For decades, it’s always been the same script for entrepreneurs:
Want to start a tech business? Find an investor on the Coast. Want to hire the best talent? Search for them on the Coast.
We’re at a point now where this is no longer working. The Coast is just too big and too saturated for real competition, let alone for anyone to thrive. So it’s time to flip the script.
People are always asking me, “Can you really hire talent in Cincinnati?” or “Can you hire technical talent in Detroit?” So I tell them, “I don’t know. Can you hire talent in Silicon Valley?”
Sure, you can hire talent on the Coast. But the problem is not the finding and the hiring… it’s keeping the talent. Once you hire someone and bring them aboard, you instantly giants like Google, LinkedIn, and Salesforce actively trying to recruit them.
So how do you compete with the giants? Simple. By flipping the proverbial script. And you can do this by taking full advantage of what the Midwest has to offer, and using it as a competitive advantage.
The Plethora of Talent In The Midwest
Before you scoff and downplay the potential of the Midwest here, listen to this:
Three of the top 10 universities for master’s in computer science are in the Midwest—Carnegie Mellon, University of Michigan and University of Illinois. Not to mention other great schools like Purdue University, Case Western Reserve University, and Rose-Hulman, to name a few. Midwest schools represent 25% of all computer science grads.
The Midwest even receives 25% of all research dollars in the U.S. and graduates more computer science degrees than any other region or country on the planet. So it’s no surprise that capital is being diverted here—for example, Rise of the Rest offering seed funding to entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley, Boston, and NYC.
Like I said, the Midwest region is presenting a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs to gain a strategic competitive advantage. Not only is there a fountain of fresh talent flowing through here, there’s a whole different atmosphere and mindset in the Midwest.
On the Coast, talent follows the highest bidder[TS1] . As reported by Payscale, the median turnover for Amazon and Google is approximately 1 year–just going to show that talent in Sillicon Valley has no reason to be loyal. But in the Midwest, the talent is more attracted to the mission of the company, not just the paycheck. So they’re more inclined to stick with a smaller mission-driven company because they believe they can have a bigger impact in less densely populated areas.
As Jason Warner, CTO of Github, said on his episode of Fast Frontiers, “Hiring is critically important. Retention is critically important, but also making sure that the right people are in the right seat. Sometimes you have to let people go. Both of those things are equally true. You have to have the right people in the company to execute.”
The Toxic Culture of the Coast
It’s a common perception to think that Silicon Valley and the Coast is the end all be all when it comes to tech. After all, it’s the Godfather of remote work, casual dress codes, free office meals, nap centers, and unlimited vacation days.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In the article, “Silicon Valley Ruined Work Culture,” Arielle Pardes discusses executive coach Mike Robbins’ work in his book ‘Bring Your Whole Self to Work’:
“There’s a dark side. As the boundaries between work and life become more porous, everyone works all the time. Even policies like unlimited vacation days, popularized by companies like Netflix, don’t actually lead to a more relaxed, sun-kissed workforce.
A 2017 investigation by Sage Business Researcher found that employees who labor under such policies take fewer days off. Other benefits can have similar side effects: Free dinner can incentivize people to stay in the office longer. Nap pods suggest you can take a break at work—which you need because you’re staying all damn night.”
It’s time that we take a hard look at the toxic culture and shift people’s perceptions to how they can have more balance in their lives.
Come Swim In the Talent Pool Of the Midwest
By choosing the Midwest as your entrepreneurial playground, you’re getting access to top tech talent, who are much easier to hire (and keep).
Not only is there a shift happening away from the workaholic mentality the Coast is known for, but the cost of living is also substantially lower. You can also create a workplace for your top talent that encourages work-life balance, and create a more positive atmosphere overall.
Coastal companies are too caught up in the continuous cycle of recruiting and wooing and playing the bidding war with employees. By focusing on acquiring talent in the Midwest, you can avoid the bidding war, listen actively for feedback on what your employees really want, and establish a great work culture.
As Victor Gutwein said in episode 2 of our podcast, “I think the biggest myth is that startups can’t grow here because they don’t have access to capital and because they don’t have access to talent. Those are the two biggest things that people are like, have historically avoided investing here or have just thrown skepticism on, there won’t be big outcomes in the Midwest because of this… But I also think in an increasingly remote and digital world, all of that goes out the window. We are now competitive. All of our advantages now are still there, our cost of living, our ability in accessing connection into the Fortune 500 and the industries that are here, and the expertise with that. Now, we don’t have this big disadvantage on talent or capital. I think this could be our time to shine.”
And I agree with Victor – it’s our time to shine.