Why Cincinnati matters for your startup
A combination of momentum and access to capital is making the Queen City an excellent choice to start your company. Here’s our experience so far.
The Brandery is a startup accelerator in Cincinnati, Ohio. The program attracts talent from all over the world, and it’s ranked as one of the Top 10 startup accelerators in the US.
Our startup, Keego, was selected to participate in its 2014 class, and we needed to move from New York and live in Cincinnati for about four months.
At first, we were reluctant. Now we think it was one of the best decisions we made for our company. This post tells you why, if you are starting your venture, you should consider moving to Cincy to chase your dreams.
First things first: It’s cheap
If you are in startup mode, you probably don’t have any money to spend. And it’s fine. Let me get started by telling you the good news: Cincinnati is ridiculously affordable.
A bus ticket is $1.75, but if you have a bike, you won’t need the bus, or even a car. And if you don’t, rent one from the newly announced Red Bikes, the city program for public bikes. The annual pass is $80, so you will be paying less than seven bucks a month for a bike, which is cheaper than similar programs in New York and London.
And forget about eating from Lean Cuisine boxes; you can get rich lunches at Findlay Market, made from top food from all over the world, for as low as $5. Of course, if you are up to it, meals out will cost you no more than $10. My recommendation is Gomez Salsa: for eight bucks you can get a generous, Mexican inspired sandwich that will settle you down for the whole day.
Rent is also incredibly cheap here. Our one bedroom apartment costs us just $600 a month. I used to pay $1800 for a space past the last stop of the M train— in Ridgewood, where everybody seems to be forced to move now, as renting is becoming prohibitive in Brooklyn. This makes the rent prices in Cincinnati almost too good to be true.
It’s small, ready for experiments
I always believed San Francisco is the perfect size to conduct experiments. They have a manageable, tech-saavy community ready to meet your new baby. Just release it to the wild, and they will try it. For example, it’s hard to imagine other city than San Francisco to initially test Uber. If it works there, it for sure might work in other bigger cities as well.
Cincinnati is similar. It’s small enough to test whatever you are working on, see if it catches, and scale from there. The variables for a test environment are reduced so you can focus on the basic assumptions that will make your product work.
Also, small means less distractions, less commuting time, and more time to work. I used to commute 45 minutes when I was living in New York. I find it a bliss to commute, by bike, only ten minutes or so from our apartment in Clifton to our office in Over-the-Rhine.
It’s full of money
CincyTech, Cintrifuse, Drive Capital, Queen City Angels, Vine St. Ventures, are some funds you will get to know when you are here. All these companies are willing and ready to fund you if you have what it takes. Have an idea? Prove that you are building something people want and that you will give back to the region in some way — like, employing locals or hiring university students— and it’s done.
The access to capital here is unmatched. Yes, you can try in San Francisco, but there you will be amongst several other startups as well, all of them competing for the attention of the VC, and so you will most likely need to double your efforts in order to be heard.
Just remember: funds from the midwest are not only about funding great ideas, but about helping regional entrepreneurs succeed. The rationale is simple: if the region grows we all win.
It has an excellent startup community
The first day we arrived here we were introduced to Chris from ChoreMonster and Freddie from Off Track Planet. Roadtrippers is five minutes away from our office. I walk past the HQ of Impulcity almost every day. Frameri is right near the park, and Kevin and Konrad, their founders, stop by the office every week.
There are all kind of events, like Startup Grind, where you can hear those that were successful with their companies. And The Brandery attracts all the VCs, angels and startup people from the midwest.
Building a startup is one of the hardest things you will do in your life, but these folks make things easier. You are not alone here, and everybody will make sure you are part of the family from the day one.
I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in London, New York, San Francisco and Geneva, each time working for early stage tech startups, and in my experience, Cincinnati gives you the best value to get your company started.
Seriously, if you are thinking about it, move here. Apply for The Brandery — or just stop by here, there’s plenty of space and opportunities — pack your bags and do it. You will not regret it.
OH: If you want to try Keego — our startup that allows anybody, anywhere to translate — use this discount code to get $20 off of your project: $20off. Translate documents, product descriptions, emails — a few words or your entire website.