This article first appeared on BostInno.com on August 1, 2013 as a guest post.
If you’re starting a tech company in Boston, most people assume that you’re thinking about locating your office in either Cambridge or in downtown Boston. The argument is that those areas are the tech hubs of the city, and you would be a fool to plant your company anywhere else.
In Silicon Valley (where I lived in the late 90s), there are companies both inside and way outside of both San Francisco and San Jose. Lots of people live in places like Palo Alto or Redwood City and commute to either city — and vice versa. The whole area is considered part of Silicon Valley. But here in the Boston area, unless your company is located in Cambridge or in downtown, it’s considered way outside of the major tech area. We need to change that perception.
To really grow Boston’s tech footprint, we need to encourage startups and companies to form all over the Boston area. In fact, there are number advantages to starting a company in one of the cities or towns that are west of Boston — even in (gasp) Metrowest.
1) Less traffic: During the late 90’s, I lived in California. For years, I sat in miserable traffic on highway 101 in Silicon Valley (when I lived in Palo Alto and worked in San Jose). So when I started Punchbowl back in 2007, one of the reasons I wanted to start my own company is so that I didn’t have to deal with traffic. When you start a company outside of Cambridge or Boston, you don’t generally have to deal with traffic that can waste an hour or more of your day. And you can attract talent that lives in Cambridge and wants a reverse commute. That’s an advantage you can experience everyday.
2) Seasoned talent: We’re fortunate to live in a place that is chock full of talented people. And as these people settle down and buy a house, they often look to buy in towns such as Waltham, Natick, or Hopkinton. We have several employees at Punchbowl who used to work for companies in Cambridge but decided to get a new job when they bought a house in Metrowest. These employees are typically more seasoned, experienced developers and marketers who want a tech job near where they live.
3) Better commercial real estate market: It’s no secret that the real estate market in Metrowest is far less expensive than Cambridge or downtown. At Punchbowl, we have a wonderful office that is spacious and very similar to the loft-style offices so common in tech areas. There’s room to expand and plenty of parking. Speaking of parking…
4) Parking: In Metrowest, there is plenty of parking for everyone. This means it’s easy to commute, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee, and it’s also easy to leave during the day to run errands. In fact, the Punchbowl office is close to major shopping areas, and that’s a great advantage when you need to pick something up during the middle of the day.
5) Employee retention: When you find a great employee, there’s nothing worse than watching that employee leave to join another company. This problem is rampant in Silicon Valley, and it’s a serious issue in places like Cambridge and New York City. As I’ve spoken with other companies in Metrowest, one trend that’s clear is that employees tend to stay longer. Part of this is undoubtedly because there are few choices — but as an employer, that’s a great thing. We work just as hard to keep great talent, and (thankfully) our employees rarely leave.
Let’s build the tech corridor of Boston by encouraging more companies to start a company in Metrowest — there are a number of great advantages. Punchbowl is located in Framingham, with great employees and a fantastic office. We couldn’t be happier.