There's a reason why seven of the top ten American cities to start a business are in the Midwest. Universities are producing stellar local talent at a fraction of the cost, community support is unparalleled and the cost of living has not yet skyrocketed.
So there's certainly a case to be made for moving to Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois instead of Silicon Valley. Midwest cities can more attractive to new ventures: Entrepreneurs get the access to capital they need to hire top tech talent, have a bigger marketing budget, and go to market a little faster.
This isn't groundbreaking news; we've had our eye on the Midwest for quite some time now. But now more than ever, companies are capitalizing on those advantages.
I reached out to several companies from cities like Indianapolis, Chicago, and Cincinnati to get their take on how they've leveraged their location to help fuel their growth. Here are three ways Midwest entrepreneurs are cashing in on a golden opportunity:
1. Attracting uniquely qualified talent.
As Midwest cities enhance entrepreneurial support and universities continue to develop talented engineers, finance professionals and entrepreneurs, access to top talent is abundant. And the talent raised in so-called "flyover country" were instilled with Midwestern work ethic, creativity, and passion.
Here's what a couple of entrepreneurs from the heartland had to say:
Chris Sentz, CEO at F13 Works
Location: Columbus, OH
"Ohio is a hub for some of the most driven, determined, and experienced professionals in the tech world. With so many great tech companies attributing their success to starting out in Columbus, it's easy to see why it is such a great location for tech startups."
David DeRam, CEO & co-founder at greelight.guru
Location: Indianapolis, IN
"We've been able to build an amazing team and have plenty of access to capital. We have all the benefits of a high-growth SaaS culture without the common headaches you find on the coasts. This is the place where you're going to get both elite talent and scrappy work ethic."
2. Understanding how Midwestern values open doors.
As venture studios like High Alpha in Indianapolis and startup accelerators like The Brandery in Cincinnati continue to build momentum throughout the Midwest, founders are building stronger networks than ever. And the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, with strong collaboration and community support.
Here's how a few founders are capitalizing on their Midwestern roots:
Yaw Aning, CEO at Sticksnleaves
Location: Indianapolis, IN
"One incredible advantage of launching a tech company in Indianapolis is that with a phone call or an email, you can meet practically anyone in the city. The level of access you have to other entrepreneurs and leaders who've had success is unparalleled. Among the city's tech leaders, there's a deep-rooted mentality of paying it forward and that has helped the tech ecosystem flourish here."
Catherine Merritt, CEO at Finnbin
Location: Chicago, IL
"When I founded my first startup, I was new to the startup space and would send emails to other founders and leaders I admired, asking them if we could get coffee. More often than not, they accepted--and as such, I've grown a huge and valuable network of collaborative and supportive contacts. In true Midwestern spirit, I'm also thinking and looking out for them and their companies and sharing ideas that might be of use in what they're working on."
3. Make every dollar accomplish more for your business.
Every dollar counts when scaling a company. So when entrepreneurs consider which city to plant their roots, they should pay close attention to the cost of living as well as foundational business expenses, including rent, utilities, transportation, and talent. These costs are proven to be substantially lower outside of the coasts.
In their own words:
Santiago Jaramillo, founder and CEO at Emplify
Location: Fishers, IN
"When you think about the confluence of the following factors all present in one specific geographical area, it creates a very unique environment where startups and new companies are poised to thrive. The ratio of cost of living to quality of life is amazing. We enjoy lack of traffic, general lack of crime and housing availability. The value ratio is interesting both for employees and businesses in terms of keeping high quality offices while reducing overhead."
Dan Green, CEO at Growella
Location: Cincinnati, OH
"Cincinnati is a thriving city for startups for a lot of reasons, but a few jump out. First, there's a genuine symbiosis between large and small companies in the region, and that can't be overstated for a startup. Second, the community is tight-knit and genuinely cares for one another. And, third, Cincinnati is extremely affordable--just by being here, your runway is multiple months longer as compared to companies in other cities."