Recently, I joined tens of thousands of people in the technology/startup space in Austin, TX for South by Southwest. Because I was primarily there working for a San-Francisco-based client, I spent a considerable amount of time with Silicon Valley-ers.
While making small chat at various networking events and parties, the conversation always turned to location. I’d proudly explain that I live and work in Columbus, OH. Without fail, people would quizzically look at me and then ask when I was moving to San Francisco or New York.
Initially, I’d laugh it off. After all, more than half of my firm’s work is with technology/web companies based outside Ohio, so it’s not that far-fetched to wonder why I’m not located in NYC of SF. But, as the week went on and I continued to get that some question, I realized we have a problem.
Columbus has a strong tech scene. Sure, you’re familiar with TechColumbus. Maybe you’ve even heard of Wakeup Startup. But, Columbus is full of hidden talents – people who are working on game-changing products, services and technological advancements.
So, what’s the problem? Those success stories are under our collective radar. And, if local residents are out of the loop, then it’s no wonder potential investors, development talent and customers/users are in the dark. (While I’m speaking from my experience in Columbus, I bet the same holds true in other Midwestern cities.)
From mobile commerce to social media … crowdsourced product development and online customer service – technology is disrupting the status quo. It’s changing how business gets done. And, Columbus has a major opportunity to capitalize on these emerging economic opportunities. But, that requires us to embrace risk, innovate best practices and stop being so humble. We have to showcase the local talent, availability of investment dollars and resources, and the diverse success stories with Columbus roots.
My PR and social media firm has deep ties with startup communities in San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and even London; however, I believe we can continue to flourish here in Columbus. I’ll continue to attend events with my bi-coastal clients and sing Central Ohio’s praises. But, if we’re really going to seize this opportunity – and make Columbus a significant player in the national startup dialogue – it’s going to require a full community effort.
A version of this article initially ran in Columbus Business First.
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