Nerd Business


Making a big city move to pursue the startup dream

I just moved from my small hometown to the largest metropolis in North America!
Er, largest northernmost metropolis in North America. I checked and evidently Moscow is a bit farther north. So that means the title of largest northernmost metropolis in the world is already taken. But as far as this continent goes - Edmonton is at the top!


So already my theoretical Cinderella startup-story is not off to as 'trendy' of a beginning than it would be if I say I was setting up shop in San Francisco - or even another emerging hub like Hong Kong or Singapore. But I think nerds will agree that in most cases it doesn't matter where you geographically base your business.

What matters most is the people you will be working with. And just so happens that some of my best, most talented friends are living in Edmonton - so there's no reason I would want to startup anywhere else.

And heck. Edmonton does have some interesting startup activity brewing up. While the most notable tech business here is actually a game developer, BioWare, there are indeed plenty of nerds and scrappy young startups - many of whom have been directly or indirectly assisted by the awesome folks at Startup Edmonton. The crew there has done an incredible job of cultivating and developing a Valley esque' startup culture here. A microcosm by comparison but there is definitely action.

Over the last couple years I've been making the long drives up to attend various events the Startup Edmonton team have helped put on - namely the DemoCamps - which routinely draw in 200-300 geeks at each. More recently, events have shifted to their impressive new shared space in the heart of downtown.

Now that this shared space is within walking distance I might look into getting in on a spot of my own there. At the very least, being here in Edmonton will save countless hours of driving back from my hometown. Which was quite frequently a nasty and often dangerous drive on some blizzardy nights (though to clarify Edmonton summers do make up for the brutal winters.)

When to move your business

The epitome' of entrepreneurial freedom is having the choice to work anywhere in the word. Those of us in tech will often cite the cliche' expression that, "I only need only a laptop & high-speed internet connection.".

I've enjoyed this freedom for going on 6 years now - casually living & working from home, in a nice house that would otherwise be unaffordable in a larger city, working whatever hours, taking vacations whenever and so forth ...

Yet I saw a fork in the road recently. And decided that now was the time.

In making a committed decision to pursue my long contrived 'startup' idea last year - something happened. A realization. It didn't happen right away. And if it were not for taking a stand and saying, "yes, I am doing this - and I'm not looking back" - I doubt I would have ever made this important realization.

The realization is a personal one; one that is subjective - so of course everyone is different. It really depends on your business and goals - particularly how you want to structure your career - and who you want to work with everyday. But I think it can be narrowed down to a few simple choices.

You can be a lone wolf. Or you can be apart of a team.

Working on something you are truly passionate about, something interesting, exciting, entertaining & innovating - to me is the funnest thing to do on Earth. To do it alone would be a shame. Because the fun is exponential when you do it alongside best friends.

You can be a solo founder. Or you can be a co-founder.

There is something to be said about carrying the weight of a business on your shoulders. It's not impossible but I've come to realize this isn't something I want to try in my next company. I've been down that road as a mere consultant freelancer - and can't imagine the stresses and administrative headaches that would ensue if you were to try to do this at larger scale - without at least a buddy to rest a shoulder on every once in a while.

You can be a lifestyle business. Or you can be a high-growth startup...
or is there something else?

This is where the line is fuzzy. I don't necessarily agree that by choosing slow and steady growth you effectively disable any chance of future rapid high-growth periods or exit potential. I think there is a third choice here - and it's the one I have chosen to subscribe to.

For now I'll dub this third option as a lifestyle business you share as a team. Whether it's a productivity app, a video game, a comic book - the product idea itself is not as important as the people you will be working with every day. Heart before brains. Fun before revenue. These are the driving principals.

To the hungry startup entrepreneur in a lone-wolf mindset (ie- freelancers who want to stop freelancing and start making products) this is not an easy pill to swallow. In fact, perhaps my startup would probably be a lot father along had I simply been satisfied as a lone-wolf and pursued this individually. Had I said, "I don't need or want co-founders. I only need sub-contractors and employees." Instead of saying what I am now, that, "I want to build my business with friends; I want to share equally a future success with them, I want to help them develop their unique talents, I want to help them realize there ideas - just as much as I want to realize my own." Sure, had I not said that - had I not invested the time already in planting seeds & pursuing various collaborative opportunities and instead accepted life as a solo entrepreneur for forever - it would have been much easier to focus concentrated efforts - and my first 'startup product' could very well be available for download today (or at least a limited beta).

But for what? I'd still be living in my hometown. And while I wouldn't necessarily be missing out on an opportunity for success, I would most certainly be missing out on the opportunity to have a success with friends. Whether old friends here in Edmonton. New friends in other parts of the world. Or friends I don't even know yet. That is now the opportunity that drives me forward more than anything else.

p.s - All this said, nothing is set in stone. Still need to make money today (freelancing for now). Friends are still friends (no cofounders yet). And I'm flying by the seat of my pants!