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Opinion: Inside startups – from biz plans to city ranks

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

Americans have lots of business questions.

Here’s one: What’s the most Googled business question of the past  year?

Answer: “How to start a business,” according to a CenturyLink Business report.

The team at CenturyLink analyzed the most Googled business-related questions/phrases by state and found that query to be searched the most nationwide. “How to start” was the top business question Googled in 14 states.

But not in Missouri. Perhaps we’re more sophisticated or further along in the entrepreneurial journey.

Missouri’s No. 1 Googled biz question is “How to write a business plan.”

It’s similar but does indicate the initial startup question has been addressed. Seems we’re ready to make the plan, cast a vision, build out the system/team and obtain funding.

Joining the Missourians asking that question are residents of about a dozen other states, including Illinois, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Scrappy smart
Other top searched questions are “How to get a business license” and “How to start an online business.”

Here’s my personal favorite: “What business to start.” Business-minded people in Florida, Idaho and Iowa, are saying, let’s get ahead of the curve. They’re already thinking about beating the competition to the punch. That’s scrappy smart.

New York’s most queried is unique: “How to advertise your business.” Gives me visions of Times Square and pays homage to the marketing mecca of the U.S., but obviously today’s ad options are more sophisticated with social media targeting and influencers, browser cookies and tracking software.

Two other states with one-of-a-kind top searches are related to money: “How to get a business loan” in Mississippi and “How to build business credit” in Georgia.

A couple headscratchers come from Michigan’s “How to come up with a business name” and the top searched in Kansas, Montana and Utah: “What is a business entity.” Really, people, those are the best business questions you’ve got?

For full disclosure of the methodology, CenturyLink employed the services of SemRush, a keyword research tool software, to determine the top 10 results for business question keywords. Collected April 29, 2021-April 29, 2022, the researchers then ran the data through Google Trends to determine out of those 10 the top queries by state.

Startups in the Midwest
Now, let’s say you Googled “How to write a business plan” in Springfield, and you took the next steps to start your small business. You’ve contributed to the city’s 37th rank among Midwestern cities for startup activity.

Layering in another study, the 2022 Best of the Midwest: Startup Cities Rankings drills down on how communities are performing relative to each other in their startup tech ecosystems. Springfield moved up two spots from last year, according to the report on MidwestStartups.com, and we’re ahead of State College, Pennsylvania, and behind Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Side note: Venture capital funding is a key metric in this methodology.

Chicago is No. 1 on the 59-city list, pacing head and shoulders above Minneapolis. Elsewhere in Missouri, St. Louis placed a strong No. 5, and Kansas City, No. 11, is projected to crack the top 10 after recent successful funding rounds in the eight figures.

Boding well for Springfield is the fact college towns are experiencing fast growth in startups post-pandemic. The strongest are Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin, both homes of huge state schools, but Columbia/University of Missouri is on the rise, up five spots to No. 22.

For Springfield, home of Missouri State University, Ozarks Technical Community College and private universities Drury and Evangel, the Midwest Startups annual ranking represents an advance from its 47th spot in 2018 but matches its score of two years ago.

The cities are scored in three areas: startup activity, access to resources and business climate.

No surprises that Springfield fared well against its peers in the cost categories of labor, living and taxes, as well as the number of Fortune 500/1,000 companies. However, it was encouraging to see competitive scores for capital invested, loans and government programs.

Surprisingly low scores are in Springfield’s university ecosystem and educated workforce, while room for improvement is in startup density and momentum, the number of venture capital firms and deals, and internet access. But that last item is about to change with the citywide rollout of high-speed broadband by Quantum Fiber, a partnership of City Utilities of Springfield and – wait for it – CenturyLink.

Yes, we’ve come full circle in this startup universe. It’s time for me to exit like one.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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