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This post originally appeared on The Fetch Blog.
It is common thinking that you need to be in San Francisco to start a big software company, in Paris to create the world’s best restaurant and on Wall Street to build the a successful hedge fund.
But that’s simply not true.
Should Atlassian have thrived in Sydney? How did Noma become the best restaurant in the world, in Denmark?
These people broke the rules, and so can you.
There are three things that can empower you to start a company with major growth potential, no matter where you are:
- A global focus. When you’re driving a car at speed if you focus directly on an object, it’s likely you’ll hit it. Similarly, if you’re focused on being the best in your home market, that’s what you’ll be. If, however, you dream of being the best in the world from day one, you’re much more likely to find a way to turn this dream into practical steps that lead to reality.
- Access to the tools you need. Technology has changed the way we work. “Work” is now an action, not a place. This means that with a fast net connection and some elbow grease, you can serve clients all over the world from your home town, wherever that may be. Invest in the other tools you need to be successful – top-of-the-line computers, video conferencing gear, high-end software and most importantly, people. The right team can raise your company to new levels time and time again.
- A passion for where you live. If you aren’t happy, it’s nearly impossible to succeed at building a business. In order to maintain the necessary motivation and drive, it’s key to spend your time in a place you love. Whether that’s San Francisco, Sydney, Stockholm or Shanghai, the right atmosphere will fuel you with energy.
1. Global focus
When James and I started Vero, we lived in San Francisco. After just six months we decided to move back home to Sydney, Australia.
A big part of this decision was that we had committed to bootstrapping Vero and needed as much support as we could get from friends, family and the home city we knew and loved.
Over a year later, we’re more than happy with how things have turned out and how bright the future looks. The biggest fear we had before we returned to Australia was that people wouldn’t take us seriously.
After all, “Why would customers in Europe or the US care about someone from Australia?”
It turns out that if you deliver a product that people want and customer service that impresses, customers don’t get hung up on location.
Moreover, we don’t act like we’re solely interested in Australian customers. In fact, we think big.
Everything we do – from marketing and customer support to development and strategy – is designed to help grow Vero into one of the world’s key email service providers. We wonder how we can build a template editor as good as Mailchimp’s, an audience as inspired as KISSmetrics’ and revenue as quickly as Dropbox.
Keeping a global attitude can be hard when you’re not ‘in the thick of it’ but there are a few things that have helped us keep our eyes on the prize:
- Competitors around the globe. From San Francisco to Paris, Vero has competitors that we respect. Keeping the fire alive and challenging us to grow as fast as (and even faster) than these great companies is a huge help in terms of ambition and global focus.
- The hunt for customers on the cutting edge. At Vero, customers that spend time exploring how email can grow their business are a pleasure to work with. Finding customers that want to push the boundaries usually means looking to the global leaders, regardless of where they’re located. We have amazing customers in Berlin, New York, Mexico and Israel, and we’ve seen first hand just how smart people are. These customers are located in some of the world’s most exciting cities and they inspire us each and every day.
- An open mind. Is it cool to have customers in Berlin that have more customers than the entire population of Australia? Damn right it’s cool. Is it cool to have built something that helps them connect with these customers? We live in a crazy, high-speed, global world and you need to embrace every minute of it.
2. The tools
You need to be in a place that has everything you need.
If you’re a 23-year-old bootstrapping the dream, this might be your parent’s basement for a while. If you need $2 million, then you’re going to need investors. If you need a tech team of four, then you’ll have to find them.
Where can you best get the resources you need? At home, abroad, somewhere cheaper? I remember reading an article in Monocle advocating the pros of starting a company in your home city. The statistics suggested success rates were generally higher, as founders can get what they need from trusted connections they have made throughout their lives.
There is no doubt that legal, tax, employment and other advice has been easy for me to find at Vero here in Sydney: never more than a single phone call away. This has helped us immensely to date.
3. A passion for where you live
When my co-founder, Damien, sent me this photo a few mornings ago – and this is just around the corner from where he lives – it was a reminder of the passion and joy he has for where he lives (sunny Manly, in Sydney).
There is an important distinction between ‘comfortable’ and ‘complacent’. You constantly need to find ways to raise the bar but, when so much of this comes motivating forces like customers, competitors and even an entrepreneurs internal fire to prove they can win, it’s important to live in a place you love, not hate.
This could be San Francisco or New York City, it could be Sydney or London, or it could even be Chang Mai. There comes a time in any business where most people can’t work 16 hour days every day. Rest is important (science says so, as does common sense). Being somewhere you can do the things you love, such as surfing in the morning, makes for happier people.
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