Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City (you can throw LA in there now too)... they're all known for a few things (and, it's not just the LSD). Innovative startups, great culture, and incredibly expensive--and competitive--housing and real estate markets.
If you're a startup, it's easy to feel pressured to throw your savings and capital at securing a space in one of these booming startup ecosystems, but it doesn't have to be that way (here are a few to add to my list below).
With more remote workers than ever before--thanks to increasing global internet and technological availability--there are less requirements for where your office is actually located, or if it exists at all.
If you're looking to bootstrap, grow at a slower, more stable pace, need a big facility, or all three, these smaller cities will offer many of the same amenities, talent, and funding opportunities as their larger alternatives, at a fraction of the price:
When you think of the midwest you may think more readily of Dorothy and corn than Zuckerberg, but that may not be the case for that much longer. In 2016 alone, the Midwestern town saw an increase of a whopping 145 percent in venture capital funding for startups, to $111.8 million. While the total is still a far cry from the likes of Silicon Valley, the growth itself is incredible.
What's also incredible? The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee is just over $1,382, a quarter of San Francisco. However, don't assume that price means you're living in a startup desert--there are two highly respected incubators in the city for early stage businesses, and large companies like Rockwell Automation, GE Healthcare, Plexus, Johnson Controls and many others lend engineering gravity to the area.
Still not enough to rent an office out? No problem! Milwaukee boasts many co-working spaces, as well as a proximity to Madison, Wisconsin, a more established startup hub.
Salt Lake City, Utah
While this city is by no means unknown, it's a difficult one for many startups to consider. Known as the "Silicon Slopes," Salt Lake City is becoming a booming tech center that venture capitalists are investing in at almost alarming rates.
With it's high funding rates, incredible innovation and startup gravity, reasonable living costs, beautiful scenery and friendly, welcoming community, it would seem like a no brainer, right?
The main challenge with Salt Lake City is that, well, it's 60 percent Mormon. That's not to put down those who practice--it's more about the effects of living in a city where the majority of the residents do not smoke, drink alcohol, or even drink coffee or tea.
You cannot buy beers at Utah bars with an ABV over 4 percent, and coffee shops are concentrated to the downtown area only. However, if you aren't feeling tied to the bar scene, and would be happy to have ski slopes in easy driving distance, Salt Lake City would likely be an amazing ecosystem for your new business.
Buffalo, New York
This rust belt town, previously thought to be doomed after its manufacturing core disintegrated, is now growing at an impressive pace. Serving as a satellite city for New York City, Toronto and Chicago, many "serial entrepreneurs" are looking to form their teams in more reasonably priced cities, without sacrificing their ability to easily meet in person.
Combined with the fact that rent for a two bedroom averages $1,227, and that the city is home to the world's largest business idea competition, 43North, and Buffalo may start seeming like a great place to call home.
Add that an impressive amount of funding from both the state's Buffalo Billion initiative and private investors has poured in--with no signs of stopping--and Buffalo may be the perfect spot for your company. Just make sure to bring your coat!
If you're feeling compelled to move to a big, expensive city to court startup success--don't. Find a home where you can invest your capital into your brand and employees, instead of having everyone living on a shoestring budget just to make rent.
With remote workers and an increasing number of venture capitalists eagerly checking out smaller cities, there's never been a better time to explore all of the options our country has to offer.