WHY I BASED MY TECH COMPANY IN THE MIDDLE OF IOWA

BY MATT RIZAI for FAST COMPANY

 

With the Iowa caucuses in full swing today, the national media is busy broadcasting stock images of farmland dotted with grain silos. Politicians are seen glad-handing overall-clad supporters at small-town diners while voiceovers breathlessly recount the latest poll numbers.

Iowans are rightly proud of their unique role in the early political process, and agriculture indeed remains a key part of the Midwestern economy. But there’s more to the story of what’s going on there than what most Americans see every four years. In fact, the primary cycle sometimes even seems to obscure it. Iowa’s tech startup scene is actually pretty substantial, and growing fast, along with that of the entire region.

I should know, having founded my own tech startup in the state in 2008. Since then, many more have moved in. Here’s why.

AT HOME ON THE PRAIRIE—AND IN THE CLOUD

Iowa’s technology sector accounts for nearly $11 billion, or 8.8%, of the state’s GDP. Other Midwestern states—like Minnesota (with 136,000 tech workers, forecast to grow to nearly 200,000 within the next decade), Kansas (Wichita has the third most concentrated population of advanced industries workers), and Colorado (Denver isranked fifth in the country for startup activity)—boast similar statistics. Today, more than 900 Midwest companies appear on Inc.’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private businesses in the U.S, up from about 600 in 2008.

That’s led some to call the region “Silicon Prairie,” but the technology and startup culture on the Great Plains and the slopes of the Rockies isn’t trying to replicate California’s. Indeed, we take pride in what differentiates us.

For one thing, the advantages of founding a tech startup far away from Silicon Valley are obvious. Cost of living is enormously high in both San Francisco and New York, and the businesses there are feeling the crunch. The talent market in the Bay Area is so hypercompetitive thatstartups and small companies face prohibitive hiring challenges, despite the region’s large talent pool.

So it’s no surprise we’ve heard that so-called “second-tier” cities are growing faster than the established hubs, driven largely by high-tech industries and thanks tobusiness environments that are in many ways more friendly to small companies, entrepreneurs, and skilled independent workers alike.

If you’re looking to bootstrap your startup or just keep your burn rate down, then the cities of Silicon Prairie—with their high literacy rates, reasonable property values, andsurprising access to powerhouse talent—offer growing appeal.

Here are three reasons why launching a startup in the region makes arguably more sense for tech entrepreneurs than it ever has previously.

For the ENTIRE article please visit: http://www.fastcompany.com/3056081/lessons-learned/why-i-based-my-tech-company-in-the-middle-of-iowa

 

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