I recently had the chance to sit down with Doug Feirstein, the co-founder of two companies that have generated billions of dollars of value (LiveOps and Hired - Disclosure: I am a small shareholder in Hired). Doug is a unique entrepreneur in more ways than one, but perhaps most shocking - he started both companies while living in Florida.
Doug has a unique perspective on what it takes to build a massive Silicon Valley company - remotely. I covered a wide variety of topics with Doug in a very informative interview:
How did you start two massive Silicon Valley Companies from... Florida?
Doug Feirstein: A lot of plane flights... No, in all seriousness the way the world is headed is that remote workforces are able to produce as great outcomes as if you work together. The reason is the technology tools exist for us to collaborate effectively with teams no matter where you are.
This was the whole premise behind LiveOps (distributed call centers) and why the company did so well. We started LiveOps a long time ago in technology terms, and things have only gotten better since then.
So if you don't need to be physically in the Valley, why did you keep the HQs of both Hired and Liveops in the Valley?
Good question. The major thing the Valley has traditionally had that other ecosystems have not had is: 1. Access to great engineering talent and 2. Access to Venture Capital. I don't see #2 changing anytime soon, but I do see 1. Changing rapidly every day.
Contrary to what many feel, I think that starting a company remotely is absolutely the way to go. Talent is everywhere and you need to tap into it. Second, starting a company remotely builds great discipline - you need to exercise your operational and management muscle to successfully execute every day.
It's the whole premise behind Hired - we effectively help companies anywhere in the world recruit the best engineering talent locally (so they don't have to come to the Valley). Since we are solving problem 1, I may start my next company right here from Florida, and keep HQ walking distance from where I live.
So does this mean the Silicon Valley will cease to exist?
Absolutely not. The Silicon Valley is still an amazing and storied place with a great history of innovation across a wide array of industries. The pace at which the valley innovates is crazy. Beyond the talent issue, the Silicon Valley does have a very unique culture - but that culture is being exported to other major regions based on what we are seeing with Hired.
People would rather live in the Midwest, where cost of living is affordable, and where they can start companies for pennies on the dollar for what you get in the Valley. Venture Capitalists will love this and will invest more and more in other regions as time goes on.
We are at a tipping point right now where VCs are recognizing this and investing all over the world.
Any tips for teams that are considering starting tech companies that are not valley based?
Don't be afraid to start a company elsewhere. If you build a great product the Venture Capital will follow - provided you are in a big space.
Don't start your company in the Bay Area because you want Venture Capital money - that's the exact wrong reason to start a company, and the exact thing that will get you in trouble down the line.