One of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., Charleston, South Carolina is now the No. 1 mid-sized metro for millennials, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 2016, the metro area was growing at three times the rate of the U.S. population.
Often among the 34 new residents Charleston welcomes each day are venture capitalists and real estate developers, who are drawn to Charleston for a chance to participate in a fast-growing economy, while living in a more affordable coastal hub. These change agents have helped shaped Charleston into an emerging location for startup activity, and its tech community offers lessons for other cities on how to capitalize on an influx of new residents.
The seeds for Charleston’s startup community were sown 26 years ago, when nonprofit software company Blackbaud made the move from New York to Charleston. Since Blackbaud planted itself in Charleston, the region has welcomed more than 250 additional tech companies and 11,000 tech workers. (Disclosure: Blackbaud is an investor in Charleston Open Source.)
The game-changing moment for Charleston’s tech community was the 2001 launch of the Charleston Digital Corridor, a city-backed initiative to attract and grow technology startups. To date, the Corridor has launched more than 80 startups, including Blue Acorn, GoodDoneGreat (acquired by corporate social responsibility platform YourCause), and PeopleMatter (acquired by hiring platform Snagajob). Soon, the Corridor’s resources were attracting startups from outside the region, like Echovate, a “people analytics” software firm that chose Charleston over cities like Raleigh, Austin, and Boston.