It’s been a while since I posted - but I felt the need to chime in on all the discussion about Geography and how it relates to your startup — and to online media in general.
Ross Mayfield (bottom of the post) asks Dick Costolo of Feedburner:
So Dick, let me ask you one question that I think you are in a great position to answer, at least to keep you going. How does an Internet entrepreneur overcome not being in the Silicon Valley? I’ll bet it is more than being on a plane all the time.
I’ve been a tech entrepreneur in Chicago for over 10 years now and I get that question a lot. I didn’t understand the focus on it 10 years ago and I don’t understand it now. Don’t get me wrong, everyone sees the obvious in that there is more capital and talent and entrepeneurial energy in Silicon Valley than anywhere else — but that is far from saying you can’t start a business anywhere else. Especially now in this day and age.
What do you need to start a business? You need the idea — you need to be able to build a team — you need to acquire customers — you need to be able to establish partnerships — and you need to be able to attract capital. All of these are easily done and getting easier here in Chi-town. On the team side — thanks to web 1.0 we have a slew of internet veterans running around from companies such as Performics, Participate.com (my old business), Spirian, Tunes.com to name just a few — in addition to a ton of people who have worked in both advertising as well as media (think Tribune, SunTimes, Crain’s). Plus we have five world class universities in Chicago or Evanston.
On the customer side — Chicago is not lacking for either big customers or media partners either — and we have an incredibly supportive business climate here where Chicago based businesses want to help other folks from Chicago (yes, this is true).
The area where we definitely were lacking in before was the whole networking game - 10 years ago you flew to the Valley at least once if not twice a month — plus you attended 5 or 6 tech conferences a year. But nowadays, with all the new collaborative technology out there — i can see what VCs in the Valley are thinking by reading their blogs and reading BuzzTracker Venture Capital — I can track the technology news by going to BuzzTracer Technology. And by commenting on these blogs and using new services like MyBlogLog you can really start to develop new relationships online.
As Ross himself said in a later post:
You can’t argue that the interpersonal Silicon Valley cross pollinates within a culture of sharing, and the result is fantacular. But half of what makes this work is our ability to collaborate in creating something new, but the other is how we can bring it to the world as an edge that cuts across. Look, we kick the world’s ass in marketing technology, so much so you expect it. If it comes from here, odds are you will be a fan. Until favor tips to a new marketing engine the valley will remain.
But innovations brought to market really could happen everywhere and nowhere.
The point is it easier than ever to start a business somewhere else. And in Chicago — while it is undoubtedly more difficult to attract Valley VCs — there are plenty of top tier VCs who will invest in a business here. Plus — the Angel environment is outstanding with a ton of available capital from very successful business people.
My question is never why Chicago? But why not? Why not start a business where YOU want to start a business? And if you do want to be in online media — we have a pretty fantastic confluence of journalists, advertising, and new media execs.
What do you think?