As we gear up for SocialDevCamp East in Baltimore on May 10, one of the things that we'd like to highlight is the diversity of Web 2.0 talent available here on the east coast.
The conventional wisdom today says that to make it as a social startup, you should a) move to San Francisco (preferably East Bay or SOMA), b) meet a bunch of cool people (natch), c) get funded (cake!), d) get featured in TechCrunch, e) build your startup to 500,000 users, f) get snapped up in an early acquisition by Google for $90M, g) repeat.
For lots of reasons, the odds of this working are low and getting lower. Why? For one, this is the conventional wisdom; everybody's doing it, why shouldn't you? Loads of ditto-heads are creating a glut of ideas. They all can't win.
Second, VC investments are often a trailing indicator of successful business sectors. VCs follow what has worked previously, which leads to persistent failures at the end of a business cycle. Why else do you think they need to rely on outrageous 100x returns? To make up for their last round of losses.
Why do you live where you do? Family, a partner, school, friends, or do you simply love where you live? There are countless talented people who have made the same choice as you, and they've made this choice not as a runner-up to a life of glory in the Bay area. They've made the choice as a matter of personal identity and conviction.
As I meet members of the tech business community along the east coast, I hear two things consistently. One, that the Bay area is getting weird these days, and that they are "all smoking the same air." Second, that the "VC community doesn't get it here," and that it's hard to get funding and launch a web-based startup on the east coast.
Sorry, but we can't have it both ways. We must choose: do you want to live in the Bay Area and sustain the vagaries of that echo-chamber culture, or do you want to grow where you're planted and build viable businesses here?
The fact is that we can't expect to improve the tech startup climate on the east coast if we don't come together and make it what we want it to be. And that means we need to stop looking over our shoulder at the west coast and start building businesses here and now, using telework, co-work, or traditional workspaces.
The 37signals blog covered this topic today, and reflected many of my opinions on the subject.
This is part of what we want to address at SocialDevCamp East. If we want to have a thriving startup culture here, we need to build it -- one relationship at a time.