Superpower vs Upstart: The Super Bowl’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

On Sunday night, the New England Patriots clash with the Atlanta Falcons in a Super Bowl matchup that pits two football franchises with wildly different recent histories.  The Patriots come into the game as the most successful, and to some infamous, NFL franchise over the last 16 years.  The coach/quarterback combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has created one of sport’s most impressive modern dynasties, with a combined 7 Super Bowl appearances (including 4 wins so far), 14 division titles, and 214 combined regular season and playoff victories.

The Falcons by comparison have had spikes of success over the last decade and a half, with peaks of 7 playoff appearances over the last 16 seasons, but also significant valleys in 8 seasons without a winning record.  However, this season the Falcons were the second seed in the NFC Conference and had one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history, rivaling the offensive firepower of the 2007 Patriots team that went undefeated in the regular season that year.

This dynamic sets up the Super Bowl as a contest between a perennial heavyweight and a scrappy contender, an empire against a rebellion, or whatever other David vs Goliath metaphor you can think of.

The superpower and upstart narrative is not just confined to the gridiron.  It is also reflected in the venture capital ecosystems of each team’s hometown.  Boston is known as one of our nation’s centers of venture capital and startup activity, spoken of in the same breath as Silicon Valley and NYC.  Atlanta on the other hand is an emerging hub of entrepreneurship, growing over the last few years into a top location for young, high-growth companies.

Let’s dive deeper into the numbers.  According to the Q4 PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor, the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MSA had 527 venture capital deals into 500 companies in 2016, with a deal value of $6.03 billion.  The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta MSA by comparison had 119 venture capital deals into 111 companies in 2016 with a deal value of $754 million.

While the overall size and scope of Boston and Atlanta’s entrepreneurial ecosystems are quite different, both cities are incredibly impactful on their respective state’s economies.  The vast majority of venture capital investment in 2016 in Massachusetts and Georgia went to Boston and Atlanta, respectively, as the Boston MSA received $6.03 billion of Massachusetts’s $6.09 billion in venture investment in 2016, and the Atlanta MSA received $754 million of Georgia’s $768 million in venture investment in 2016.

Despite the difference in size, both the Patriots and Falcon’s home cities dominate their states’ entrepreneurial ecosystems, contributing jobs, innovation and new company formation to Massachusetts and Georgia.  For the two football teams that hail from these hubs of innovation, we will find out on Sunday which one is able to channel the entrepreneurial energy of their city and bring back a Lombardi Trophy to go along with their hometown’s successful ecosystem.