Location, location, location — it’s the only thing that matters in real estate and there are days where it seems like it’s the only thing that matters for startups. If you’re located in San Francisco, it seems like it’s always easier to get access to everything from mentorship to funding. Most big cities can get you some of the opportunities that you need to be able to launch, even if they don’t offer the all-in-one appeal of San Francisco.
But what if you don’t have access to a big city?
Can a Startup Come From the Country?
Becky McCray, the author of Small Town Rules with Barry Moltz, can offer plenty of examples of rural startups: “One great rural tech startup is Headway Themes, in Clay Center, Kansas, population 4,300. Grant Griffiths is the founder, and now their team includes people in Europe and Australia who work remotely. They produce premium WordPress themes and associate items.”
There are plenty of similar stories coming out of other towns that are on the smaller side. These startups may not look exactly like Google — but, to be fair, the only startup on that scale is really just Google. When you remember that the average tech company tends to be much smaller than the Googles, Facebooks and other big hits, the rurally based companies look fairly similar to what you’re going to find in the big cities.
The Challenges and Benefits
Once you can get past the point of assuming that you need to be based in Silicon Valley to found a startup, just about any place with high speed internet access starts to look pretty good. Obviously, getting high speed internet access still isn’t guaranteed in a lot of parts of the U.S, let alone in other countries. But it’s spreading, especially as local communities decide for themselves that they want it — and the opportunities that come with it.
McCray points to how many bigger companies are competing for tech talent outside of the big cities: “Another whole concept is rural sourcing. There are at least half a dozen different firms that bring high tech jobs to rural areas and capture national contracts for IT outsourcing. The lower rural cost of living gives them a cost competitive edge, and the strong work ethic is a big advantage.”
The burn rate you’ll face in a rural area is a lot lower: you can live a lot cheaper in smaller towns. There are higher transportation costs, but those probably won’t negate the savings even if you’re trying to attend every conference and meet every potential customer you physically can.
When you think rural, do you think about opportunities?
Image by Flickr user Charles Knowles