Entrepreneurs are flocking to the Midwest where startups are flourishing

By September 22, 2017

For people with itchy feet or entrepreneurial dreams, the Midwest has a surprising amount to offer beyond the world’s largest ball of twine.

A quick Google search can present you with a list of top tourist destinations and activities in Midwest cities, which include a personal favorite, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Most recently, however, the area has been gaining attention for challenging Silicon Valley as a major tech hub, and has even seen some Silicon Valley startups moving there to scale their businesses.

In April of this year, for example, a native Silicon Valley startup, Ink Labs, made the move to Lincoln, Nebraska, citing three main reasons for the transition: the amazing startup community, the quality of life, and access to University of Nebraska.

With prohibitively high living costs in Silicon Valley, the Midwest has provided a haven for bootstrapped startups to scale appropriately and successfully.

Traditional wisdom has held that startups could only receive funding if they were located in the West coast tech hub, but times have changed.

Today, there are various private equity funds dedicated solely to investments in Midwest-based startups. Take M25 Group for example. To date, the venture fund has invested in companies throughout the Midwest, including Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

The interest in the region has been routinely reiterated and proven over the last few years. In fact, former Sequoia Capital partner, Chris Olsen, left Silicon Valley to establish venture capital company, Drive Capital, in Columbus, Ohio. Accordingly, the headline on the company’s website reads, “The Midwest is the opportunity of our lifetime” in big bold letters.

In a VentureBeat post, Olsen said, “Moving to the Midwest dramatically increases most companies’ odds of success,” clearly indicating the latent potential of this particular region within the United States.

Making the move … to move (without the red tape)

So, should you, an entrepreneur, consider moving to the Midwest, here is some tech to make your life a bit easier.

From Columbus, Ohio, startup MoveEasy aims to automate the moving process by localizing all of your moving needs on a single online platform that controls each aspect of your move. The platform gives you access to tools that help with forwarding your mail, changing your driver’s license, switching utilities, finding movers, and reserving storage, among others.

CEO and Founder Venkatesh Ganapathy praised Ohio for its dedication to the startup ecosystem saying, “We love being part of the burgeoning Ohioan startup scene, which is now taking off in previously unseen ways.”

“We are excited to help lead the way for other would-be startup founders in this great state. Sure, it might not be as well known as Silicon Valley, or Austin, but the potential and talent is here, particularly in cities like Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. Ohio is a great state for entrepreneurism and it’s great to see that finally being recognized.”

MoveEasy was created in response to the founder’s bad experience while moving, which inspired him to create a platform that eliminates the red tape traditionally associated with the laborious process of uprooting your whole life from one place to settle nice and comfortably in another.

In a similar story of cumbersome processes and red tape, Mario Paladini, founder of GLOBALS, aimed to tackle the issue of new address registration that comes with moving internationally. Using its new technology, the company could potentially make the Midwest as attractive to foreign entrepreneurs as it is increasingly so for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

The company, based in Berlin, has developed AiRelo — a chatbot designed to make international moves easier by automating the process of registering your new address. Such a process can sometimes prove to be a bureaucratic headache, which is why GLOBALS developed this multi-language AI tool to do the job for you.

Currently, the chatbot is only available for New York, Berlin, and Munich, but the company is taking recommendations for the next city in which it will launch its technology.

The Midwest has already shown promise for foreign entrepreneurs, and technology like this is likely to make the region even more enticing.

In fact, according to the Illinois Innovation Index, an annual report by the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, “immigrants make up less than 15 percent of the population [in Illinois] but account for more than 22 percent of entrepreneurs.”

Additionally, the report states, “based on the available information from our university partners, we estimate that at least 30 percent of university startups created over the past five years had a foreign-born founder or co-founder.”

If these statistics are to believed, AiRelo has a significant opportunity to make its platform available in cities throughout the Midwest.