Silicon Valley

The Last Guide to Instagram Hashtags You’ll Ever Need

If you told me ten years ago that I would be writing a guide on hashtagging, I would most likely have laughed in your face. (Sorry!). To think of how far the hashtagging world has come in the last few years is mesmerizing… I can still remember when I first came across the foreign concept of “hashtags.” It must have been around 2010, and back then I thought hashtags were just a cheeky little gimmick. My friends and I started speaking in hashtags to make fun of the hashtag world. #Sports #Dominoes #MoreWinePlease

Okay, maybe #MoreWinePlease is still fair game.
Fast forward to today and the hashtag playing field has changed dramatically. I am now keenly aware of how powerful and critical hashtags are for the social media strategies of marketers in every industry.
If you’re still laughing at Instagrammers with strings of #’s in the comments or just unclear on how these little tags work, you came to the right place: I’m going to share everything you’ll ever need to know about using hashtags on Instagram. In this comprehensive guide to hashtagging on Instagram, you’ll learn:

What a hashtag is.
Why you need hashtags on Instagram.
How to make the most of your #hashtagging.
Which 20 Instagram hashtags are most popular.

Let’s get started!
What is a hashtag, anyway?
The hashtag, or pound, symbol (#) itself had been used in various ways around the web before August of 2007. Then, Chris Messina, a product designer from Silicon Valley, brought the hashtag to Twitter and was credited as the founder of the social media hashtag.
“He got the idea of using a hashtag from Internet chat rooms that had a pound symbol in front of them,” says Erin Black from CNBC. “He decided to pitch the idea to Twitter, but the company told him it was ‘nerdy’ and that it would never catch on.”
Jokes on them, right?

Luckily, Messina was persistent, and the hashtag did catch on in a mighty powerful way. Messina was able to get his contacts to use hashtags in their tweets, and finally in 2009, Twitter added a feature that allowed users to search for hashtags. #PrettyCool!
You need hashtags in every Instagram post: Here’s why
So why are hashtags so critical to use in your Instagram marketing campaigns? Well, Instagram posts that use hashtags gain a 12.6% increase in engagement compared those without.
“Not only do hashtags help social media users organize and categorize content, but they’re also one of the driving forces behind some of today’s best marketing campaigns,” says Maddy Osman on Sprout Social.
Hashtagging is so effective because it helps categorize similar content and make it even more discoverable, which is likely why hashtagged posts get so much more engagement than those without.
“When used strategically, hashtags can provide you with a ton of benefits,” says Olivia Ryan. “They can be used to get your content in front of a bigger audience, raise awareness about your brand, target a very specific group of people, boost your SEO, and use hot trends and topics to your advantage.”
So what are you waiting for? If you want your audience to see your Instagram content, it’s time to up your Instagram #hashtag game!
8 ways to become an Instagram hashtag pro
You might already be using hashtags in your Instagram captions and comments, or you might be skipping those for now. Whether you’re trying to boost your impact or get started, these tips will help you to hashtag like the professional! Here are eight tips to master your Instagram hashtag game.

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1. Do your hashtag research
First and foremost, it is important to realize that the art of hashtagging is much more than simply adding the hash sign in front of words you think of. To use hashtags in your Instagram content in a meaningful and effective way you need to do your research. So where to start? Here are a few ideas…

Use online tools: There are tons of tools out there—like RiteTag, ExportTweet, and Hashtagify—that will give you data on what hashtags are popular.
Start searching: Type hashtag ideas into the Instagram search bar and see what autofills.
Check your competitors: See what your competition is doing, as well as brands and account that your target audience is likely following. Getting inspiration from other accounts can be super helpful to gain an understanding of what hashtags are trending (more on this in tip #3!).

The key to selecting good hashtags is to ensure they are on target with your target audience’s interests, and popular but not overly popular—you don’t want to get lost in the clutter. You know the kid in school who wasn’t considered “popular,” but was well-liked and known amongst many groups? You want that fall into a similar arena with your hashtag game.
“We’ve noticed that the more niche the topic, the more conversations users are having around it, so it pays off to really hone in on a topic or theme,” says Benjamin Chacon from Later.
2. Don’t over hashtag
While it might be tempting to hashtag your little heart away on each post, it isn’t good to go overboard on hashtags. When it comes to having more of an impact with your hashtag game, it can actually pay off more to be picky. In fact, research has found that the optimal number of hashtags per post is 11.
While Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post, your time is better spent researching and using a handful of super effective hashtags rather than stockpiling a ton of tags per post.

