I was having breakfast with a friend today here in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a great breakfast, we talked about a lot of things but one thing stuck out and I thought I would write up a little post on it.
Being in the Utah tech scene for me is very interesting. I grew up in the Bay Area and have worked in the tech industry for many years. I worked through the first bust and made it through. I finally relocated here to Utah over the past few years (I’ve been back and forth due to reddit drama). I don’t know if I’m here to stay, but I consider this my home now. I think I’ve been in Utah long enough to have good context and compare the two places pretty well.
The Bay Area is an amazing place. There are a ton of smart people doing interesting things and networking is really built into the culture. I can’t count how many times I went a block away to meet someone I just met on twitter, or drove 30 minutes to Palo Alto for a meeting. Over the last 20 years, I have built a pretty large network of colleagues, friends, advisors and acquaintances. Because the Bay Area has so many people coming in and out so often, my network is worldwide. Not to mention, the bay area has some of the best food in the world. Too bad there’s so much traffic and it is completely unaffordable, it is almost paradise.
Utah is a pretty amazing too. I’m able to have a company with a burn rate that is a fraction of what it would be in the Bay Area. My employees seem more focused, I am more focused as well. I can afford to own a home and my employees can as well. We have little issue finding talent, and we’re even able to recruit from out of state. It’s beautiful here! We have mountains, and desert, and a growing city with good restaurants and an up and coming cocktail scene. There are less people here doing interesting things and the networking here is tiny compared to the Bay Area. It is almost paradise.
Sadly, most Utahns in the tech world do not realize how big of a disadvantage they have. They don’t realize that when they’re tackling a hard problem that there are people who could (and would) help them! They don’t have access to the people who could make the kind of introductions you need to raise their next round of financing. Unfortunately, what this has resulted in is a technology industry that is narrow in scope. It makes sense when you think about it, if our local tech industry a sum of the help we are able to give each other, and we are not diverse, we will never be able to diversify the types of companies we build and the types of problems we solve. We live on a really beautiful island … full of MLMs and SAAS companies.
So how do we fix this? It’s actually pretty easy. Make connections with people outside of Utah! My friend who I referenced earlier does a phenomenal job of this. He is on twitter quite a bit just making himself familiar to people. Familiarity is the first step to opening a door. Once you are familiar, you can ask people to meet. It actually is that easy. I try to take a meeting every week or two with someone I’ve never met before and know a ton of people in the Bay Area and New York and elsewhere that do the same. Of course that’s not the only way to solve the problem, it’s just a simple example of how to use the Internet to network with people outside of your physical location.
The other thing we can do is get people from outside of Utah to move here. We’ve got some stigmas we’re fighting against, some are fictional, some are real. (Please, can we get rid of our ridiculous liquor laws?) But as a Californian that is now a Utahn, I can tell you that Utah can be your paradise.