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Please Don't Call Yourself The Silicon Valley Of The _____

Location, Location, Location

Last week I attended the Startup Grind Global Conference in Redwood City, CA. I was thrilled to learn from the community that’s known as “the Mecca for startups,” and bring back new ideas and programs to help grow Loudoun County. I’ve also come back with confidence in our region as a great location for a variety of startups -- tech and otherwise. 

They say that in business, location is everything.

The Startup Grind conference focused a lot on what makes a location right for certain startups. One thing I learned is that location isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It was great to hear how and why founders chose to launch or leave various locations across the globe. These factors included workforce, quality of life, and cost.

“It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

Identifying the best people and keeping them was highlighted as one of the most important considerations for selecting a location. The founders of Tuft & Needle discussed the pain point they felt in retaining talent when they initially launched in Silicon Valley. "If you aren't the next 1B unicorn, people leave."

Understanding the local workforce helped Tuft & Needle make an early decision on changing locations. The family that is their workforce is loyal and something that both founders agreed has been a driver in helping them build their startup to $100M revenue in only five years.

Workforce Retention

Related to workforce retention, ask what quality of life is demanded by your founding team and your employees. If most of your workforce has families, a location with great schools and a high safety rating may be vital in building your business.

However, if most of your workforce is right of college, it’s important to select locations with access to the right amenities and public transit. Taking time to evaluate where you and the majority of your employees want to live should not be overlooked as an important decision when growing your company.

Getting The Most Bang For Your Buck

Finally, startups must ask themselves where they will get the most bang for their buck. Oracle's Reggie Bradford spoke at a fireside chat called "The Benefits of Growing a Startup Outside of the Valley," where he shared the purpose in their decision to host locations in Atlanta, GA and beyond. Bradford highlighted the benefits that Oracle received in being the "big fish in a little pond," including garnering media attention locally and nationally that they may not have had in a more crowded space. Not only did Oracle save on real estate costs, they also benefited from a greater ROI on the organization’s marketing efforts by choosing the right locations.

One Size Will Not Fit Most

One size will not fit most, and also probably won't fit all of your startup’s goals. Where a location may be lacking in one attribute, “grow tentacles” as advised by Infusionsoft's Crate Mask. During their fireside chat "Raising VC Like a Pro," the founder emphasized the importance of building relationships in communities outside of their headquarters that would help them grow.

Infustionsoft is based in Arizona, but under Crate's leadership, has succeeded in four rounds of funding, including a $55M Series D. Crate's work is a great example that if your community doesn't have everything that you need, go find it and bring it back.

Conclusion and Take Away

I loved visiting the valley to observe first-hand amazing work being done by amazing people; but with all due respect, please don't call your startup community the Silicon Valley of the _____.

Rather, focus on the assets of your location and how businesses can utilize those to the be the next success story of _______.