An affordable and laid-back alternative to Silicon Valley, the Mile-High City is building a vibrant start-up community.
Silicon Valley is the undisputed start-up capital of the world because it's overflowing with investors, mentors, and start-ups in every stage of development.
But the lure comes at a price. The cost of basic necessities there greatly exceeds the national average. Housing isn't cheap, either--the median price of homes sold in Los Altos in the third quarter was an incredible $1.97 million, reports The Wall Street Journal. And Silicon Valley office space is some of the most expensive in North America. For instance, in the last five years the price of downtown Palo Alto office space has risen almost 43%.
Not every start-up can swallow those numbers, and that's OK. In reality, you can build a great company nearly anywhere, and plenty of other cities are known for fostering vibrant start-up communities. Several include Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, and even Bozeman--just to name a few.
Here's another to add to the list: Denver.
Brady Becker, co-founder of the popular food and restaurant discovery app Forkly, worked in Silicon Valley for around two years and tried commuting from San Francisco 45 minutes each way and even living on a sailboat, which was cheaper (albeit colder). "Occasionally I would dock closer to the office to shorten my commute," he says.
After selling his location-based startup Brightkite in 2009, he and co-founder Martin May decided to go home to Denver and haven't looked back. Here's why Becker says the Mile-High City is a great place to start a business.
Exceptional quality of life.
The close proximity to the mountains for biking and skiing, a laid-back pace of life, and more than 300 days of sunshine a year all encourage a healthy work-life balance. "Denver itself has walkable neighborhoods with new microbreweries and restaurants popping up all over town," Becker says.
Reasonable cost of living and working.
According to the Metro Denver EDC, the cost of living in Denver is only slightly higher than the national average and is well below the coasts as well as plenty of other major metros. Check out this fantastic cost of living calculator, which shows the costs of basic necessities in scads of cities compared with what you can get them for in Denver. Along with an active angel network, Becker says it also boasts a quality talent pool that won't suck you dry.
A growing and tight-knit start-up community.
"Denver has an incredibly open, collaborative, and supportive start-up ecosystem. It's a positive, tight-knit community that works together to encourage everyone's success," Brady says, pointing to the launch of start-up campuses such as Galvanize where Forkly has its offices. Galvanize offers up to 70 start-ups access workspace, investors, mentorship, and a coding school.
One of the most important things you need is a successful veteran entrepreneur in your corner. Not only do good mentors give sage advice and share useful connections, they can boost your confidence, as well. "We have an extensive group of seasoned leaders who want to help grow and mentor the next generation of start-ups," says Becker, dropping names such as Mapquest, Photobucket, TechStars, and the Foundry Group.
This year the city helped launch the first Denver Startup Week to recognize and celebrate the more than 200 start-ups that now exist in the area. Not only that, Denver is home to some very influential people who can be tapped for business collaborations. In the case of Forkly, Becker says world-class Denver chefs and restaurants were eager to get involved with the app--big names such as Chef Alex Seidel at Fruition (Food & Wine's Best New Chef), Chef Jenna Johansen (Bravo's "Around the World in 80 Plates"), nationally recognized restaurants such as ChoLon Bistro and Chef Richard Sandoval's Zengo, as well as great local brands like Great Divide Brewery. "That might be far more difficult to achieve in other markets," he says.
CHRISTINA DESMARAIS is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech startup community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com. @salubriousdish