What I Learned Working at a Startup Outside of Silicon Valley
A few years back, I was hired as an early employee at a tech startup.
The company had already raised some venture capital, it had an unconventional office, it was tackling a large problem, and most of the employees were young and tech-savvy.
In other words, it lived up to the media’s portrayal of a startup.
There was one major difference though — it was located in Richmond, Virginia, not Silicon Valley.
Living in the DC Metro Area, this actually worked out well as I was able to drive down a few times per week to be there for weekly meetings and key events, while also working at a satellite office in DC.
Medium is full of articles from people who have worked at startups and tech companies. And while I have enjoyed reading many of these stories, there are some major differences between working at a startup in a well-established tech hub filled with startup veterans, and working at a startup in any other city elsewhere in the U.S. (even if that city is fairly large, as Richmond is).
These are some of the key differences and lessons I learned while working at a startup outside of Silicon Valley.
Funding comes from the local community so you need to engage with other local businesses and entrepreneurs. There are not (many) established VC firms or private equity investors.
Larger coastal funds will use regional funds as filters when deciding whether to invest in a company or not, so having local support gives your company an edge and helps you be seen as a leader in the community.
Many startups in smaller cities experience a kind of informal, peer-to-peer exchanges that provide founders advice and the initial financial backing that is necessary to build your company.
Salaries are lower for employees based outside of Silicon Valley. But typically, so is the general cost of living. Making low six figures in Richmond? You can live quite nicely. Silicon Valley? Not so much.
The other interesting thing about having lower salaries (and generally cheaper labour) is that you can sometimes afford to use…