Pretty exciting to have Chicostart mentioned in the Jan 2016 edition of Forbes magazine! Check it out here!
Why The ‘Wrong’ Location Can Be A Startup’s Hidden Strength
I write about innovation, careers and unforgettable personalities.
Where should a startup be based if it wants to conquer the world? Ace venture capitalist Jeremy Levine has bankrolled plenty of high-profile successes in popular hot spots such as Silicon Valley, New York and San Francisco. All the same, Levine argues that some entrepreneurs can tap into hidden strengths by setting up shop in far more obscure locations.
Back in 2006, Levine nearly invested in Build.com, an e-commerce company in Chico, Calif. (It’s about 200 miles northeast of Silicon Valley — in the heart of California’s almond growing district.) Build has gone on to do remarkably well, as I explain in this new Forbes magazine feature story, even if the home-improvement retailer operates well outside the tech sector’s usual talent and money hubs. Instead of dismissing Build’s success as a fluke, Levine has put together a thoughtful set of reasons why offbeat locales can pay off.
“There are some great advantages in building a company where no one else goes,” Levine told me. “The founders have unbounded enthusiasm; they enjoy a virtual monopoly on technical talent, and they can attract incredible loyalty from employees.” Of course, there’s a price to be paid in terms of small-town naivety and lack of resources, he acknowledges. Even so, his firm (Bessemer Venture Partners) like to spice up its portfolios with mavericks based everywhere from Tempe, Ariz., to Kitchener, Ontario.
Chico provides a fascinating example of how the startup spirit can take hold in the most unlikely places. One haven for innovators is ChicoStart, a business incubator in the city’s downtown. It provides founders with a desk, Internet connectivity and plenty of peer support for just $220 a month. Founded at the end of 2013, ChicoStart has provided homes for 32 startups so far. Five have grown big enough to be acquired or to need larger offices, says Wendy Porter, ChicoStart’s managing director.
Another proving ground for aspiring young company founders: the Center for Entrepreneurship at Chico State University. It’s run by Peter Straus, a lecturer at Chico State’s business school, who used to run a loom-making company in town. He says his mission is to teach students the basics of making a business plan, to encourage them to think on their feet and to provide them with some first-hand encounters with role models. After that, it’s time to push them out on their own.