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San Francisco no longer startup central, says report

Someone has disrupted the city's disruptive reputation

"Startup" is the name of the game in today’s Bay Area economy, but now the "cost information website" (as they prefer to be called) HowMuch.net says their research has unseated San Francisco’s reputation as "Queen of startup land."

According to HowMuch, not only is San Francisco not the startup capital of the country, we’re actually not even the biggest focal point for startup jobs in California, and neither is San Jose. Instead, that title goes to the town of Madera in California. And nationally, the honor belongs to Midland, Texas.

Census data from 2014 tells a pretty straightforward story: Startup jobs comprise only 2.2 percent of non-farm job payroll in San Francisco (or, more specifically, in the larger San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area). Over in Madera, however, it’s a full 4 percent, and in Midland it’s 4.7.

There are a few catches, though, that might protect the honor (or at least prominence) of our local coding set. For one thing, the definition of "startup" used here means any business that began operation within the last year, rather than strictly tech businesses, which is what most people think of when they hear the term. The census doesn’t define jobs data narrowly enough to single those out.

In 2015, 4.6 percent of non-farm jobs (i.e., almost all jobs) in San Francisco were information jobs. But of course, not all of those were startups. It can be a tricky stat to put your finger on.

We should also point out that, while the HowMuch analysts have crunched the numbers on how concentrated startup jobs are in each community, that’s not necessarily the only rubric by which to measure. It seems 4.7 percent of the workforce of Midland, with its population of about 125,000, and four percent of Madera, population 64,000 or so, would add up to far fewer jobs than, say, two percent of San Jose.

Of course, fair being fair, we’d also have to concede that 2.5 percent of the population of the New York-New Jersey census area is far more people than any of the above.

So, we would guess that our startup formula is more robust than HowMuch thinks. Although that 2.2 percent figure probably tells us a lot about the local economy anyway.

In any case, the rest of America will probably keep conflating San Francisco with startup culture just as readily as the cable cars and the fog. A high profile goes a long way.