The Most Viable West Coast Cities for Startups

John Heimbigner

John Heimbigner

The idea that Silicon Valley is the proverbial bread basket of business innovation and disruption is finally, thankfully, squarely in the rear view mirror.

According to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship, startup growth is exploding nationwide – and well away from the Bay Area. That’s good news for business owners seeking affordable commercial real estate without sacrificing a chance at a potent and experienced talent pool.

However, the west coast continues to dominate the startup scene, with cities like Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and even San Diego (yes, San Diego) coming online and competing with Silicon Valley for the latest and greatest business ideas and innovations. There are plenty of reasons to consider each of the following cities when considering an expansion or setting up shop for your latest business endeavor, but it’s ultimately up to you to make it a reality no matter where you end up.


While not quite on the same level as San Francisco, Seattle is an ever-more competitive and expensive marketplace for business. The city has continued steady growth and commercial real estate development to match increasing demand, providing entrepreneurs and expanding businesses plenty of opportunities to make Seattle home. However, a relative lack of regional investment opportunities have restricted startup growth on the smaller end of the scale, forcing innovative business owners to look elsewhere – or bootstrap – in the competitive Emerald City. Rich with engineering talent and a strong network of tech-savvy professionals with corporate experience, Seattle remains a strong contender for businesses seeking a deep talent pool.


While Portland’s growth in the young professional demographic has slowed in recent years, Portland continues to provide a solid backbone for business innovation and growth opportunities. In fact, Portland has over 2,200 available commercial real estate listings with an average rate of $32 per square foot/year, offering some of the west coast’s best environments for startup companies and those wishing to expand. The city is flush with startup incubators and accelerators – over 35 by our count – and not to mention the interest in private investment and venture capital in the Rose City, which has increased steadily since 2013. And with housing costs remaining well below its emerald neighbor to the north, Portland continues to be an attractive place for young, talented professionals to call home.

San Diego

Bolstered by a long tradition of technical, high-tech, and engineering industries, San Diego has transformed itself from a trendy tourist destination to one of the most desirable cities in the United States. With industry leaders like Qualcomm, ESET, Hitachi Data Systems, SpaceDev, General Atomics, and LG leading the charge at the upper levels of the region’s economy, there’s plenty of space for smaller, more innovative companies to disrupt San Diego’s business environment and place it squarely on the map for startups. The city has seen a surprising influx of venture capital money in the last year, with over $1.5 billion spent funding new startups and entrepreneurs.

Los Angeles

The City of Angels is known for its business acumen – after all, it’s the most important business hub on the west coast and the second-largest economy in the United States. With nearly $6 billion in venture capital investments in the LA area in 2016 – five times what was invested in 2012, the city is ripe for innovation and expansion in the startup community. Called Silicon Beach for a reason, the Los Angeles metropolitan area has expanded beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to become a tremendous force for entrepreneurs fleeing the costs and culture of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.


Okay, Phoenix isn’t technically on the west coast, but the city’s growing influence in the greater tech and business community makes it a worthy addition to this list. Quickly becoming an important support hub for larger, global tech companies based in LA, San Francisco, and New York, Phoenix has seen explosive growth in the tech sector over the last few years. GoDaddy, LifeLock, ZipRecruiter, Amazon, Boeing, IBM, and Intel have set up shop in the greater Phoenix area, and with that growth breeds innovation, and as talent begins to leave those larger institutions in pursuit of new ideas, it’s only good news for business owners seeking a ripe and ready talent pool in a business-friendly, affordable, and dynamic western city. And with nearly one-tenth of all businesses in the Phoenix area designated as startups, there’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit shining in the Valley of the Sun.

Finding the right space for your company – new or expanding – is no easy task. Each of the cities listed above provide unique and exciting opportunities for expanding and first-time businesses, offering a different and important competitive edge no matter where you choose to set down roots. Whether you prefer the robust and talent-rich environment of Seattle or wish to avoid high-priced commercial real estate by settling in Phoenix or San Diego, you and your company will thrive no matter which west coast city you choose – it’s up to you and your team to find the perfect match for your situation.

John is the VP of Sales at where he leads broker relations and sales. Prior to being VP of Sales, he was the Regional  Director for the company. John has over 25 years of experience working in the commercial real estate industry. Before, John was a commercial real estate broker for the Norman Company in Seattle, WA.

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