Hashtags and burgers: better in moderation.
“Tossing 30 hashtags on a post only does so much-especially for businesses,” says Alex York from Sprout Social. “It gets to #overkill pretty quickly. And if your brand isn’t focusing on the right questions or goals, all of this seems a bit worthless to invest your valuable marketing time.”
3. Get inspired by other Instagrammers in your industry
There is absolutely nothing wrong with spying on your competition from time to time. In fact, when it comes to hashtagging this can be a super useful investigative activity. Joining in on trendy industry topic hashtags and finding niche industry-related tags that your audience is likely following can be insanely beneficial for upping your hashtag game.
Take this food blogger, Restoring Radiance, for example. Below, you can see that she posted a picture of her yogurt, and rather than using simple hashtags, like #yogurt or #breakfast, she used many hashtags mentioning other brands that her target audience is likely following like #f52grams and #foodgawker.

Why not take a page from her book and use some popular industry hashtags in your next Instagram post?
4. Create your own hashtag campaigns
The cool thing about hashtagging is that you aren’t restricted to using other hashtags that have already been used. You can get creative and build a campaign around your very own branded hashtag. This can take your brand to an entirely new level if done in a creative and engaging way.
Take the unforgettable #IceBucketChallenge. The marketing team for the ALS Association was able to raise awareness with this hashtag campaign, but they also raised a substantial amount of money ($115 million to be exact!). Think about how you can do something similar by getting your followers to WANT to use your hashtag, which will help spread brand awareness about your business to other Instagrammers.

5. Keep your hashtags consistent—but not too consistent
As discussed above, it is important to research your hashtags for each post and ensure you aren’t using hashtags that are overly popular. If you do, your posts are likely to get lost in the sea of other hashtagged post. But should you be using a new set of five to 10 hashtags for every single post you compose?
The answer is no. There is absolutely nothing wrong with re-using the same well-researched, highly targeted hashtags if those are what appeal to your audience. In fact, you should keep a note handy so you can easy copy and paste your commonly used hashtags into new posts. However, spicing things up a bit is also encouraged. For example, use the same five or so on-brand hashtags, but add in a few new ones that are even more relevant to the photograph or video you are sharing. Relevancy is critical when it comes to hashtag use: If someone is exploring a hashtag and your super irrelevant post pops up, it could make the entire brand look un-reputable.
6. Build a giveaway around a branded hashtag
Everyone loves free stuff. This is just simple human nature. I find myself entering Instagram giveaways on the daily to win cookbooks of chefs and bakers I follow. Often, these giveaways are quite simple to enter. The brand will post about giving away a copy of whichever cookbook and ask you to tag a friend in the comments to enter. While this is a super easy and doable way to give something away, why not take it a step further with a branded hashtag?
Take the example below from Talalla Retreat, a beach-front resort that emphasizes yoga. Rather than just having users like and tag someone in the comments, their contest required folks to post a picture with the hashtag #WINTalalla. What I love about this type of giveaway is that it is still easy to enter, but it’s going to get so many more eyes on your brand since those entering have to share a photo to their entire followers list while using the branded hashtag.

7. Use hashtagging to connect
Another wonderful thing about hashtags is that they are a great way to connect with others and build a community. Keeping an eye on trending hashtags can help you discover new partners and engage those who are in your target market. Building an Instagram marketing campaign around a hashtag can also be a super useful way to partner up with a related brand. This will help you gain even more exposure, since this partner brand will be posting about your company to their entire audience.
Here is a great example from Lululemon UK and Stava, which partnered to run a fun challenge encouraging followers to complete a 40-80K run and tag their Instagram posts #4080challenge.

Not only does this type of hashtag campaign get both audiences followers involved, but it also grows the brand awareness for each company with exposure to an even larger audience. Just check out how many people took part in this hashtag challenge.

8. Create a catchy brand hashtag to get your customers involved
Hashtags don’t always have to be short-lived contests or campaigns. In fact, some of the most successful branded hashtags are the ones that apply to any post. Take the hashtag created by the sneaker company, allbirds. Rather than using generic hashtags on every post, they use one very creative and catchy hashtag #weareallbirds.

