Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City (you can throw LA in there now too)… they’re all known for a few things (and, it’s not just the LSD). Innovative startups, great culture, and incredibly expensive–and competitive–housing and real estate markets.

If you’re a startup, it’s easy to feel pressured to throw your savings and capital at securing a space in one of these booming startup ecosystems, but it doesn’t have to be that way (here are a few to add to my list below).

With more remote workers than ever before–thanks to increasing global internet and technological availability–there are less requirements for where your office is actually located, or if it exists at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to discount the value of startup or industry gravity centers, or proximity to investors, but the big city is by no means the best choice for every firm.

If you’re looking to bootstrap, grow at a slower, more stable pace, need a big facility, or all three, these smaller cities will offer many of the same amenities, talent, and funding opportunities as their larger alternatives, at a fraction of the price:

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

When you think of the midwest you may think more readily of Dorothy and corn than Zuckerberg, but that may not be the case for that much longer. In 2016 alone, the Midwestern town saw an increase of a whopping 145 percent in venture capital funding for startups, to $111.8 million. While the total is still a far cry from the likes of Silicon Valley, the growth itself is incredible.

What’s also incredible? The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee is just over $1,382, a quarter of San Francisco. However, don’t assume that price means you’re living in a startup desert–there are two highly respected incubators in the city for early stage businesses, and large companies like Rockwell Automation, GE Healthcare, Plexus, Johnson Controls and many others lend engineering gravity to the area.

Still not enough to rent an office out? No problem! Milwaukee boasts many co-working spaces, as well as a proximity to Madison, Wisconsin, a more established startup hub.


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