December 29, 2023
min read

The 5 Best Tech Cities in North America

Eli McGarvie

Even though the last few years have been rocky for the tech scene, the global tech hub rankings largely remain unchanged. The United States still dominates the world tech scene, with Silicon Valley and New York City well beyond the scope of Asian and Europe. Although, Europe, for the first time ever, has received the greatest number of expats from the US than ever recorded.  

In all regions, capital investment dropped significantly in 2023, as many tech companies stumbled through layoffs and profit losses. Even the tech giants like Google and Facebook have been caught off guard, forced to restructure and realign their strategies in the face of a retracting market. In this article, we are going to discuss the best tech cities in the world, and learn a bit more about the opportunities there. You can read more about Europe’s tech scene here → Emerging Cities, Top Tech Hubs.  

🇺🇲 Best tech cities North America

Despite a decline in overall deal activity, North America is still the world’s leading startup region by a long shot. The following are the top five tech cities in the United States and in the world: 

1. Bay Area, California

The San Francisco Bay Area has been a tech Mecca since the 90s and will likely hold the top spot for years to come. According to Startup Genome, Silicon Valley received the most VC funding per capita in the world in 2023. The region's combined ecosystem value is estimated to be a staggering $2.4 trillion (2022). That’s almost 4x bigger than New York and 8x bigger than London! 

Included in the Bay Area ecosystem are a staggering 719 unicorn companies (37% of unicorns in the U.S.). The ecosystem has experienced a 28% growth over the past two years despite suffering from a drop in VC early stage investment (-13%). The area has also seen a high outflow of people thanks to remote work, layoffs, increased taxes, and quality of life issues. 

The biggest winners in 2023 were OpenAI ($10 billion in funding Microsoft) and Stripe which secured $6.5 billion in additional funding. Biggest losers were Zoom (drop in stock price) and Silicon Valley Bank which crashed citing bankruptcy. 

The bay area is a hub of innovation, there’s no denying that, and if you have the desire to be involved in cutting edge technology and connecting with the world’s best tech talent (over 508,790 tech workers), this is the place to be. That being said, there are concerns around job growth and employment opportunities. Tech companies in Silicon Valley have been slashing jobs since 2022 – and while it has eased up, the slashing still continues and may continue into 2024.  

If you do manage to land a job in the Bay Area you can expect to earn anywhere from $185,000 to $329,000 per year (levels.fyi). The cost of living is considered to be quite high, the average person can expect to spend around $5,200 per month all up (rent included). 

At a glance

💵 Cost of living: $5,200
💰 Average tech salary: $242,121
💼 Tech companies: Apple, Google, Meta, Visa, OpenAI, Anthropomorphic

2. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston comes in at #4 in the world for VC funding (2023), and the city is ranked #6 overall for the size of its startup ecosystem. Boston’s estimated ecosystem value is $357 billion — similar in size to that of London. Like many tech hubs, Boston saw a -44% change in VC investment from 2022 to 2023 (dealroom).  

The tech scene in Boston is known primarily for Life Sciences, Robotics, and Fintech — you might have heard of Boston Dynamics, the company making those robot dogs. There have been a total of 26 unicorns (9% of unicorns in the U.S.) in the Boston area which is high comparatively, for example, there are only 25 unicorns in all of Sweden. Boston’s unicorns include well known companies like Klaviyo, Snyk and OutSystems. 

The Greater Boston region is also home to over 100 colleges and universities which makes it a prime location for talent and recruitment. Thanks to this huge pool of talent, there are many entry level positions, so Boston can be a great place to launch your career. According to the Boston Globe, around 272,500 people are working in technology related-jobs. 

The pay for software engineers in Boston is slightly lower than NYC or the Bay Area but still quite competitive when compared to the rest of the U.S. A software engineer can expect to earn between $121,800 to $205,000 annually depending on skill, industry, and company (levels.fyi). 

The cost of living is the biggest downside to the Boston area. A single person is estimated to spend around $4,500 per month on bills including rent. Rent in Boston is 17% higher than in Austin but still 25% cheaper than NYC — making it a good choice for those who want to live close to New York.

At a glance

💵 Cost of living: $4,500
💰 Average tech salary: $159,000
💼 Tech companies: Square, LogRocket, Klaviyo, Datadog, Dynatrace

3. Austin, Texas

While Austin doesn’t boast the largest ecosystem or even the highest developer pay, it is still considered a top tech city by many. CompTIA and Crowdfund Capital Advisors have routinely ranked Austin as the number one city in America for tech startups and workers. The main benefits cited are job opportunities, affordability and real estate. The total startup ecosystem value ($70 bn) is on the rise, not quite at the level of NYC or SV, although it is experiencing higher year-on-year growth than both cities. 

According to Dealroom, there are 32 unicorn companies (+$1b valuation) headquartered in Austin. But only around half of these companies were created in Austin, many companies such as Tesla, moved headquarters after gaining success. Some of the unicorns from Austin include Bumble, Jasper AI, and Nutrabolt — you’ll also find companies like Indeed. 

