The Year of Startups Everywhere

I’m not a predictor so you won’t find me participating in the “best/worst of 2016” and “predictions for 2017” lists. But there is a trend that feels inevitable to me: “Startups everywhere.”

While Agent Smith was wrong, I don’t think I am. When the phrase “Startup Communities” started to become mainstream around 2012, I made the strong assertion that you could create a startup community in any city with at least 100,000 people. I used Boulder as a canonical example of it in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and have been beating the drum about startups everywhere ever since.

While the meme that the only place to build a company is in Silicon Valley has softened, there’s still a strong belief that the best place to be if you are a first time entrepreneur is Silicon Valley. My argument is, and has never been, against Silicon Valley, but rather for the rest of the planet.

I saw three articles yesterday that reinforced the inevitability of startups everywhere.

When I reflect on where some of our investments are, they are in cities like Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Minneapolis, Boulder, Denver, Charlotte, Lexington, New York, and Boston. And then there’s Techstars which is now all over the world.

Sure – we have plenty of investments in Silicon Valley, or whatever you want to call it. I’ve asserted for a long time that Silicon Valley is a collection of startup communities, which includes San Francisco, Marin (the first board I was on – in 1994 – was for a company in San Rafael), Oakland, Redwood *, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, and Sunnyvale. Or you can just call it San Francisco, Oakland, and the Peninsula. Or maybe toss SOMA in. Or, well, does it really matter?

As a bonus, I’ve been hearing Amazon referred to regularly by mainstream media (and some people in the tech world) as a Silicon Valley company. Having invested in and spent a lot of time in Seattle over the last 30 years, I smirk whenever I hear this. I love seeing articles like How Amazon innovates in ways that Google and Apple can’t which should prompt entrepreneurs to Think Different (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

As a bonus, I leave you with Amazon’s patent for a flying warehouse.

While Silicon Valley is an amazing thing, if you are in the rest of the world, you are in a special and interesting place. Don’t lose sight of that.

Also published on Medium.

  • The flying warehouse concept is pretty out there — just the way I like mybudeas, but it’s quite unwieldy, when I try to picture it. Printing on demand (clothes, goods, certain foods, medicines) seems to be a leaner, more efficient future. But logistics aren’t going away, that’s for sure.

  • Harsha G

    Another point often overlooked, is these other communities also have a wide and varied customer base (unlike the valley which is all tech). We are a Sacramento startup. Being so close to silicon valley, even we thought most of our business will be there. Then, I attended a conference in SF in April and saw our space was getting crowded. So, decided to only focus on Sacramento to start with and it was the best decision we made. We realized there are lot more potential customers in Sacramento than we initially thought and lot of them love talking to a local startup (i.e. getting access is easier). In fact, our first large customer said being local was a key factor in us getting the project.

    Also, local governments are now more focused on improving the startup ecosystem. City of Sacramento approved a $10M innovation fund this year.

    • Thanks for the example, especially of the innovation fund. I’m flagging it to explore more for Startup Communities 2: The Next Generation

      • Harsha G

        Yes, I was also pleasantly surprised when I saw such action from the government:) It was driven by the mayor, he also created a department to interface with startups and staffed it with some folks from the local startup ecosystem. (this says $1M for 2016, but I’m pretty sure the fund is $10M spread out over a few years)

  • William R. Mosby

    Drones delivering stuff to fans in stadiums….
    I was in Rice Eccles stadium (University of Utah) for a “thank you, neighbors for putting up with our PA system” event. At one point a drone flew over, so high up you could hardly see it. The opinion of the crowd of a few hundred seemed to be “shoot it down!”. Of course, this is Utah, where probably 20 people in that crow were carrying equipment allowing them to have done just that if the machine had come within 50 or 100 feet of them. But anyway, I can’t imagine a drone escaping a full stadium crowd if it tried to make a delivery. lol

    • And just imagine the chaos if 50 drones with packages descended at the same time (where the packages were pizza and beer.)

      • William R. Mosby

        And again this is Utah talking, but beer might cause its own problem. We’re not exactly a dry state but it is a sensitive item.
        Oh, and then there are the restrictions on what you can carry into a stadium these days. I imagine security folks would have a cow if you proposed letting drones deliver anything at all. Another time, another place….
        Just now remembering the blimp scene from the 1977 movie “Black Sunday”. Nope, it’ll never fly….