Having grown up in New Jersey and lived in D.C. and then Boston, I used to think I’d really expanded my horizons by not ending up in New York like a lot of people I’d grown up with. That is, until I read Richard Florida’s book Who’s Your City in which he introduces the concept of “Mega-Regions.” More on that in a second.

First, check out this map of venture capital investments and startups by The Atlantic Cities (which Florida edits):

If your natural inclination is to compare Boston to New York or San Francisco, I want to suggest a different comparison. What if you looked at Boston, New York, and D.C. as a single entity and compared that to San Francisco? By that metric the Northeast still lags in VC dollars and total startups, but we’re ahead in number of companies that scored investment in 2011.

My point isn’t to score some sad, partial win against the valley, but to consider for a second Florida’s mega-region concept. He and his team map the regions using satellite images of the planet at night, where light functions as a proxy for contiguous economic activity. Here’s the map:

When I saw this map for the first time, I realized that for all my moves, I’d never really lived outside of the one mega-region in which I was born and raised. That was sad for me.

But the mega-region paradigm is, I think, useful in the context of startups and innovation. Yes, Boston VC’s are increasingly investing in New York (truer in sectors like internet than in others) but I still view the competition between cities as unwise.

Boston is one of a few major hubs in one of the most innovative and economically productive regions on the planet. So the next time someone asks you about Boston vs. New York or Boston vs. Silicon Valley, tell them you’re bullish on the BOS-WAS corridor.

UPDATE: My friend Robb Tufts took The Atlantic Cities data and mapped it based on the percentage of startups receiving funding. Changes things a bit. And it makes me wonder how USA Today is counting startups. Are the unfunded more likely to self-report – if that’s what it’s based on – in SF than in other places? Anyhow, check it out: