No longer do you need to pack your stuff, say goodbye to friends, and head to the Valley or NYC to have a shot at building a company. Other cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, and Austin are growing to become thriving ecosystems that are chalk full of opportunity. Cincinnati, for example, is a rapidly growing hotbed of innovation and technology. Startups like Lisnr, Ahalogy (formerly Pingage), dotloop and Roadtrippers have gained significant traction and raised funding even though they’re located in the Ohio River Valley. There are plenty of other startups that are in the area or looking to relocate there.
Let’s stop a moment to consider how a company that wasn’t from the Valley thought of a clever way to tackle a common problem. Kids don’t like chores. Simple as that. How do you solve such a problem? Make chores fun and make them rewarding. This is exactly what Cincy startup Choremonster was built to do and they do it by gamifying chores around the house. Gamifying anything will naturally make it enjoyable, but gamifying things that need to be done makes being productive fun and rewarding. Choremonster successfully raised over $1 million in their seed round, just over a year after they were founded…and remember, they are based in Cincy.
Cladwell is another successful Cincinnati-based startup. This company, which specializes in men’s fashion, adopted Lean Startup by building an MVP while talking with users to find out what their fashion complaints were and what kind of fashion help they would like. By simply walking up to strangers in Cincinnati coffee shops, the Cladwell team stepped out of their comfort zone, right into their demographic’s personal space, and learned as much as possible before actually building their MVP. By employing a fun, yet intuitive, survey Cladwell can analyze each user’s style, build, and budget, and then send recommendations for articles of clothing (and accessories). Cladwell is making it possible for those men who don’t have time or interest to dress well. Something, wives, girlfriends, and partners are probably smiling about.
The runway for self, family, friend, or seed-funded startups is substantially longer in Midwestern towns than in the ‘hotbed’ startup cities. With a low(er) cost of living, thriving ecosystem, and respectable networks of investors, why wouldn’t a startup want to move to Columbus, Louisville, or Charlotte? The survival rate of startups, like the Kansas City-based mobile payment platform Klink Mobile, could be infinitely better in a Midwestern city than in New York. Before relocating, however, here are some big questions startup with a global footprint should consider:
Does the city you want to work in have an international airport?
How many and what Angel Investor networks exist there?
Are there any accelerator or incubators?
Do any successful startups come from this city?
Because the answer to these questions will be similar when comparing the Midwest and New York, San Francisco, or the Valley, the important variables will be cost of living and quality of life. Entrepreneurs work hard and when the time comes to play, they don’t want to be restricted to a slim number of opportunities. They also won’t be looking to spend all of their already scarce dollars on inflated apartment prices and office spaces.
Successful startups are popping up everywhere in the Midwest and others are looking to move to there as well. If startups continue to grow as they have, it won’t be long before the Ohio River Valley becomes the ‘new’ Silicon Valley.