(This article is part of a series by our resident SocialTimes entrepreneur, Ellie Cachette. Cachette is the founder of ConsumerBell and also writes on topics covering Consumer Web. For more articles by Ellie, click here.)
Being from the Palo Alto area I grew up around engineers and start-ups. I remember playing under conference room tables where my parents alongside employees hacked away on laptops to fix features. The energy in Silicon Valley is definitely contagious, there are shuttles figuratively and literally running up and down 280 getting people to SF from Sunnyvale and vice versa, but its also incestious. One bad interaction with someone might be a career pitfall, likewise, one solid handshake can open several doors to success. This article isn’t a dis to Silicon Valley, on the contrary its for all the wide-eyed entrepreneurs out there who think they have to move to San Francisco to make dreams happen, in fact it can be a good idea to start-up outside Silicon Valley. Things to consider where to start your company up.
Money is everywhere and while Silicon Valley definitely has larger funds they are not necessarily widely available. Some funds are very niche specific others set aside for third and fourth time entrepreneurs. The perception is misleading: you have a dream, you move to California, you get funded. It helps being in Silicon Valley because you can network and go through more potential investors faster but if you have a great idea, moving it to San Francisco is not always the best for execution. Look under grandma’s mattress or meet with VCs in the closest big city from where you are. Investor relationships tend to be like a marriage or family bond. If you can get money outside of San Francisco, stay where the love is.
Engineers have to start somewhere. San Francisco might be the Mt. Everest for talented programmers but there are areas all over the country with superstars. Sometimes it boils down to lifestyle or family life or school. Plenty of apps have come out of Seattle or Boulder. The advantage to not being in San Francisco is if you have an exciting product you will be able to recruit the best fit. San Francisco is over saturated with competitive employers, hiring (thus scaling) can be difficult and sometimes dependent on other corporate layoffs, which in general is not an addition of talent to the hiring pool but quantity. Boston and Boulder have feeder schools of talented people looking to stay.
We hear the war stories of losing it all or how having a partner or spouse can make things easier, all of which is probably right but especially if you are young (and most likely single) you need be where you have the most support from family and friends. Think about family far away, is there a city where you could have a warm meal each night and get a hug? If you are to be the foundation of the company keeping yourself emotionally strong is vital so picking a place where you can lean on others isn’t selfish, its necessary. Starting a company is physically stressful so minimizing outside risks can be that added edge towards success.
Ultimately you need to be happy where you live. Even if you are eating ramen and working 20 hours a day, you need to be in a city you generally like. Think about it, if its assumed the next four years will be dedicated to the life of your company, why pick a place you hate? In addition as a founder you will need (and want) to contribute back to the community, if you are happy where you live this will come instinctively. You will get grilled all day long by VCs, why hate where you sleep?
So is it harder to start-up outside of Silicon Valley? It may be if you are looking for a certain existing skillset but think about the other factors that attribute to success and make the best decision for you and your company. Location and cultural fit are just as important and product/market fit. Between various incubators popping up like TechStars, Founder Institute, and Y Combinator there are increasingly start-ups activities in areas all over the country. For fun just search “tech” on Eventbrite in your city or browse Meetup.com.
And just to throw another bone in the mix, incubators are not always the guaranteed way to go either. Here’s my favorite read of this week “How I Got Kicked Out of Y Combinator Then Raised $1.5M For My Start-up“