Using a single branded hashtag that’s catchy and clever is a great way of keeping things consistent. It’s also a great way to building a hashtag that happy customers will be excited to use to share their new kicks!
The 20 Most Popular Instagram Hashtags
I know, I know: This entire post I’ve been discouraging you from using the most “popular” hashtags. Why? Standing out in a crowded space can make you unnoticeable. So instead of focusing on the popular tags, the best way to achieve hashtag success is to find niche hashtags that are only popular among your very selective target audience.
So why are we going over the most popular Instagram hashtags now? Well, just because I’m discouraging you from using these exact hashtags below does not mean you cannot draw inspiration from them. For instance, take #love. Why not make a hashtag about #love that incorporates your brand. #WordstreamLove sounds pretty catchy to me!
Or let’s take #instagood, for example. If you run a new restaurant, then this hashtag could not make more sense—so why not try it with a hint of localization to show your tasty food around your city? Just take a look at the #instagood hashtag vs. #instagoodboston. The #instagood has a whopping 979,097,201 POSTS.

But the #instagoodboston hashtag has just 389 posts that are all food/restaurant related. Clearly, people following #instagoodboston are passionate about trying new restaurants in their city!

Without further ado, here are the 20 most popular Instagram hashtags:


Remember, the best way to use these hashtags is for inspiration—not for hashtag stuffing.
3 tools to analyze your hashtag performance
Now that you are a hashtagging wizard, it’s time to see if your knowledge has been successful at accomplishing your goals. That’s right: It’s time to talk reporting.
Luckily, there are ton of tools that can make this part of the hashtagging process super easy to help you become an even better hashtagger over time. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites!
1. Instagram Insights
This is one of my favorites because it’s not a new tool. It is simply just the insights provided by Instagram, and therefore it is FREE, yay! The Insights include the analytics that you need under the “Instagram Insights” tab around activity, content, and your audience.
And if you are looking to explore the success of your hashtags for individual posts, you can dig into that posts impressions to see how many came from hashtags in comparison to home, profile, and others.

The best part: All of this helpful free info is available right in your Instagram account.
2. Sprout Social
If you are looking to get a bit more detail on individual hashtag performance, it might be worth investing in another reporting tool that digs into the details, like Sprout Social. This robust social reporting tool will allow you to generate Instagram Hashtag Performance Reports to do a variety of things, including:

Compare your most used Instagram hashtags to the ones that get the most engagement.
See how branded hashtags perform relative to broader hashtags.
Use their tagging feature to build campaign specific hashtag reports.

3. Iconosquare
If you’re looking for a very compressive Instagram management platform, Iconosquare may just be the perfect tool for you. While the pricing is a bit higher there is a ton you can from scheduling social posts, tracking and responding to comments, and accessing very detailed analytics all from one place.
When it comes to hashtag tracking, this tool provides quite sophisticated analytical data in regards to hashtag engagement and whether or not certain hashtags are contributing to brand and/or campaign growth.

There are a ton of other social media tools out there that can assist with hashtag tracking, which is definitely a part of your Instagram hashtag strategy process that should not be overlooked.
And now you’re an Instagram #hashtagmaster!
Woo! That was a lot. Now, you should now be fully equipped to go out into the world and conquer Instagram hashtagging to accomplish your business-related goals. We’re excited to see you take your #hashtag game to the #nextlevel!

2 PR Trends Percolating Right Now; PR Industry Growth Holds Steady at 5%

In case you missed it The Holmes Report reported in April that public relations industry growth held steady at about 5%. Here’s an excerpt from their story on this followed by two warm PR trends I see driving demand.

“The research reveals that the Top 250 PR firms reported fee income of around $12.3bn in 2018, compared to $11.7bn for last year’s Top 250 ranking. That growth was underpinned by a rebound from the world’s Top 10 PR firms, which improved their toplines by 4.9% on a constant currency basis, compared to +3.3% in 2017, led by strong performances from BlueFocus (up 10.8% in constant currency terms), Brunswick (+7.7%), Ogilvy (+9.6%), FleishmanHillard (+6%) and Weber Shandwick (+5%).” (The Holmes Report, April 29, 2019)
That’s steady growth. But not remarkable.
Taking the what-is-happening-in-PR conversation further, here are two warm PR developments driving this growth. I’ll explain: either CMOs are hiring agencies and consultants to run campaigns focusing on these things, or the agency folks are recommending them to clients. I say “warm” not “hot” because these trends have been percolating for a while now.
Two warm PR trends right now:

