Charleston continues to grow as a great incubator for startups. What does this mean for budding entrepreneurs and startup ventures? I believe it means we need to examine issues of both expansion and location.
If you have recently launched a venture in Charleston or are planning to in the near future, get ready to think about why.
Why did you pick Charleston as your venture’s headquarters? Is it simply because you already live here? If you answered “yes” chances are you have a passion for the area. And it also just so happens that Charleston offers some unique advantages to startup ventures.
It would be hard to find a friendlier city with more beautiful surroundings to call home. This fact alone can be a great pitch for bringing additional talent to the area, but many other reasons also give Charleston a great advantage. One of these is the strong emphasis on living local. This puts local businesses in a great position to compete with larger businesses from outside the area.
Our community is very supportive and that should not be minimized. This is obvious in two distinct ways. The first is overall community support. Charleston enjoys the unique in all varieties. The startup community here is very approachable. This means there are a growing number of opportunities to network with one another here locally. The events span everything from happy hour meet-ups to larger events like Dig South.
Yet despite these excellent reasons for doing business in Charleston, some businesses have the notion that they need to relocate. Some of the rationale for such thinking include:
• A belief that all startups must relocate to San Francisco to have a chance
• A belief there is a lack of Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors
• A belief that Charleston doesn’t give your venture enough exposure
None of those reasons are valid for picking up and leaving Charleston, however, and we hope that business owners will look at all the facts about why doing business in Charleston is advantageous. So just in case you have any ideas about leaving our fair city, let’s discuss why that might not be as beneficial as you might hope.
The first barrier to picking up and relocating is that you would essentially be rebooting your startup in a new location, putting you at risk for losing most of the momentum you’ve already built. Staying focused on your operation by staying put keeps you moving forward instead of starting over.
Another great thing happening for businesses here is that Charleston is gaining some tracking with local investors. For startups seeking a larger investor audience, they can take advantage of online resources like AngelList and Gust. Here you’ll find a great variety of potential investors and helpful resources on both sites.
Are you worried that Charleston won’t provide your venture with enough exposure? Test the waters for interest and grow buzz about your startup on Kickstarter or the locally grown Funding Charleston. Both are a great way to take the temperature of the local climate for your idea.
Charleston has a very friendly startup scene, so let other startups know you are in the area. You can reach out on social media or to local groups like Make Lab Charleston, Charleston Digital Corridor or Startup Chucktown.
A great example of a startup launching local and staying here is PeopleMatter. They started at The Flagship in downtown Charleston. PeopleMatter successfully raised several rounds of venture funding to fuel their expansion. They recently expanded their downtown headquarters and are looking to future job and market expansion.
Know that it is in our collective best interests to push each other to succeed. While your venture gains traction and prepares to expand you will be growing the local economy by providing jobs. As more ventures expand it will attract even more talent to the area and that will cause more organic exposure. Keep in mind that Charleston has easy access to graduating college talent from a variety of institutions. You can utilize this to build out your team or create buzz by starting an internship program.
Leverage Charleston to your advantage. Get connected with the rest of the startup community and put your energy into building your venture into a success. And then stay here and know that you were part of something great from the ground up.
Jef Lippiatt is a co-founder of Startup Chucktown, an organization focused on being a resource for Charleston area startups of all industries. Their mission is to help connect the startup movement in the Charleston area by providing resources, social media exposure and local events. Jef is also a co-founder of OG Represent, a social web app for discovering emerging hip-hop remixes and emerging artists. Jef is a User Experience Designer and Business Strategist. He holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in industrial design with a specialization on interaction design from the Savannah College of Art and Design.