I’ve spent the past two years enjoying life in London; before that, I was a long-time resident of Atlanta. It might surprise you to learn that both cities are home to a lot of innovative start-up companies.
I launched and sold three companies from Atlanta, despite pressure from friends and investors to move to Silicon Valley. Since those days, it’s become even easier to launch a successful SaaS company from anywhere.
And more and more companies are doing it. In marketing alone, there were 3,874 technology companies powered by the cloud last year. When you look at the list, many prominent names are headquartered outside of Silicon Valley. And that doesn’t even begin to count the successful startups in other lines of business (like finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and on and on) launching great companies from cities all over the world.
The cloud has untethered technology from its roots in Silicon Valley and is seeding opportunities far and wide. With the right ideas and talent, it’s possible to launch a successful startup from anywhere. Here’s why.
As a former founder and CEO of Vitrue, I was fortunate to have a front-row seat as cloud-based SaaS technologies began to really grow. Yet despite its ubiquity today, business has only begun to scratch the surface of cloud’s potential.
Cloud is now enabling innovation across every aspect of business—from customer experience, to human resources, to finance, to the supply chain, to the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.
With the mobile connectivity of the cloud, companies and employees can work and innovate from anywhere. No matter where they live in the world, they can always have the right technology at their fingertips to develop, launch, and grow a great idea—and turn it into a great business.
As chief marketing officer of WebMD in the 1990s, I experienced firsthand the internet's impact on globalization. For the first time ever, a brand had the chance to connect digitally with consumers regardless of location—and have those consumers connect back.
There is no going back from those days. Every day, we see how technologies have broken down geographic and cultural barriers to connect people and businesses in real-time, and at a massive scale. The global democratization of communications and content has the power to topple governments. We are truly a global society.
It’s no surprise, then, that social tools are now powering collaboration in everyday business activities. Networking and connecting face-to-face with clients and investors is still important—there’s no question about that. But travelling to meet them a few times a year can now be supplemented with constant interaction over chat, social channels and mobile devices. The opportunity for relationship-building in the global economy is far beyond what it was, even just a few years ago.
When it comes to raising funds, access does matter. Technology companies must plan to spend time networking and meeting face-to-face in Silicon Valley, if they want to raise capital from the many venture funds headquartered there.
But even the most involved mentors don’t want to spend every day looking over your shoulder. They have better things to do. And, these days, more of them are starting to look further abroad for investment opportunities.
Take Oracle, for example. We’re working to nurture startup companies in cities around the world with our Startup Cloud Accelerator program—a program that I’m privileged to lead. It runs in eight cities worldwide: Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi in India; Bristol, England; Paris, France; São Paolo, Brazil; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Singapore.
Startup Cloud Accelerator offers dedicated workspaces, mentoring and advice from Oracle R&D engineers and industry experts, free access to Oracle Cloud services, and engagement opportunities with Oracle’s 400,000+ global customers. Oracle isn’t investing or taking an equity stake in any of these startups. We benefit from the program in the “democratization” of our technology and the “contemporizing” of our brand.
Young entrepreneurs might not immediately think of working with Oracle, because the company has traditionally played in the enterprise space. The cloud rewrites that equation, making enterprise-grade technology affordable to SMBs. And it makes for great word-of-mouth among the startup community.
Let’s face it: the concentration of incredible talent in the San Francisco Bay area is unmatched. But there’s a price for that concentration. The area has one of the highest costs of living in the world. Everything related to starting a business—from salaries to office space—will cost more than it does in other cities of comparable size.
Setting up headquarters outside of Silicon Valley can be an effective way to keep your operating costs down—and there are still plenty of other cities that offer rich talent pools, especially those with university and college campuses nearby.
In the intensely competitive (and expensive) atmosphere of Silicon Valley, holding onto good employees is a challenge. With the cost of living as high as it is, employees are always looking for the next raise or the next promotion. When you’re in startup mode, it might be a few years before you can offer those opportunities.
In cities with a lower cost of living, workers are more likely to stick with—and be loyal to—a company that offers them a good job at a good salary. And loyal employees are a huge competitive advantage.
One of my favorite entrepreneurial quotes is from Michael A. Olguin, President of Formula PR: “Many companies forget that true loyalty comes when employees believe that the organization and its leadership team care about them personally and professionally. This ultimately results in long-tenured employees, which has a very real and direct effect on company growth.”
Value your employees as family, no matter where they live and work. Provide an environment of trust and confidence, and they’ll believe in you, trust each other, solve customers’ problems, and stay loyal.
You don’t need to establish a headquarters in Silicon Valley to be successful. With today’s cloud software and global economy, great startups can—and do—succeed from anywhere. I’m living proof of it.