THE RISE OF THE MICRO-INFLUENCER: PR professionals and their marketing counterparts are more aware of and paying more quality attention to those social media folks who have tens of thousands of followers. Companies like Tom’s of Maine and Banana Republic have especially been paying attention to this new frontier of marketing according to PR Daily. I like this definition from PR Daily:

Micro-influencers have more followers than most people—typically in the 1,000 to 100,000 range—but fewer than celebrities and established luminaries in fashion, entertainment or sports. They tend to have a very engaged, loyal fanbase in niche B2B or consumer categories, and they are affordable even for small organizations. Superstars might have more reach, but they have less time to engage with fans. -(PR Daily, The Rise of Micro-Influencer Marketing, 2017)

GENDER EQUALITY AS A KEY FOCUS: With the Me Too movement being so prominent in most of our business lives — every day and sometimes hourly it seems — it’s not surprising that communications campaigns focus on treating women with respect. There are many aspects to this: paying them what men make, hiring more women and putting more on an executive board.

Here’s an example: Intel constantly mentions its focus on the importance of hiring more women. I see press articles quoting them saying this, for example, “Intel’s New Diversity Chief On the Secrets to Hiring and Retaining,” (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 29, 2018) and friends have told me that Intel hiring managers have told them this.
In fact one male friend told me, “I talked to Intel about working there but the hiring guy said, unless you are a female, forget it. You won’t get hired.” Well that’s a little extreme and I’m not sure those were the words verbatim but as a women I’m generally okay with the idea. By the way, my friend got a job with an Intel competitor.
I do hope Intel actually did hire more women. I haven’t looked up their actual progress in that respect. I did read that they made huge progress in gender pay equality.
As an aside and while keeping with the theme of respecting women, oddly the PR industry still has a long way to go in pay equality. A 2016 PRWeek survey says that a male executive makes $125,000 while a female makes $45,000 less at $80,000. To quote Austin Powers, “Crikey!”
Oh and if it’s a PR pro in the Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area, expect all of those numbers to be a lot higher. Everything costs more here and usually people get paid accordingly. To me $80,000 is more of a junior PR person’s salary. Managers and directors in the Bay Area should be paid over $120,000. Nonprofit publicists make a lot less of course; some work pro bono.
There are many other PR industry developments that go along with this steady growth reported by the fine folks at The Holmes Report. I will be writing about those in coming weeks.
The Holmes Report on the growth of the PR industry story, April 2019, is here.
PRWeek 2016 salary survey is here.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Overlooked Role of Emotion in Brand Experience

