One of the most powerful aspects of social media and the web is the fact that it isn’t specific to any location: so long as you have an Internet connection, you can be halfway across the world Skyping, tweeting, and communicating with your friends. It has broken down barriers, given people the ability to work remotely, and made it so that your location doesn’t have to determine your destiny.
Still, to discount location would be foolish: it’s where we socialize and, for the most part, where we work. We grow to love (or hate) the neighborhoods and cities in which we live. And with the rise of smartphones and GPS, location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Google Buzz have been growing like wildfire.
Thus, I’m not surprised that a new debate has been raging in entrepreneurship circles over whether it matters where your startup is based. For web entrepreneurs, the perceived epicenter has always been San Francisco and the Bay Area – often known as Silicon Valley. With a huge collection of technology companies, venture capitalists, and talented engineers, many advocate moving to the area if you’re serious about building a startup.
That mentality has been challenged recently by growing startup hubs around the globe. One of the ones making a lot of headlines is New York City’s tech scene, which has been growing rapidly in recent years and includes startups such as Foursquare and VC firms like Union Square Ventures. Boulder, Colorado is also gaining traction due to the presence of Techstars, an early-stage seed venture firm.
Why Location Still Matters
While you have a lot of good choices for where to build your company, don’t let anybody fool you into thinking that location doesn’t matter; in fact, it does. Here’s why:
• Different locations have different entrepreneurial support communities.
These are vital, because entrepreneurship can quickly become lonely and nerve-wracking without mentorship and support.
• Talent pools around location. You will simply find more talented engineers in Silicon Valley, while you’ll find a larger pool of financial minds in NYC and media moguls in Los Angeles. You can find talent anywhere, but the pool matters.
• In-person meetings are just as important as they were five years ago. Being able to grab a coffee with a potential investor or partner is still going to be more powerful than Skyping or email.
With that said, it doesn’t mean that San Francisco or Silicon Valley is the best place to start a web company.
Yes, in a lot of cases it can be because of the influx of money and talent, but there are a lot of other things you should consider, including:
• Partnerships: Foursquare, an NYC-based company, has succeeded in striking a lot of great media partnerships, including ones with Bravo and The New York Times. Their location has surely helped: NYC simply has more advertising and media companies than other locations, and Foursquare has seized upon the opportunity it presents.
• Talent: While engineering talent is prevalent in Silicon Valley, you need to consider what your startup is about. For example, Boston has a strong startup community with great scientists and academics that come from MIT and Harvard.
• Happiness: If you live in a place that you simply hate, you are not going to be as productive. If your own needs aren’t fulfilled, how can you expect to fulfill the needs of a startup and its employees? If I have any piece of advice for where to create your startup, it’s this: make sure it’s a place that will make you happy first and foremost, and then go from there.
Location matters for your startup, but it doesn’t define success. Hard work, smart execution, and the right team are far more important. Don’t compromise those things in your quest to find your perfect startup city.Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Anyka