Regardless of whether you're in Brooklyn, London, or Hawaii, as long as you have a reliable laptop, and a high-speed Internet connection, you can work from anywhere.
Over the last five years, remote working has become much more common, but one thing still hasn't changed: when it comes to tech startups, choosing the right “home base” makes all the difference in the world.
Success does not grow in a vacuum — yours will ultimately depend upon the quality of advice you receive, the amount of capital you generate, and the level of talent you attract.
While many U.S. cities are undoubtedly worthy of your consideration, Silicon Valley still takes the cake when it comes to founding a tech company. With that said, it might not be right for every stage of your startup journey.
In this article, we'll outline your best options, while delving into why location matters.
Silicon Valley Startups: Why Location Matters to Startup Success
1. Securing Funding and Mentorship
Obviously, a startup's journey can't really begin until it's secured a certain level of funding. While all major cities make great locations to work from, very few make great locations to find funding.
The more VCs in the vicinity, the more meetings you get; the more meetings you get, the more likely you are to find someone who ultimately gets your vision. Though technology has made online networking a wonderful possibility, most deals are still closed face-to-face.
For this reason, tech startups would do well to spend at least a portion of their early journey in Silicon Valley (aka. the land of incubators and angel investors). You can have the best idea in the world and never really get started in Jackson, Mississippi!
Thus, initially choosing a location with an abundance of investors who match your industry is paramount. In addition to potential capital, the Bay Area offers a large pool of mentors and accelerators whose expertise are key to growth.
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2. Building Your Team
As any successful CEO knows, his or her company is only as strong as the people behind it. Without a doubt, you want to hire the best of the best. That means choosing a work location that is already attracting young, talented, tech professionals.
While the highest volume of tech talent can still be found in cities like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, there are other options for getting started. As the tech industry has become exceedingly diverse, so have the areas of the country that support its growth.
Many of these emerging tech-forward cities are extremely affordable, and some offer coworking space. Below are some lesser-known areas where tech startups are popping up, as reported by Business Insider:
Emerging Top Tech Cities
1. Oklahoma City, OK
Oklahoma City may be best known for mining and livestock, but between 2010-2013, it was reportedly the fastest growing small tech market in the country.
2. Nashville, TN
Between 2014 and 2015, the most in-demand positions in Nashville were all tech: computer systems analyst, computer user support specialist, and software developer.
3. Charlotte, NC
Energy companies like Duke Energy are heavily recruiting tech talent, and the city posts the highest median tech wages within the market.
4. Indianapolis, IN
Surprisingly, Indy is expected to continue to grow in tech over the next decade. Companies such as Allison Transmissions and Bell Industries are providing jobs to people in the city, while attracting talent from larger metropolitan cities who are looking for a change.
5. Tampa, FL
Several large tech companies have recently made Tampa home, including TECO Energy and Tech Data. It's also a headquarters for Verizon, which employs 14,000 individuals.
6. Oakland, Calif.
Considering Oakland’s proximity to Silicon Valley and San Francisco, it's not surprising the city maintains the largest number of employed tech talent and the highest median wages. Interestingly, Oakland also contains more females than any other tech market, making up 25 percent of the workforce.
7. San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is perhaps best known for the Riverwalk, but recently, it’s begun to attract tech startups. The collaborative coworking space Geekdom, created by Rackspace CEO Graham Weston and software entrepreneur Nick Longo, is helping to make the Alamo city a tech hub.
8. Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake City has experienced a 31 percent increase in tech employment in the past decade. With companies like Adobe and Twitter relocating here, we expect the trend to continue.
While the above cities are worthy of your consideration for getting the ball rolling, or setting-up home base, they may not be the best for turbocharging growth. None of them can offer the density of available VCs, angel investors, mentors, workspace, or top talent found in Silicon Valley. Once you have achieved momentum, it may be wise to consider relocating your startup to Silicon Valley to scale your startup.
3. Finding Clients
Another important factor to consider: Where are your ideal clients based? Are there benefits to locating yourself in the same city? Does it matter?
Though modern technology has made marketing to demographics outside of your home base easier than ever before, there is something to be said for living near prospects. Depending on your budget and plans, in-person networking may be a large part of growing your initial customer base.
Research your target customers’ locations. If there are many potential customers based in the same geographical region, it may make sense to base your company nearby. There is a reason that many companies stick around the Bay Area past initial funding. With so many tech companies, entrepreneurs, and tech-focused venture capital in the Bay Area, you have a better chance to gain new customers, forge key partnerships, and even get acquired.
Choosing a Startup Community
Along with factors like finding talent, VCs, and customers, choosing a location with a healthy startup community is important. As previously mentioned, there are many emerging U.S. tech hubs, but when it comes to technology, it's hard to beat Silicon Valley.
Here's a quick summary of what your ideal location's startup community should provide:
In Silicon Valley, pillar companies include Apple, Google, Facebook, and Oracle. Pillar companies help startups in four major ways:
1. They serve as early-adopter customers
2. They provide capital, from seed to later-stage rounds
3. They supply executives, engineers, and salespeople
4. They often host industry networking events and Meetups
Notice which cities boast universities with the best tech programs, as proximity to colleges and universities with a strong technology focus yield talented interns and employees. Silicon Valley has numerous universities with strong tech programs including: Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, and Santa Clara University.
One of the most useful aspects of relocating to Silicon Valley is having access to an abundance of networking and continued learning events. While other cities may host one or two tech-centric events per month, in the Bay Area there are literally dozens of tech events going on each day. The more industry specific networking events you attend, the more likely you are to find top talent, advisors, and investment opportunities.
Go Where You Need to Be
As you can see, there is no definitive best startup location. Additionally, the location you start in might not be the best fit for the long term. With that said, if you are serious about fast-tracking your tech company, there is nowhere else like Silicon Valley.
Sure, the competition for talent is more intense, and few companies make it to a Series A, but there is simply no substitute for the level of mentorship, stratagem, and investor diversity the community can provide.
If you decide Silicon Valley is right for you, don't let the cost of office space deter you.
San Francisco boasts many innovative coworking spaces with a variety of membership options. Obviously, we're biased, but we consider or downtown tech campus to be the best for tech-focused startups. With a competitive admissions process, we've worked hard to cultivate a highly talented community of individuals. With our track record of successful alumni, corporate partnerships, educational events, and VC connections, RocketSpace provides the perfect launchpad for high-growth tech startups.
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Looking for more info on what Silicon Valley has to offer tech startups? Grab a copy of The Silicon Valley Startup Guide and find out more about tech-centric meetups, VC's, accelerators, events, coworking spaces, and resources.