Silicon Valley has become synonymous with startups, particularly in technology. Entrepreneurs flock to the area to make a name for themselves and lay down roots. It’s not hard to see why; creating a business in Silicon Valley confers a few advantages for the errant entrepreneur. Between top talent, plentiful access to investors, and cities willing to allow for innovation, the environment seems ideal for a startup looking to establish themselves. However, these advantages are not immutable, and in fact, some aspects of smaller towns can be better for startups.
Even now, many small towns have gained attention for their willingness to not only accept startups, but to incentivize their development and integrate them into the community.
There’s always an advantage to be found, and even if it’s tough, it’s up to entrepreneurs to find it when they try to establish themselves in smaller towns. Research is key; it’s not enough to start a business and declare yourself the new sheriff in town. While factors such as cheaper office space certainly contribute to the advantage of these places, some are better fits than others. Investigate other companies that have gotten their start in the same towns. Look at the businesses that have received funding and those that are currently at the forefront of the city.
Still, even in more remote areas, it can be advantageous to stay connected to hubs for technology and investments such as New York and Silicon Valley. Pay attention to these places, as they will likely serve as barometers for market trends and allow your company to stay abreast of new developments. Entrepreneurs can even recruit from these places. It may seem like a long shot, but lower operating costs can allow remote companies to attract talent by investing in company culture and benefits for their employees.
The fact that a shift towards smaller towns and cities has already started to occur indicates that we may even see other hubs for entrepreneurship spring up over the course of the next few years. Silicon Valley would not be as prevalent as it is if it were not for the “Paypal Mafia”, a group of technology gurus that have collectively founded and invested in some of the world’s most famous startups. Given the increase in funding to unconventional places in the country and the world, it’s possible that other aspiring entrepreneurs could help lay the foundation for other tech hubs elsewhere.
For instance, the town of Midland, Texas beat out Silicon Valley cities in percentage of startup jobs, as did 140 other metropolitan areas across the United States. Lehi, Utah has become a startup hotbed after MokiNetworks launched in 2009, gaining the attention of the country at large. In fact, Adobe Systems launched a campus in the town just a few years later.
Another success story comes from the capital of Michigan, Lansing. In the heart of a state hit hard by the declining auto industry, Lansing launched the Institute of Entrepreneurship through the University of Michigan. This helped retrain many auto workers left recently unemployed and generated capital for startups. Other initiatives have helped diversify the skills of those living in Lansing.
Never underestimate the capacity for networking in small towns. If you find the right town to start in, you can make an impact by supporting the community, and find that the community will often support you back. From there, it is possible to expand your network to companies in the area that have a similar emphasis to yours.
The other two issues, finance and talent, are mitigated through the emphasis on using the Internet for recruitment and investment opportunities. New verticals have the potential to emerge from unlikely places, and a savvy entrepreneur is capable of reading the signs and working to create a new niche for themselves.
It can be difficult to get a start outside of Silicon Valley, but it is far from impossible. At the moment, it is important for people to take up the mantle of the pioneers of old, looking to find success in places overlooked by the titans of technology and finance.