Is This the Beginning of the End for the Urban Tech Center?

Can you launch a company just as well in Greenville, SC?

How many times have I said, “You don’t need to move to Silicon Valley”? Dozens, at least, because it’s been true for probably a decade. I wrote this nearly five years ago:

Don’t move to L.A to become an actor — you’ll just be a waiter. Don’t drive to Nashville to become a country music star — you’ll just end up playing empty dive bars at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday.

And don’t move to Silicon Valley with a twenty-page business plan and a head full of ideas. You’ll just run out of money somewhere in San Mateo, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with six or seven other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Well, now I’m going to amend that. Not because it’s stopped being true, but because we’ve gotten to the point where the best advice is nearly the opposite: if you want to succeed with an early-stage startup, your best move might be far away from Silicon Valley, to a small city with an active startup community of its own. Someplace like Greenville, South Carolina.

No, I’m not from there (or anywhere near), and I don’t have any special connection to it. But I do think that places like Greenville offer a lot of things to budding entrepreneurs that the Bay Area (along with Austin, New York, L.A., etc.) can’t. Things like low overhead, good quality of life, a less competitive and more supportive business environment, and the potential to make partnerships with local institutions and companies that will actually return your phone calls.

At the same time, a lot of the things that made relocating to Silicon Valley so necessary back in the day have mostly evaporated. Need a deep talent pool? The best developers are just as likely to be working from a cabin in Montana as from an overpriced rental house in San Francisco. Need to raise money? The 95% of the process that doesn’t involve in-person pitching is just as easy to do in Greenville. How about networking? It used to mean going to the right party or tech meetup; now it’s more likely to mean joining the right Discord or Slack channel.

Don’t get me wrong—I loved the energy of Silicon Valley in those days of “irrational exuberance” when Netflix was starting out. But I also realize that it put up a high barrier for anyone who didn’t have the time, money, or flexibility to move there. A recent article in The Economist—the one that features Greenville’s startup scene—points out that startups are more likely to be Black or Hispanic owned now than at any point in history. And if I had to guess, I’d venture that you’re probably seeing more women founders, more founders with kids, and more older founders too. I certainly am.

Silicon Valley’s not going away anytime soon: that’s still where the money is, and the concentration of energy and talent you’ll find there is unmatched.  But for anyone starting out, I’d rule out the expensive tech centers unless there’s a really good reason not to. Because there are plenty of Greenvilles out there, and more popping up every week.

My advice? Go find yours.



To find other things I’ve written and much more, check out

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Receive updates in your inbox directly from me!

I promise I never spam