Over 30,000 people attended the South by Southwest Interactive festival this year, double from just a few years ago. What struck me most about this year was the increasingly diverse geographic make-up of entrepreneurs. I spent lunch with a financial technology innovator out of Cincinnati, watched a hack-athon team out of Houston do incredible iPhone development, was pitched a wine discovery app from a rural Texan while standing outside Stubb’s, discussed next generation e-commerce with a passionate team from South Beach Miami, and the list goes on. I spoke on a panel where in the 50+ person audience less than 10% of entrepreneurs where from the major tech hubs of San Francisco and New York.
During those conversations, I consistently heard the same questions. How can you scale a business when you’re not in the valley? Here are a few tips:
Seek Advisors. Entrepreneurs should build out an advisory board early and quickly, focusing on three types of advisors: 1) customers, 2) experienced entrepreneurs, and 3) industry experts. These advisors can be anywhere and should be pro-actively sought out based on a profile spec. Find people who have strong value-add, are willing to commit time, and believe in your vision. They will provide advice, open doors, and support when things get tough.
Be A Local Thought Leader. If your community does not currently have a strong entrepreneur or technology community, be the catalyst. There are likely other passionate, like-mind individuals facing similar challenges or better yet, have gone through it before. Reach out to savvy business leasers to help think through issues and attract local capital. Find them and spend time with them. Meet regularly, create topics of discussion, and invite guest speakers.
Travel, Travel, Travel. Expect to live out of your suitcase. Your customers, advisors, and industry relationships may not be local. It is your responsibility to visit them. Coordinate trips to so you can attend industry conferences, meet-ups, and dinners all within the same trip.
Be Persistent. Make sure to consistently have touch points via travel, events, e-mail, and social media. Showcase why the geographic distance is not relevant and even more, why you are choosing to build your business where you are building it. Even though you are not local, make yourself totally accessible. Appreciate that you are going to have to work twice as hard as the next person who is local.
We, at ScaleVP, are big believers in the democratization of technology and how it can cross-geographic barriers. ScaleVP has invested in great companies in Atlanta, Boston, Charlestown, Indianapolis and Utah. Amazing opportunities and breakthrough ideas come from everywhere. We are excited to work with leading entrepreneurs scaling their businesses no matter where they re based in the US.