Thinking of moving to Silicon Valley or New York to launch a startup? That's great. But if you'd rather stay close to home, there's good news: you no longer need to move to start a successful business. Sure, these hubs offer access to talent and cash, but so do nontraditional tech cities like Plano, Texas, or Lincoln, Nebraska.
In fact, when my team researched the best places to start a tech business, we found that cities all over the country made the cut. You can read more about it in our report. But our biggest takeaway is that innovation can happen almost anywhere.
There's an App for That - And It Wasn't Made in Silicon Valley
Just because you have a killer idea for the next app doesn't mean you need to go west. We talked to two business owners who not only came up with great ideas, but were able to work with the resources in their hometowns to build and launch their businesses.
A bad bout of the flu inspired Baltimore-based Graham Dodge to create Sickweather, an app that tracks illness outbreaks through social media crowdsourcing and user reports. He considered relocating but realized that resources like Emerging Technology Centers could offer him the support to launch right in Baltimore.
Cory Scott is an entrepreneur in Lincoln, Nebraska, who created LiveBy, an app that helps consumers find the perfect neighborhood before they start house hunting. Scott told us that fellow entrepreneurs in Lincoln have been supportive of him and his company from day one. When we talked to Scott a few months ago, he had six full-time employees and was about to hire two more.
Startup Activity Happens in Cities across the Country
There are tech booms in cities all over the country. Some, like Boston, aren't surprising. But others made us reconsider what a tech hub looks like.
When you think of Las Vegas, you probably picture gambling on the strip. But did you know the city is working to position itself as a major tech player?
To help bring more IT entrepreneurs to Vegas, two local CEOs helped fund the city's tech future. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh invested $350 million through the Downtown Project, which included $50 million earmarked for the Vegas Tech Fund. Switch founder Rob Roy founded and donated the city's Innevation Center. It's a collaborative workspace and community event venue that serves as a home for emerging tech companies.
Salt Lake City is also quietly making a name for itself as a tech startup leader. Utah just topped the list of Fastest-Growing States for Tech Jobs after adding the greatest percentage of tech jobs in the first half of 2016. Local school Neumont University specializes in "tech only" degrees. Students can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in specialties like web design and development, software and game development, and technology management. Students leave the program ready to start their own tech business or to join forces with local startups.
Everything Is Bigger in Texas - Except the Cost of Living
Four cities in Texas caught our eye for their high concentration of small tech businesses: Austin, Houston, Plano, and San Antonio. Austin has been a tech player for a while, but the others aren't known for their tech scenes - yet. We asked business owners what spurred the boom. In all four cities, they said it's the low cost of living.
Mo Nilforoushan, owner of TeamLogic IT in Plano, and Brian Padden, owner of HxP Telecom & Cloud Solutions, told us that it's affordable to buy a nice home in Plano. Both relocated to Plano a few years ago and were impressed by how much further their dollar stretched. They also noted the city's top-notch school system.
Dave Hopson is managing partner of Triumphus, an IT consulting services company in Houston. He told us he routinely poaches guys from Microsoft who fall in love with the music and bar scene in Houston. He adds that low real estate prices don't hurt.
As for me, I'm biased: I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and live now in Chicago. Midwestern startups are a great combination of hard working, humble, and hungry. Sure, big coastal cities will always have a certain caché. But they're no longer the only game in town.