It takes guts to start up a startup. There’s no doubt about that. Along with a solid plan and about $50,000-$250,000 in capital, there has to be a pioneering spirit and a certain cavalier approach when you establish a business that will separate your venture from all others around it.
However, we don’t recommend you choose home base for your business by tossing darts at a map.
This is how a snowshoe store might end up in Tampa or a surf shop in Anchorage. Instead, consider these factors when it’s time to pick an address for that dream of yours.
Where to set up headquarters?
Ask these questions
1. What do I need?
Let’s look at nuts and bolts.
- Zoning – Can you even run your business in that spot? The way property is zoned allows and restricts certain business from the area. Look up your local planning agency for details.
- Image – Will your Western Wear Warehouse fly in a hipster district? Your business will have an image, and the place it calls home will go a long way in determining it for the public.
- Labor market – Think about the hired help. Can they get to you easily? Is there convenient public transportation? Will the local school system help or hinder prospects with families?
Know where your competitors are, and how close (or far) you want to be from them. Be bold, too – imagine your business’ expansion, either on-site or in other locations. How much growth is possible?
Consider your supply chain’s proximity, and the overall reputation and safety of the community. Customers and employees will want to shop and work in a neighborhood that’s convenient and safe.
2. What do I envision?
You have an idea of what your business will look like – what do you see around it?
- Connections – Think about the cities known for your industry, both as influencers and potential clients. How does a city match up with your investors’ and customers’ demographics?
- Culture – Fertile startup ground begets more startups. Where are other businesses like yours? The networks will be there, as well as capital and ideas. Delve in where it’s hot.
- Costs – You’ll have to rent. Shop. Pay bills. So will your workforce. If you keep costs low, you can focus on risks and growth with your cash cushion. Let your competitors spend more.
You should also see yourself surrounded by the best talent available. Where are they? An industrial startup won’t find as much talent in a city that’s home to technology companies. Area colleges and universities are a strong indication of what talent is about to join the workforce – maybe even yours.
A co-working location could be just what you need to grow your startup, even if that wasn’t what you envisioned when you began this adventure.
3. How will I grow?
A spot that’s all business-friendly and network-happy is great. But what will you do tomorrow, when you’re no longer a startup?
- How far? Although it makes sense to plant your seeds where your customers are, with growth, your location might matter less. A second location should be strategically chosen.
- How close? America’s two Silicon Valleys (San Francisco Bay and New York City) have a pull, but do you need to be there? Does it make sense to relocate to your industry’s hub city?
- How much? Being too close to the action helps recruiting and sales, but it also drives up the cost of talent. Who can afford to pay the most? Don’t price yourself out to be in the neighborhood.
In a market your industry has saturated, you’ll find high prices for specialists, who can find plenty of employment options without having to relocate. Secondary hubs, even north of the border, still give you access to the industry buzz, but without the market demand for sales and work talent.
Where is your product or service needed? These places will usually foster the right blend of concentrated innovation and avoid market saturation, a perfect fertile ground for tomorrow.
10 best places to start your business
We’ve listed them alphabetically, because each possesses assets that might work well for one business, but not at all for another. They all, though, really bring it when it comes to hosting your headquarters.
1. Atlanta, Georgia
- Fenom Sports Media – Women’s sports news and nutrition
- Invisipon, Inc. – Mobile coupons
- Springbot – eCommerce solutions
Why Atlanta rocks
Internet marketplace Thumbtack gives Atlanta an A- for small-business friendliness. The cost of living is low, and 46% of Atlantans have a bachelor degree. Georgia Tech contributes plenty of tech talent.
2. Austin, Texas
- Filament Labs – Healthcare app designer
- Proto Exchange – 3D printing
- Testilo – Wearable tech
Why Austin rocks
Texas’ capital boasts choice networks, low taxes, and easily navigated regulations. Austin’s culture encourages innovation, such as the South by Southwest entrepreneurial festival.
3. Baltimore, Maryland
- 410 Labs – Information management tools
- Bizelo – Small-business web apps
- SilcsBio LLC –Molecular modeling software
Why Baltimore rocks
Nerdwallet.com ranked Baltimore third for hassle-free license requirements. The city has good support for startups, such as an active chapter of Startup Grind, which hosts events for startup education.
4. Dallas, Texas
- CardLab – Gift card retailer
- Kewl Innovations – Biotech company concentrated on diabetes
- Newton Insight – Logistics software
Why Dallas rocks
Dallas’ cost of living is 0.6% below the national average, according to Kiplinger. Its workforce is educated (27.9% have bachelor’s degrees, 5 points higher than the U.S. average), and cost of living is low.
5. Des Moines, Iowa
- DomiKnow – Email marketing for small business
- Egg Crates – Maker or stackable, transforming shelving
- Lava Row – Social media training and strategy firm
Why Des Moines rocks
Forbes magazine designated this Midwestern city as the best place for business and careers in 2013. Business costs in Des Moines are 17% lower than the U.S. average, and there’s copious capital.
6. Houston, Texas
- Spotmau Corporation – Software utilities provider
- WebsiteAlive – Software developer and online communications provider
- WhiteFence – Home service marketplace
Why Houston rocks
Texas is Startup Central, and its largest city has a rich entrepreneurial spirit. Houston has outranked Boston, San Francisco and Seattle in the Kauffman Index for Entrepreneurial Activity in recent years.
7. Omaha, Nebraska
- Princess Lasertron – Bridal wear and accessories
- Sojern – Travel data and media company
- PaySAFE – Online closing table
Why Omaha rocks
It’s in that sweet spot between hotspot and saturated. This creates a great market for talent, locally and for those who seek to relocate to a more cost-of-living friendly community, especially for families.
8. San Antonio, Texas
- Geekdom – Coworking space
- Rackspace – Managed hosting
- StemBioSys Inc. – Stem cell research
Why San Antonio rocks
Easy license requirements. San Antonio also earns a reputation as a burgeoning hub for tech startups, especially in the cloud-based realm. It’s Austin, with a little less saturation.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
- Bluefields – Sports team management tools
- Romotive – Mobile bases to make personal robots out of smartphones
- TicketCake – Low-fee online ticket order portal
Why Las Vegas rocks
Just north of The Strip, a startup community has sprung. Although CenturyLink has provided high-speed Internet to Vegas for some time, their new gigabit fiber network has just been launched.
10. Virginia Beach, Va.
- MyFund – User-focused investment and saving platform
- Panty Fly – Monthly underwear subscription service
- Winsitter – Small business system monitoring
Why Virginia Beach rocks
Virginia Beach, Forbes Magazine’s sixth-happiest place to live, has a wealth of co-working sites and incubators, as well as a calendar of conventions and meetups. There are 11 universities in the area, too.
Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger and small business marketing/tech consultant. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA. Feel free to reach out to her directly via twitter.