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Forget the Valley: bootstrap founders can live wherever they want

Written by Justin on October 17, 2012

new-hometown

When it comes to venture funded startups, the script is clear: you need to move to Silicon Valley. This is the epicentre for meeting the “who’s who” and raising money for your tech company. Jason Calacanis trumpets this on his podcast:

“Yes, location, location, location. If you want to be in the internet business, immediately leave Tulsa. You need to run like a melon farmer to Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, or New York. That’s it. That’s where the startups are.”

– Jason Calacanis, TWiST #297

Here’s the problem: not everyone wants to move to Northern California. There are start-up minded people, like me, who want to stay in our hometowns. Many of us have families, and deep roots where we live; we want to grow profitable businesses, and make our communities better.

I think our hope is in bootstrapping. Take a look at these popular bootstrapped companies, and where they were founded:

  1. 37signals, Chicago
  2. Envato, Melbourne, Australia
  3. MailChimp, Atlanta
  4. Club Penguin, Kelowna, Canada *
  5. Freshbooks, Toronto, Canada
  6. Litmus, Manchester, UK (now in Boston)
  7. Treehouse, Bath, UK (now in Portland) *
  8. WooThemes, Cape Town, South Africa
  9. Campaign Monitor, Sydney, Australia
  10. Beanstalk, Philadelphia
  11. Grasshopper, Boston
  12. Shopify, Ottawa, Canada *

* no longer bootstrapping (they were profitable prior to taking funding, or being sold)

You can start a bootstrapped company almost anywhere.

MailChimp is one of the world’s largest email service providers. They also happen to be privately owned, and headquartered in Atlanta. Ryan Carson started Treehouse (originally Think Vitamin) in the city of Bath, UK. This is a city of only 84,000 people. Club Penguin was sold to Disney for $350 million, but continues to operate out of its founding city: Kelowna, BC, a tourism town with a population under 120,000.

These companies have proven that you don’t need to move to Northern California to start a profitable, tech based company. In most cases, the founders just stayed in the town where they were living; places like Cape Town, Philadelphia, or Toronto.

What do you think? Is it possible to start a fulfilling, profitable business no matter where you live?

Discuss this post on Hacker News.

Related reading: Yale School of Management study

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