Should You Stay or Should You Go: Why Some Young Entrepreneurs Won’t Stay in the Same City as their University

June 6, 2014

12:00 pm

From offering financial resources to advice from mentors, college campuses have become breeding grounds for startups. As college CEOs graduate, one of their biggest challenges is determining if they should keep their company in the same city as their university.

As someone who has interviewed a number of young entrepreneurs, I had many questions about this topic: When is the best time to move? Where is the best place to move? What are the reasons to leave? Essentially, the list goes on and on.

As I watched young founders relocate to startup “hot spots” such as a New York City and San Francisco or make the decision to stay in Syracuse, I was curious as to how teams made their decision. While a move isn’t a “make or break,” there are a few things young entrepreneurs should consider before they make the jump. I talked to Stacey Keefe, the executive director at RvD Idea at Syracuse University, to learn more.

Reasons to Move

Is it time to pack up and move your company to a bigger city? Here’s when you know it’s time to go:

  • Maximized your growth: If you’ve maximized your growth in the same city as your university, it might be time to look for a new home. Are your users increasing? Are you making more money?
  • More opportunity: Sometimes bigger cities equate to better access to resources. There tend to be more VCs in Silicon Valley and New York City. While the cost of living in a smaller city is lower, the benefits of moving your company to a large entrepreneurial hub could prove to be advantageous in the end.
  • Are people doing what you do?: As you’re making your decision, you’re going to have to ask yourself some very tough questions. If you move, what is the competition like? How much of the market can you have in a place like NYC? But if you have a unique value prop and can tap into your market, then the big city life could be the right fit.

Essentially, Keefe said it all depends on the venture, but she said students shouldn’t feel bad if they do leave the city that helped them get started.

“We have students here and they kind of look at me guiltily and say they are going to leave to go somewhere else. The reality is a lot of the ones that leave have to leave. They should leave – it’s better for their venture and we would be mad at them if they didn’t,” said Keefe.

Reasons to Stay

But should you stay? Here are some things to consider:

  • Smaller cities have more resources than before: Keefe said that in the past, places like Syracuse, NY, and Austin, TX, didn’t have the entrepreneurial resources like NYC and San Francisco, so it made sense for students to pack up and move to a bigger city. But over time that has changed.
  • “Up and coming” cities have their own ecosystems: “Places even as small as Syracuse have this ecosystem and a completely new mindset changed from even five years ago, so it’s easier for you to stay in your hometown or college town,” said Keefe.
  • You’ll know the ecosystem, the people, etc: If you choose to stay close to your college, “you get your feet off the ground with the people who have been supporting you and know you and always looking out for you,” said Keefe.
  • Will you just be one in a million?: It might be hard to look at your own company and determine how unique your product is, but if there is a “million of you” (web design, software, etc.) in New York or San Francisco, you could have an advantage by staying in the same city as your university. Can you say having control of the market?

So should you stay or should you go? I agree with Keefe that every company has a different situation and goals, which means it’s ultimately up to the founders to determine the best place to grow their company. Unfortunately, there is no “black and white” answer or model to follow. Trust your gut: you’ll know if and when it’s time to go.



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Amanda Quick is a tech/startup reporter covering young entrepreneurs for Tech Cocktail. She's also interested in covering apps, emerging technology, IoT and beauty & wellness. Amanda is currently in grad school at Syracuse University studying Information Management. In the past she has interned at NBC Sports, NBC Olympics, Brand-Yourself, and the Times Leader Newspaper as well as worked at WWNY-TV and the StartFast Venture Accelerator in Upstate New York. Amanda is originally from Kansas City, MO but has also lived in Canton, MA and Scranton, PA. To learn more you can visit Like Amanda on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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