While CRM systems have been around for many years, in my experience, among the companies who invest in them, only a few have grasped their true purpose. For a business or a brand to “wrap its head around” the idea of an ongoing conversation with the customer, we are best served by taking a closer look at the role of the brand in experience management and contact management.
As Content Marketing continues to develop, much has been written about the role of experiences, memories, and emotion as driving forces in conversion, and most importantly, in customer loyalty. One post went on to suggest that we’re witnessing a shift in determining what truly makes us happy and expressing it in our behavior. That shift is most easily observed in generational attitudes; the younger generations are placing more value on experiences over stuff. We are discounting: the acquisition of things like houses, cars, clothes, and yes, even tech hardware like iPhones is giving way to a preference generating lasting memories of things we’ve done or seen or felt. Something we experience helps us look forward to some event or relationship. And while a change in the choices we make with brands might scare some, the search for something real and lasting can’t be ignored by marketers. These choices lead to moments, many of which are made unconsciously with brands.
Researchers at a Silicon Valley area university were polled in regards to Gens X and Y, revealing that after buying whatever their heart desired, participants responded that spending their money on an experience or on a person you experience it with would add to their quality of life for a more sustained period of time. The paradigm shift comes when the era of Social Media gives them the platform to share those experiences. I would argue that the surprise and delight delivered by positive brand experiences matters much more than purely the acquisition of what the brand makes.
Of course, we do and should reward ourselves for accomplishments, or upon good fortune. Sometimes that takes the form of a thing we buy. But when brands can communicate more of their “why” in the form of an experience, the effects can be memorable. When brands allow experiences to strengthen and confirm the wisdom of choosing them, they are communicating on an emotional level. In fact, emotions drive nearly everything we do.
Looking at the customer experience, much is emotion driven. We can research and shop for months, but when we are in that moment, we make an emotional decision. And what about loyalty? What makes us loyal? It’s the emotional connection with whom we are loyal to. Marketers all too often look at the “what”, instead of the “how” or even better, the “why.” A great customer experience goes beyond rationale and product features. We need the entire buyers journey or purchase funnel to achieve it.
For a brand to resonate and compete for the hearts and minds of consumers who, for example, prefer going places to buying and storing things, learning new insights into emotional response is part of codifying brand values. Emotion plays into one’s memories of experience and with whom.
So, in considering the role of emotion in marketing/branding, we need to consider the consumer holistically. Rationale and logic do indeed contribute to our decision making, but as Forrester Research stressed recently during their Customer Experience Forum in NYC, “customer experience doesn’t drive behavior that expands a brand, loyalty does.” Content delivered through the entire buyer/ownership journey is as much about creating emotional experience and advocacy in the form of loyalty as it is about acquisition. When designing customer experiences, we could begin with something like an experience map. While big data is now a primary catalyst for examining customer behavior, it still depends on compilation. More direct sources like call center logs, personas, one-on-one interviews, comments on our blog, the social web, and real life conversations can help gain insight to start. Then, we could apply some known behavioral tenants. For example:
People are more sensitive to avoiding negative experiences over investing in positive ones.
Experiential context must be accounted for when considering the consumer’s state of mind.
We tend to be revisionist and selective in our memories, so “moments” do matter.
Brands need to continually create relevant strategies, refine or reinvent company culture, develop new technologies, and re-examine brand values if they are to thrive.
Additionally, an internal perspective could be applied to employee experiences to support this effort. “C” Suite decisions could and should shift from a strategy of what to do to how, when, and how much to do. Making the case for a Social Employee at every touchpoint is a recognition that people with customer contact (employees) are the new marketers because they directly impact our emotional response to a brand experience. They function best when they have the opportunity to be authentic and creative in driving positive and emotional experiences and outcomes.
We know that 14% of people polled trust conventional advertising. We know that 92% trust recommendations from people they know (have an emotional connection to). In fact, more people trust a brand’s employees than the CEO. Addressing the importance of emotion in brand experience will go a long way to converting that 92% to higher conversion rates and retention.

5 of the Hottest Places for Startups

When you think of tech startups, you think of sprawling campuses in Silicon Valley fed by venture capitalists from across the bay.
San Francisco is synonymous with fresh faced programmers with a penchant for disruptive technology. But rising costs has made San Fran a less than desirable place to get going unless you’ve recently seen an injection of a few million dollars.
Having high-profile neighbors does not make a city the best place to launch your technology career. In fact, the competitive nature of the area makes it a more difficult place to be. Instead, check out these five places that aren’t Silicon Valley that foster creative culture and add fuel to the startup fire.
1. Denver, CO and Boulder, CO
You might be surprised at the most consistent places to launch your career. Colorado is consistently ranked as one of the best places to launch a tech startup. In fact, Denver and Boulder can be found at the top of almost every list.
Colorado features affordable real estate and a relaxed lifestyle. Education is a high priority in this state and creatives make up around 29.3 percent of the area’s population. The area is also home to tech giants like Oracle, SAP and HP as well as a large number of government research groups.
Boulder itself is known for its productivity and the city has an impressive tech startup density sitting at six times the national average per capita.
2. Austin, TX
Fly a few hours south to Austin in the heart of Texas and you discover another surprising city that is full of hot startups.
Austin sits at the top of several lists. From its food scene to its creative capital, the city offers plenty of resources to entrepreneurs at lower prices than its coastal compatriots. The stable cost of living combined with no state income taxes makes Austin a great place to get started.
3. Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton – located near other Florida startup hub, Miami – is known mostly for its white beaches and the white hair of the swarms of retirees that flock to the area. But this all quietly began to change when IBM opened its doors in the city in 1970.
Lately, IBM vets have started opening their own tech firms. The number of creative professionals currently sits at around 14.2% of the population.
4. Seattle, WA
Seattle is the home of tech behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon. This is great news for new startups because these giants attract world-class talent to the city. With Microsoft’s increasing layoffs and Amazon’s high staff turnover, there is plenty of talent to go around.
5. Global
The tech startup scene extends far beyond the borders of the United States. There are countries around the world exploding with highly innovative technology companies. Some well known companies like TransferWise, a disruptive service endorsed by Richard Branson, have surprising origins.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, you might considered the European Union. The Netherlands was recently ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in Europe and is home to many of the global tech campuses.
If the high prices of Amsterdam are a bit much, you can check out countries like Lithuania and Estonia. These countries have high levels of creativity and incredibly low costs of living. The number of creatives enjoying new found freedom have made these places attractive for getting your startup off the ground.
If you travel a little further afield to Tel Aviv, you will find yourself in a thriving beach technology culture. The country spends more money on research and development than many other countries in the world.
Whether you want to stay close to home or go far away, remember that San Francisco may be at the center of everything but the tech world is a big one and it is worth exploring.

