Boulder? Yes, Boulder. After fifteen years in Silicon Valley, we moved last year.
After successfully building three companies, making lifelong friends, marrying my husband, and enjoying all the wonders that the mountains and sea of Northern California have to offer, we packed up and moved to a landlocked state with nary a friend in sight so I could become the CEO of TapInfluence, a leading marketing technology startup.
I’ve been in Boulder for a little over a year and I know it was the right decision. For anyone considering a similar leap, here are the top five reasons I chose to move:
Smaller, More Intimate Community Drives Deeper Support
Silicon Valley was an amazing place to live and work for so many years, but there’s something about the smaller scale of the Boulder community that feels different – in a definitively good way. The size creates an intimacy that lends itself to a higher degree of support from investors, advisors and fans of our company. It’s not to say that Silicon Valley was disingenuous, but in Boulder one can marry the intensity of Silicon Valley for all things with the intimacy and follow through that a smaller scale allows.
Fewer Companies Means Long-Term Employee Commitments
Some people might worry that the talent in a smaller market won’t meet Silicon Valley expectations and I’ll be the first to admit that work habits are different in Boulder. But just because an employee goes for a trail run at lunch doesn’t make them a bad employee; in fact, my experience is that it makes them smart, normal, healthy, driven, etc. And, with fewer companies in our market, I sleep easier about talent jumping ship for an incremental incentive and we seriously benefit from long-term tenures of staff.
It’s Gorgeous Outside and That Makes People Happy
A 2013 study proved that the color green elicits feelings of calmness, happiness, comfort, peace, hope and excitement. My drive to work, gorgeous; the trail that runs alongside our office, gorgeous; the mountains we ski, climb, bike, hike, gorgeous; the rivers we fish, float, raft, gorgeous. You get the idea. Colorado is gorgeous and Boulder, nestled up against the front range, is particularly awe-inspiring. People are active, healthy and happy. There is more balance and it pays dividends to the businesses here. Everyone equates Colorado with snow, but I know many a New England transplant that can attest it’s far warmer and drier way up here at a mile high.
Millennials Are Everywhere
Boulder’s millennial population is growing fast. Jobs are plentiful and unemployment is low. This is a boon for any community. The energy of youth is real. These people are smart, excited, eager, hardworking – what other great adjectives can I include here? In Silicon Valley there are many successful young people, many. But a lot of them are trying to be perceived as older or more sophisticated than they are. In Boulder youth is embraced and celebrated. And even the oldest people at our company have done Ironman competitions. Youth is more of a state of mind here, and everyone’s in it – it’s the fresh air.
It Feels Like Silicon Valley in 2000 and the Opportunity Fuels Satisfaction
In Silicon Valley today everyone is racing to be a part of a unicorn, $1B company. They often don’t even see value in a $10M or $100M company. I have deep respect for ambition, but at the same time many of those racing to unicorn status could easily build a different scale business, make enough money to feed their families, fuel the economy and feel better about themselves in the process.
In Boulder, opportunity abounds and no matter what ends up happening for some companies here, the journey alone will be worth it. That level of personal satisfaction and excitement reminds me of Silicon Valley in 2000 when a unicorn was just a figment of dreams. There will be a $1B company out of Boulder, the ambition is too high to deny that, but it’s not the only game in town.
When I left Silicon Valley, I told some of my friends that our husky had pawed at Boulder on a map we put in front of him, but the truth is I was pawing at the map myself for the reasons above and many more. Boulder is the new frontier, one where I bike or run to work, go for a mean trail run afterwards, and bring more intensity back to my role as CEO the next day as a result.
Promise Phelon, CONTRIBUTOR
I’m building a high-growth tech company. I write about what I live.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.