Like most startup CEO’s, I spend most of my time dealing with companies on either the East Coast or the West Coast. Between Boston and New York on the East Coast, and San Francisco, Silicon Valley, LA and Seattle on the West Coast there are a lot of potential partners for a business like Punchbowl.
However, over the last year, I’ve noticed an increasing number of potential partners and big customers that are between the coasts. I’m talking places like Idaho, Missouri, Indiana, and Minnesota. In fact, I spent several hours last week talking with a couple of companies in the Midwest that are several billion dollar companies (yes, that’s billion). And guess what? Many of them talk about their strong customer base in the middle of the country.
Those of us on the coasts tend to forget that there are a lot of people who live between the coasts. The wonderful thing about the Internet as a marketing channel is that you can reach them just as easily as the people on the coasts. You don’t need to get on a plane or spend thousands of dollars on billboard ads up and down the interstate. Punchbowl.com doesn’t care where you live (and we love our international customers too!).
For those of us with businesses that focus on the mom market, this is especially true. And Punchbowl is not the only tech startup that figured this out along the way. Pinterest was a business that took off first in the “flyover” states, and gathered steam into the coasts. Several eCommerce startups I know first found their success away from the coasts. Punchbowl has certainly had our share of success with Midwest and Southern companies that come from more traditional roots, but are interested in moving into digital. I guess if you can make it in Omaha, you can make it anywhere.
It’s easy in a competitive marketplace to think that the world might be too small for your product. The next time you think something like that, stop and think about all of the people between the coasts. Imagine that you are marketing your product to only these people. It’s still an amazing amount of people. Dozens and dozens of millions. There really are lots of people between the coasts.
The next time you’re flying coast-to-coast, spend some time looking down at the smaller cities across the country. One path to startup success is looking for customers and partners that aren’t located on one of the coasts. There are lots and lots of people in this country. There’s many roads that lead to startup success.