Startup Communities: Does Location Matter To Start Your Company?

In May 2015, I left everything in Montreal, Quebec, Canada behind and together my co-founder and fiancée Emilie Elice-Label, arrived in San Francisco to set up operations for our company here for the next 6 months.
While living in Montreal, and Paris before that, I’ve been educating myself about Silicon Valley with news articles to learn from other immigrants that made the same jump such as Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, and many other entrepreneurs. I thought deeply about how much of a difference location can make when building your company. Moving from Paris to Montreal helped me grow because there are more startup-minded people in Montreal, and the city offers easy proximity to New York City.
While in the startup capital of the world, we’ve visited the true Silicon Valley (Palo Alto and Mountain View), and began thinking about the benefits of the area and the importance that location has for companies.
Since we arrived in San Francisco, it is much easier to meet like-minded and useful people, and my expectations of how easy it is to meet people and how helpful people are have been exceeded. We’ve also had the chance to meet startups in our space and it has been fascinating to learn from them. It’s easier for these things to happen since many startups are based here. Emilie, my co-founder has been to many San Francisco events and it emphasizes this feeling even more.
People actually “get” what you’re building: This is what makes our move to the US unavoidable because this isn’t something that we felt in Montreal. In Montreal, most of the people didn’t get what we were building or why. In San Francisco, people get startups. The conversation can jump right into what your startup is about. Conversations like mobile strategy are easy to have, whereas the real estate marketplace conversation in Montreal seemed to center around explaining the instant gratification that only mobile devices can offer.
Sure, you might not be in Silicon Valley and you might not be able to pack your bags and hop on a flight over here for many reasons. That being said, I advise any founder to take risks and move to wherever you feel you’d be at ease to jumpstart your project. But not being in the right location shouldn’t stop you from making progress with your startup from your current location. To wait for any perfect environment, be it location, startup communities, experience, funds or otherwise, is a mistake to be avoided.
I’d love to learn from your experience in the comments.
Image Credit: Flickr/Jeff Gunn

4 Ways Atlanta Is Becoming a Silicon Valley Competitor

Everyone knows that some of the world’s largest technology corporations reside in the Silicon Valley of California, and it’s hard to compete with the area’s wealth. However, the Bay area isn’t the only United States tech hub. Atlanta, Georgia is also a major player in the technology sector.
As far as technological advancements and major tech companies are concerned, Silicon Valley is far ahead of Atlanta. However, when it comes to small tech businesses and startups, aspiring entrepreneurs will have a tough time in the Silicon Valley. The Bay area is one of the worst places to begin a company, but those dreams have often been realized simply by visiting Atlanta Tech Village or Tech Square in Georgia.
The tech industry in Atlanta is already quite impressive, and there is always room for growth in the technology business sector. Atlanta grants more than 1,500 patents to new businesses alone for new technological innovations every year. It’s also been named one of the best places to start a business by Forbes. This is just one of the many reasons that Atlanta is defining itself as the East Coast’s version of Silicon Valley, but here are a few more:
1. Atlanta’s Economy Is Rising
It’s true the Silicon Valley’s economy is booming, and the average salary for a tech job is the highest in the nation. However, Atlanta isn’t far behind. The city took a significant hit in the 2008 financial crisis, but it’s been steadily gaining speed in the tech industry. According to a chart from 42 Floors, “The Atlanta metropolitan area is considered the eighth-largest economy in the country and the sixteenth-largest economy in the world.” This booming economy is largely a result of their determination to put startup companies on the map.
2. Woman-Owned Businesses Can Make It in Atlanta
Georgia is currently one of the best states for women-owned businesses. In fact, it was the number one state in 2013, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The Bay area has always been high on the list of regions that support women-owned businesses, but they haven’t reached the top. Prominent women-operated businesses including Partpic and Rimidi got their start in Atlanta, and have already been largely successful at expanding their businesses.
3. There’s No Shortage of Fortune 500 Companies
With the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in America, Atlanta can certainly compete with the major concentration of high-profile businesses in Silicon Valley. However, Atlanta’s businesses are far more willing to work with the surrounding startup businesses to help them get a leg up in the industry. What’s more, British tech firms looking to infiltrate the United States tend to gravitate more often towards Atlanta than larger tech hubs because of the success rate for startups. This means they’re slowly going international.
4. Atlanta Has Drive
If you look into the history of Atlanta, you’ll see that it hasn’t had an easy time staying at the top. However, it continually works to rebuild itself, both figuratively and literally. It’s the only United States city to have burned entirely to the ground twice and then picked up the pieces and started over again. This idea has translated to the way they handle new entrepreneurs and tech jobs.
The city has a drive to stay afloat, come recessions or natural disasters. It’s the sheer determination of Atlanta to help startups and small businesses rise to the top that will have the Silicon Valley watching their backs in the future.

