital economy. And many of those cities also report high craft beer sales and a bike-friendly culture.

Boston, the San Francisco Bay area and Denver were the top three cities in the Innovation That Matters report, and also placed in the top five in “The Most Bike-Friendly Cities” study by Forbes. Washington, D.C. and New York City also rated high in both reports.  

Moreover, five of the top six cities for craft beer sales were among the highest ranked in our ITM report—Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland.

So does this mean that riding a bike and opening a brewery will lead to startup success for your city? Well, it’s not quite so simple.

We know that a high concentration of cyclists work in startups, tech-focused businesses, and fields densely populated with educated-Millennials. This demographic is typically very concerned with physical health, green energy, and socially responsible organizations. Their consumer base has also become incredibly infatuated with the craft beer trend, as they favor local socially-impactful businesses over multinational corporations. As a result, the number of craft breweries increase in cities alongside startup and tech growth.

There are many reasons why cities like Denver and San Francisco are able to attract more breweries and become better fits for cyclists; often this attraction revolves around similar principles for growing startups.

  • Focus on Integration – Social Networking is crucial to uniting small businesses, universities, local governments, corporations, and communities. Connectivity is a powerful tool to catalyze growth and utilize individual skills more efficiently. Successful breweries are commonly some of the most connected businesses, as they must attract a particular client-base and adhere to their interests. Breweries must also work alongside local government to follow rules and regulation related to the sale of alcohol, and can usually be found working with other local businesses to increase their brand and sales.
  • Invest in What You Know – Each city is rich in its own culture and industries, so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, invest in innovation key to your region. Cities with high concentrations of cyclists are known for hosting races and events to promote local businesses, startups, and giving back to their community. Craft breweries are also known for building their city’s culture into their product through specialized beers and community events. Cities that invest in policies to improve conditions for cyclists and improve regulations to open and bolster craft breweries, are generally rewarded in the long-term.
  • Talent Attracts Talent: The Power of Social Capital – If you want to excel in a particular industry, pave the way in regulation and economic support to attract intelligent professionals. Growing relationships between a city and an industry is vital to driving innovation and economic success. A startup incubator moving into a neighborhood may invite new restaurants, shops, and more businesses big and small. The same is true for neighborhoods rich in cycling attracting startups, investors, and increased community involvement.

Cities utilizing these principles are better able to attract startups, and with them an influx of the growing millennial generation. Within these cities local businesses react to consumer demand, as the startup, tech, and young entrepreneur workforce typically seeks out certain trends, such as biking and craft breweries.

Millennials surpassed Gen X as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce in 2015, and is projected to continue growing as Baby Boomers exit the workforce. Changing business landscapes are certain to come, as consumer preferences and demand evolve. Therefore, the ability for cities and businesses to adapt will prove to be among the most vital factors for a region and its startups’ prosperity.

Symbiotic relationships between startups and breweries and cyclists have formed across the nation’s cities, and are becoming more prevalent as we enter the digital economy. Trades like craft breweries are often started by like-minded people to that of the startup and millennial workforce, so their cliental are inclined to spend more money, and thus more breweries sprout all over Millennial American cities.

There is no exclusive formula or standard that cities must follow to achieve success, but understanding the progression towards the digital economy along with a region’s unique culture and community is certainly a step in the right direction. Following principles for startup growth ("focus on integration", "invest in what you know", and "talent attracts talent") will put cities on the path to innovation and prosperity.