Day Job: Senior Systems Analyst, Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research
Other Hats: Staff Director, Internet Civil Engineering Institute; ISO Emeritus, NTPSec
Day Job: Senior Solutions Architect GoVanguard, New York City, NY
Previously: Community Manager, Zenoss Corp, Austin, TX
Other Hats: NRA Lifetime Member hat.
The opinions herein belong to the authors. These opinions haven't been vetted by, and might not be shared by our workplaces, the meeting venue, our future selves, our families, etc.
To be honest, we don't always agree with one another.
That's what keeps life interesting.
Low cost of living
Live music everywhere, especially Rock, Bluegrass, Jazz, and Country
An energetic community where the Texas conservatism and independence clash with the capitol city lobbyists and academic leftists...and friendly debate over dinner and boardgames was considered a local sport.
Low overhead (cheap real estate, low taxes, etc.).
A decent-sized regional airport.
A steady stream of UT grads, Army veterans, and Texas A&M grads into your hiring pipeline.
The occasional opportunity to poach experienced senior hires from big mainstay organizations.
Outside investment is hard to come by, investors are very inexperienced.
Most-visible new businesses were "old economy"...service companies, government contractors, manufacturing, automotive.
Access to poach employees from Dell, IBM, Microsoft
Access to the Austin "Startup culture"
Cheap UT Grads
Large turnover as your employees are poached
over 80% of employees at Zenoss were gone in 2 years
By tying themselves so tightly to SF startup culture, Austin didn't do much to create new opportunities for Austin people. They hamstrung their startups in the process.
The majority of new startups were run by transplants from outside Texas, who preferred hiring transplants from outside Texas for most positions. This caused massive population growth for Austin, pushed long-term residents out of their homes, and left start-ups to compete with for SF talent by paying SF salaries, instead of being able to leverage the low cost of living and the workforce that once existed in Austin.
Austin startups found themselves having to give up more equity to raise more capital earlier, often on ridiculous valuations, in the hope of getting it back in a fast exit.
Food and Culture
Entrepreneurship is draining. We need to eat, to decompress, and it's easier to come up with cash than more time.
Infrastructure : Networks, Power, Buildings
Young companies can't build out their own, it's cheaper to be a tenant on existing infrastructure.
People : Investors, Advisors, Employees, Collaborators, Suppliers
Building a company is an inherently social activity...it requires community. Having a critical mass of that community locally is a massive advantage.
Community building is a balancing act...
We want to learn from other players in the space, without trading away the unique things we have to offer.
We cannot be SF or NYC as well as they can. If someone wants SF or NYC, they will go there. We need our own value proposition. Screaming "me, too!" is not enough to be outstanding.
Indiana University, Ivy Tech, and other local sources give us a nearly endless supply of cheap, relatively-skilled entry-level labor.
However, Bloomington has only a few big employers from which you can try to poach senior hires: IU, Crane NSWC, and Cook. None of these are known for incubating large numbers of highly-productive senior experts who also enjoy being the adult supervision in fast-paced, early stage startups.
Bloomington is awash with juniors. If you do things right, your best hiring pipeline for mid-to-senior level employees will be internal.
Indiana has a massive amount of expertise you may not expect: in fabrication, in information security, in medical technology, in research methodologies, and so on. Unfortunately, we don't have the experience building communities that breed large numbers of startups with a "survival of the fittest" attitude.
Successful startups will have advisors from both inside and outside the region, to leverage our strengths while compensating for our weaknesses.
Our entrepreneurial community is still growing. It's not enough here (and I'm not convinced it's usually still enough in the Bay area or NYC) to build an MVP, get a few customers, and sell out to someone bigger than you as fast as you can.
There aren't many local buyers, and non-local buyers tend not to understand our employees and our customer bases. Also, our companies tend not to grow quite fast enough to stay ahead of unrealistic valuations (hint: most SV startups don't either, 9 fail for ever 1 that exits with its pants on).
In Indiana, you need to play the long game. Build a company you'll like enough to stick with for a while.
Meet smart, motivated people.
Cultivate good relationships with these people, even if you haven't yet figured out how they can help you. Take the time to help them.
If you don't yet have the social and time management skills to do this effectively while protecting your sanity and your schedule, make that skill development high priority. It is an absolute necessity for every founder and senior startup hire.
Please stick around and meet the organizers, as well as fellow attendees.
If you'd like to reach out, we can be found at:
Fine print: This presentation is released under a CC-by-nc license. If you aren't sure what that means, or wish to use it under other terms, please contact the authors at their email addresses above. We'll do our best to be helpful.