Education Might be Broken, but Students Can Fix it

My friends, Kirill Satanovsky is walking, living, breathing proof that entrepreneurs can come from anywhere. When he was in school he studied neuroscience, only to end up working at a home automation startup after graduation.
He didn’t abandon his interest in neuroscience by any means, Satanovsky simply found something in this world that was more important to him: entrepreneurship. You see, when he was working at this company he was bitten by the startup bug, big time.
Like many entrepreneurs before him he realized, while it was a big risk, his best bet was to pack up and move on out to Silicon Valley. After all, he had a colleague who was starting a company out there and she invited him to come help launch it.
Satanovsky spent about eight months at the company before realizing it wasn’t quite up his alley though. At the time when he decided to move on he was living in a hacker house which he eventually began running, and ultimately handling all the operations for.
That’s when Alex Cory entered the picture: Cory was running an education centered hackathon and needed some help. There was something special to Satanovsky about this hackathon, and he saw it as something that was legitimately trying to make a difference.
It all started when a group of student university ambassadors attended a Google summit and were charged with keeping innovative spirits at their schools high and to host individual, local hackathons. It didn’t make much sense to them though.
After all, San Francisco State, Berkeley, and Stanford are all relatively close: why not just hold one, massive event? That was the genesis of the first HackingEDU event, which Satanovsky eagerly offered to help with.
HackingEDU specifically brings together the sharpest young minds from all over the West Coast. It’s all under the banner of inspiring the next generation of students to solve the problems that plague our current education system,
“Education is broken, who better to fix it than those directly affected,” says Satanovsky. “I love the idea of empowering students to change the system from within.”
The idea has absolutely caught on with current university students. Cory and Satanovsky recently held a HackingEDU Training Day event where they brought in their sponsors to engage with the attendees, showcase companies, and provide networking opportunities at PayPal HQ.
Initially it was supposed to be a relatively low key, quiet event but the entrepreneurial duo got 1,500 student sign ups out of the clear blue. Granted, they officially clocked attendance at just over 400, but it was still a massive showing for the event.
When the PayPal rep asked them how they managed to pull the whole thing off, impressed by the turnout, they told him that it’s all because of the students. Cory and Sataovsky realize something poignant: these young minds are the ones who are super passionate about education because they’re directly embedded in it. All HackingEDU did that day was give them a stage to connect.
In a nutshell, that’s the core philosophy of HackingEDU though. Their biggest driving influence is to show students that they really can make a difference, even if it’s only making a smart watch app that teaches kids multiplication tables. However, you can’t innovate unless you start the conversation, and for HackingEDU it’s all about starting it with the students as early as possible.
“Education is more than just public schooling, it’s a right,” says Satanovsky. “You shouldn’t have to spend money on antiquated institutions who will teach you skills you can’t apply or not the right skills you need. Not everybody is Peter Thiel – what about all the other bright kids who don’t learn well in the traditional school systems? How do they learn new skills? How do they connect? We’re empowering DIY learners. We want to be the central place for people who are passionate about education.”
To hear Cory and Satanovsky tell it, this is only the raw beginning for HackingEDU, and they’re planning on running annual events for years to come. You’ve got to admire their tenacity, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. In effect, HackingEDU is showcasing a new generation of student entrepreneurs. This is what you get when you pair ambitious university talent with a robust tech ecosystem, and it’s beautiful.
Image Credit: HackingEDU Facebook page

