News Room

Champaign-Urbana Ranked Top Startup City By Silicon Prairie News

For Immediate Release


Laura Bleill, Associate Director
University of Illinois Research Park

Carly McCrory, Executive Director
Champaign County Economic Development Corporation


CHAMPAIGN, IL, February 13, 2019 – In a new study measuring the startup ecosystems of an 11-state region it calls “the Silicon Prairie”, Champaign-Urbana ranked Number 2 out of 42 communities analyzed for startup and entrepreneurial activity.

Champaign-Urbana ranks above much larger cities including Minneapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City.

“We’re thrilled to receive this community ranking which recognizes and celebrates the incredible entrepreneurship culture and resources we have in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois’ fastest-growing city,” said Carly McCrory, Executive Director of the Champaign County EDC.

“Breaking this down, the “grade” we are most proud of coming out of this report is the “A” in the community spirit category,” said Research Park director Laura Frerichs. “This reflects our strongest asset as a knowledge city – an engaged community that thrives on true collaboration and strong partnerships.”

College towns are a “magnet” for startup and entrepreneurship activity. In addition to Champaign, Madison, Ames, Iowa; Columbia, Missouri; and Iowa City all rank in the top 12.

“Champaign, Illinois, home of the University of Illinois, dramatically overperforms expectations based on population – finishing in the Top Five. For example, in 2017 the community had 21 venture fundings for nearly $75 million dollars. There were also 37 SBIR/STTR grants in the region. These elements suggest that early stage companies and research are generating hundreds of jobs in Champaign (between 390- 620).”

The study also indicates that Illinois as a state, although expected to be strong due to its size, overperforms its “expected value” when it comes to venture capital. Chicago was the overall No. 1 community measured; Springfield also made it into the top 20.

“Venture Capital funding activity in the region increased by 28% from 2016 to 2018 despite the decreasing number of companies receiving funding. Chicago was a significant spur for the region – but other communities such as Lincoln, Nebraska and Champaign, Illinois provided valuable community funding growth,” the report reads.

The study was performed by Chapman and Company out of Omaha. The 11 states measured include Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The methodology for the report measured eight specific components:

  • Small business activity
  • Cool jobs
  • Sustaining companies
  • Structure
  • Innovation
  • Venture investment
  • Community spirit
  • Connectivity

“Chapman and Company attempted to measure those components using relatively near-term measurements,” says the report. “The challenge in measuring startup activity and entrepreneurship is that there is always a desire for more accuracy – but more accuracy usually occurs at the cost of time or comparables.”

The full report is available here: