Want an office in one of America's priciest cities? Expect a $60-per-square-foot price tag for a view of the Green Monster, or a 13 percent marginal tax rate on your California dreamin'. But our Surge Cities list is rich with alternatives to the big-ticket towns, where you can park your e-scooter without needing a miracle to stay under budget.

Into Austin? Try Durham.

You want a smart, well-resourced city--and some good barbecue wouldn't hurt. North Carolina focuses on pork instead of Austin's beloved brisket--but if that's not your thing, maybe paying 40 percent less for office rent in Durham is. And while Austin has the University of Texas, Durham has three world-class universities within a 25-mile radius and nearly twice as many entrepreneurs per capita. Plus, everyone is so friendly. "I could make 50 introductions for you here," says Techstars VP of innovation Chris Heivly, "and everyone would take that meeting."

Scouting L.A.? Look at Phoenix.

If you dig endless sun and sprawling megapolises, why not move somewhere with low taxes and a cost of living that's 30 percent lower than L.A.'s? Arizona State University has earned Most Innovative School in the Nation from U.S. News & World Report for five years running, and the state has rolled back regulations to make it easier for startups to test their products in the Silicon Desert. Maybe that's why you can't hail a driverless cab in L.A., but you can Waymo in Chandler. "The deeper ethos in Phoenix," says PHX Startup Week
co-director Mike Jones, "is that you should be able to chase an idea without too many roadblocks."

Want S.F.? What about Denver?

In your hunt for a progressive, high-tech hub, consider a place where the median price of a single-family home isn't $1.4 million. In Denver, you can find a house for less than $500,000 and a software engineer for $90,000--about $35,000 less than in the Bay Area. S.F. darlings like Slack and Facebook just opened Denver outposts. After scouting 50 locales, San Francisco-based software company CircleCI opened a Denver office. "We've been blown away by the caliber of talent," says CRO Jane Kim.

Thinking Boston? Check out Madison.

Looking for a charming college town with world-class research institutions and early-stage funding? Shift your gaze from Boston to Madison, Wisconsin, where new VC firms take chances on companies like Alex Kubicek's weather startup, Understory. Kubicek launched in Madison, couldn't find funding, and relocated to Boston in 2013. He's since moved back to Madison and secured $22 million, including two $7.5 million rounds led by local VC 4490 Ventures. "There are opportunities here," he says. "The landscape in Madison has changed dramatically."

From the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Inc. Magazine