5 Reasons Why Oakland Will Be The Next Big Startup Hub

Oakland is the Bay Area’s greatest paradox. No city in Northern California offers the same dichotomy of third world crime with first-class business opportunity. These days, the trend is heading much more in the direction of the latter. In 2014 Oakland experienced its lowest rate in violent crime in over a decade.
It’s been said many a time that Oakland is the “Detroit of the West”, and that nickname is just as relevant today as it was at the height of automobile production in the 1970s. Detroit is a city that’s been through a lot, to say the least, but it’s also starting to emerge as a land of opportunity. You could say the same about Oakland as well.

Highlighted by Pandora, there are hundreds of startup companies that call Oakland home, and the number keeps rising. Here are the reasons why:
1) Oakland needs business growth more than San Francisco or San Jose, and will go out of its way to accommodateOakland rolls out the red carpet for would-be businesses, including generous tax breaks. If your startup sets up shop in a deemed “Enterprise Zone”, Oakland could give you a credit of up to $37,440 over a 5-year period for every new eligible employee. And it’s not like if you moved your company to Oakland you’d be the only one making that move: there are more than 300 startups in the city now.
2) Tech workers already live in OaklandOne of the great reasons why Silicon Valley spread into SF in the first place was the fact that many workers were adamantly choosing to live in the city. In effect, the businesses slowly started following their workers. Since the emergence of SF’s tech scene this past decade, two things have started happening: rents have become too high for even many area tech workers, and Oakland has seen the addition of hundreds of restaurants, bars, and other amenities to make it more enticing to jump across the Bay. Google and Yahoo busses pick up residents in Oakland for a reason.
3) There’s an abundance of office spaceThere’s some pretty simple math at play here. Oakland has slightly more square miles than San Francisco, and half the population. There’s plenty of room to grow. The neighborhoods near Jack London Square, Grand/Lake, and uptown are poised to absorb more companies, including the now-vacant space where Sears used to be.
4) Oakland tech growth is already happeningAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Oakland metropolitan area (which excludes Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Berkeley and the North Bay) grew its computer industry by over 5 percent from 2013 to 2014. The BLS’s vaguely defined computer industry predominantly includes developers, systems analysts, and technical support roles. The growth is happening quietly, but it’s happening all the same.
5) The costs make the decision easyNot that office space is affordable in Oakland when compared nationally, but it’s infinitely less expensive than San Francisco or the Peninsula. Could be a major reason why Sunset Magazine just announced its move from Menlo Park in the Peninsula to Oakland, where it will likely pay close to $30 a square foot (in contrast to the $50 or $60 you’re likely to pay in Menlo Park or San Francisco).
So what do you get when you combine an educated workforce, affordable commercial real estate, and a town that’s on the rise? The next major technology hub, that’s what.

A Founder’s Guide to the New York Startup Scene [ INFOGRAPHIC ]

Whether you’re just about to start a company or you’re hoping to expand, setting up shop in New York City may be the best logical step for you and your company. Or, maybe, you’re at a point during which your location decision comes down to either Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley. Whatever the case, it’s important that you, as a founder, know as much about the New York startup ecosystem before fully committing to planting roots in the city. Thankfully, there’s now a handy infographic that gives founders (and potential founders) a general yet informative overview of the New York startup scene.
When it comes to resources, community, and funding, the New York startup economy comes in second behind Silicon Valley – this is a widely-known fact. With city-backed initiatives like Digital.NYC which aim to provide the city’s tech sector and greater local economy with the resources to help accelerate growth, and organically-developed organizations like New York Tech Meetup that unify the whole startup economy, a decision to startup in NYC essentially becomes a decision to become part of the economical history of our modern tech renaissance.
In the infographic below, you’ll find the most recent stats on the state of venture capital in NYC, the names of prominent accelerators and tech-focused organizations in the city, and even a list of some food hangout spots recommended by New York startup leaders. Here’s the infographic on a founder’s guide to the New York startup scene: