View Tulsa: The Hidden Gem for Startups
When it comes to location, there’s an understandable temptation for entrepreneurs to follow the standard path. Like aspiring actors heading to Hollywood or stockbrokers to Wall Street, Silicon Valley seems like the place to be when trying to hit it big with your startup.
But one of the beautiful things about today’s entrepreneurship is that you can start a business virtually anywhere. In fact, while a Silicon Valley address may look nice on a business card, it can be much more advantageous to try a less-trafficked location — one that encourages new business rather than one already filled with establishment players.
One of the best locations for a new startup won’t be on many entrepreneurs’ radars, but it should be. Ranked as the second best city
to start a business in 2015, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is pulsating with optimism for the future. While the city’s oil economy has begun to change over the past few years, the city continues to grow
— thanks, in part, to investors
seeking new areas
of expansion for the city’s burgeoning tech economy.
Tulsa may not be marked with a big X on the startup treasure map, but that doesn’t make it any less of a find. Consider some of the opportunities for tech startups in this hidden gem of the Midwest:
1. The Energy: Despite what some may think, low gas prices haven’t forced the oil capital of the world’s energy companies to their knees. On the contrary, the rise of natural gas was the spark that made a flame and infused Tulsa with loads of energy. For the entrepreneur, this means benefitting from the nation’s lowest energy costs, as well as a cornucopia of opportunities to support growing businesses in the energy sector.
2. The Money: While Silicon Valley is home to many angel investors, there are plenty of opportunities for financial backing in Tulsa. Investors abound, both public and private, as do affordable loans offered by the local government. Even better, Oklahoma has a Small Employer Quality Jobs Program, which offers financial incentives for businesses that move to or expand within the state.
It’s important to remember, too, that investors who don’t live in Oklahoma aren’t confined within the borders of California. If they see an opportunity, they’ll invest, regardless of where a business is located.
3. The Savings: Luckily, all those loans and investments won’t be used on cost-of-living expenses. On average, Tulsa residents pay only half of what San Francisco residents pay. When you’re running a small business, those savings can be the difference between success and bankruptcy.
4. Putting the “Art” Back in Startup: While there are plenty of business reasons to move your startup to Tulsa, there are creative ones as well. Tulsa knows this and makes a concerted effort to support the arts and exciting startups. This is perhaps best illustrated in 36 Degrees North, Tulsa’s new basecamp for entrepreneurs that’s located in the Brady Arts District.
It’s true that Tulsa doesn’t exactly have the eye-catching hipster buzz of Silicon Valley. But if you’re making business decisions based on buzz, you’re probably heading down a dangerous path. What Tulsa offers is ample opportunity and encouragement from the local economy.
And who knows? Maybe it will be your startup that puts Tulsa on the map as the Silicon Valley of the future.
Per Bylund is assistant professor of entrepreneurship and Records-Johnston professor of free enterprise in the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. His areas of research are entrepreneurship, management, and economic organization. Connect with him on Twitter.