While the Bay Area is the main tech hub of the US, the sector's presence in other cities across the country has expanded significantly in recent months.
While start-ups and established companies that choose to settle outside Silicon Valley miss out on the area's intense focus on innovation and the strong venture capital, start-up, and tech communities, smaller tech hubs such as New York and Chicago realize being situated outside the Bay Area is not a deal breaker for business success.
Foursquare, for example, was started in New York because the founders lived there, but it has discovered many perks to its location as it has grown.
Erin Gleason, communications director at Foursquare, which also has a smaller office in San Francisco, points out that building a location-based technology for New York is quite challenging, but once the team succeeds it becomes easier to make the technology work in other regions.
"If you can build a tool that works well in New York," she explains, "you can build something that works well elsewhere."
Gleason adds that New York's diverse base of people and industries, including media, finance, and fashion, has made it easier to develop relationships with people outside the tech industry, which is key for both establishing and growing a company.
Power of being local
Sometimes just the office presence of a major tech company in a location outside Silicon Valley, such as Google's large New York office for engineers, will help spur growth, camaraderie, and community within the region's technology sector.
"[The Google office] proved to a lot of people that you don't have to be in California to be building amazing products," Gleason says.
The Boston tech scene, closely linked with educational and research powerhouses such as MIT and Harvard, is also quite strong and characterized by a well-networked community of technology and tech communications pros. Like the Bay Area, where networking is key, Boston's tech community is also tightly knit.
"There's this automatic understanding that when you meet someone they will open up their network to you," notes Cheryl Gale, managing partner at March Communications. "There's a camaraderie."
That camaraderie extends to relationships with other tech PR agencies as well, she says, adding that she frequently receives new business inquiries through referrals from other firms, something Gale doesn't believe would happen as much if March was based in Silicon Valley, where the marketplace is more saturated and competitive.
A main focus for March is on working with established European tech companies looking to gain a foothold in the US market. One large, yet sometimes overlooked reason Boston is a better fit for these companies than the Bay Area is the time zone difference, which can be challenging to manage between Europe and California.
Growth in Windy City
Chicago's tech sector, populated by big companies such as Groupon, as well as smaller start-ups, is growing. "People now look at Chicago and the Midwest as viable options over Silicon Valley," says Tony Keller, VP at SS/PR, which until recently handled communications for Groupon.
Chicago's start-up community is strong, he adds, but is characterized by a slower incubation process and a smaller flow of funds. There is also a larger opportunity, however, for start-up ideas to really be looked at and considered for funding.
"These incubation-type relationships give companies the freedom to start the way they want to and get enough funding to see if their idea will work," he says.
In addition, Keller credits the tech sector's growth in Chicago, as well as other cities, to the fact that some entrepreneurs are already Midwest-based and do not want to put in the effort of moving to California. Others simply don't have a desire to live there.
"Why go to Silicon Valley and take a risk just because of geography?" he asks.