According to Startup Genome, there are 270,000 tech workers in Austin. The tech scene has a strong focus on Fintech, Cleantech and Life Sciences. Some of these sectors are experiencing tremendous growth, for example, employment growth in the life science sector was 74% over the past five years. To compare Austin internationally, Berlin is probably the closest in terms of ecosystem value and number of unicorns (~35). To further put this comparison in context, Berlin is the second largest tech hub in Europe. 

According to levels.fyi, the average software engineer salary in Austin is between $126,000 and $221,500 per year. This salary is still considered high nationally, but seems a bit low when compared to New York or the Bay Area. Salary tends to fluctuate between company and sector. Obviously, companies like IBM, Dell, Apple, Meta, and Workrise are going to offer the highest paying tech jobs. 

Austin may have lower salaries compared to San Francisco but overall cost of living is about 30% lower. Austin also offers more affordable housing, if you’re planning to buy instead of rent, it’s around 70% lower than SF. You can expect to spend around $3,700 per month on living expenses (including rent) as a single person in Austin. 

At a glance

💵 Cost of living: $3,700
💰 Average tech salary: $165,000
💼 Tech companies: Bumble, JasperAI, Nutrabolt, ZenBusiness, Tesla Motors

4. Seattle, Washington

Home to tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon, Seattle is considered one of the top five tech cities in the United States and #10 in the world (Startup Genome). Seattle’s tech ecosystem value is close to that of Shanghai at an estimated $133 billion. Generally, the tech scene has fared quite well over the last few years.

Seattle has distinguished itself as a leader in cloud computing, AI, and Ecommerce. As reported by Dealroom, there are 47 companies valued over $1B in the Seattle area, similar to Paris (44 unicorns) which is, for context, the second-third largest tech hub in Europe. Comparing unicorns, Seattle ranks 9th internationally and 5th in the U.S. Some of the unicorns started in Seattle include Esper, Highspot, Assurance, and Flyhomes plus some of the more recognisable household names like Amazon, Microsoft, Tableau, and Getty Images. 

Where New York, Boston, and Silicon Valley are slowing in terms of growth (quite a few points below the average), Seattle hasn’t shown signs of slowing just yet, achieving a 46% growth rate (2020-22). Total early-stage funding in Seattle reached $5.2 billion during this period, again exceeding the global average of $970 million. 

Thanks to the presence of big tech and many of these unicorn companies, software engineers can earn an impressive amount. According to levels.fyi, most developers are earning somewhere between $173,000 and $290,000. The average is considered to be around $220,014 — higher than Austin and Boston and $20k less than the Bay Area average. 

Again, like with many of these other hubs, the cost of living in Seattle is less than ideal. The cost of living in Seattle is around 9% lower than New York City — and NYC is considered by most reports to be the most expensive city in the world. The price of buying an apartment (per metre) is almost the same in Seattle as New York, although rent is noticeably cheaper in Seattle. Overall, you’re estimated to spend around $4,600 per month on living expenses including rent (Numbeo). 

At a glance

💵 Cost of living: $4,600
💰 Average tech salary: $220,014
💼 Tech companies: Amazon, Microsoft, Tableau, Getty Images

5. New York City, New York

New York City is considered nationally and internationally as one of the best cities in the world (top 3). NY’s ranking is no different when it comes to tech. New York is considered to be #2 in the world in terms of ecosystem value and by the number of billion dollar companies it has birthed.  

There are an estimated 210 companies valued at over $1 billion in New York City, for reference, Beijing has around 136 and Bay Area 591. Being the biggest city in the United States, New York has no shortage of tech jobs since all major tech companies (local & international) have a major presence in the city. Included are the biggest banks, fashion companies, crypto, and consulting firms. Some of the more recognisable startups include Hugging face, SeatGeek, OpenSea, and Gemini. 

NYCs tech ecosystem is valued at $647 billion (which is double the value of London). The tech industry in the city employs around 369,000 people, with the average software developer earning between $132,000 and $242,000. The average comes in around $180,000 per year which is higher than both Austin and Boston but surprisingly less than Seattle (almost $40K less).

It’s worth noting that New York has a very “work hard, play hard” working culture. A lot of people in the tech industry report long hours and expected overtime. A big city like this is not the place to optimise your work-life balance, it’s a place to make money, launch a career, and network. =

Being one of the biggest cities in the world, living costs are expensive. Renting an apartment in the city centre is estimated to cost you around $4,000 per month (Numbeo) – or $48,000 per year! Numbeo estimates that the total cost of living per month (including rent) is around $5,700. 

At a glance

💵 Cost of living: $5,700
💰 Average tech salary: $180,000
💼 Tech companies: Hugging face, SeatGeek, OpenSea, Gemini, Codecademy, Snap Inc

Further Reading:

  1. www.startupgenome.com/article/europe-insights-rankings-and-ecosystem-pages
  2. www.comptia.org/content/research/best-tech-cities-it-jobs
  3. www.dealroom.co/guides/usa

The 5 Best Tech Cities in North America

December 29, 2023
min read

Subscribe to DevDigest

Get a weekly, curated and easy to digest email with everything that matters in the developer world.

Learn more

From developers. For developers.