I recently wrote about closing my business and the failure of our product, FeedCraft. It may have sounded somewhat abrupt, but these were decisions that have been in the works for many months. The process of our moving started after deciding to close the business itself and reflecting on what our next steps were.
After looking at our situation, my wife and I realized that we had the opportunity to live wherever we wanted as long as it met our criteria. If I was going to be starting over, we might as well consider changing location.
After living almost ten years in Northern Virginia, I felt the move to Blacksburg was a great opportunity and a welcome change. I still believe it was the correct decision, both personally and for the business. But as I’ve lived and worked here, my wife and I have come to realize that this is not the best fit for us. There are numerous reasons behind this and I thought I’d lay them out here. Hopefully, it will help others considering moves to either location.
Many factors came into consideration when thought about this, but only one area really stood out for us – Colorado, specifically Boulder. The decision to move to the Boulder area of Colorado is part personal and part business reasons. Let me start by discussing the personal reasons for the move.
We wanted to be close to a major city – at least within 1 hour driving distance. Roanoke, after living in DC for so long, was too much of an overshoot for us. While there are many nice aspects to southwest Virginia, there is a lack of dining, shopping, and recreation options that we were too accustomed to living near a city. We’re looking for homes within a 30 minute drive to Boulder which also puts Denver within an hour drive.
From a more recreation point of view, I’m an avid rock climber (my wife not so much, but show enjoys hiking and the outdoors). I guess avid is not the best word. I’m a passionate and obsessed rock climber. Almost every weekend, I drive 2 hours to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for rock climbing and bouldering. This is starting to take its toll as I always ask myself why can’t I just live closer to such world-class climbing. Living less than 15 minutes away from the same caliber of climbing and shaving four hours of roundtrip driving will really add up over time. I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to have the entire Front Range of Colorado as my new playground.
While I think I could have survived a bit longer with making long drives to great climbing, the lack of accessibility to winter sports in this area has been killing me. From the time I was in high school, I have been skiing on a regular basis. When I moved to the DC area after college, I also picked up ice climbing and took numerous trips to Pennsylvania and New Hampshire for the sport. In southwest Virginia, there is little skiing and no ice climbing. Moving to Colorado obviously satisfies that aspect of my outdoor interests.
Access to a major airport is also important. Blacksburg is 2.5 hours to Charlotte and 4 hours to Northern Virginia, but this is not really convenient for regular trips. So while the Roanoke airport is decent for a small regional airport, the costs of flying in and out are much higher than a larger airport. Additionally, there are few direct flights out of Roanoke, making most air travel a major pain. For examples, my total trip time to Austin last year for SXSW was over 14 hours one way.
One of the main draws to move to Blacksburg from Northern Virginia was entering my company into the VT KnowledgeWorks incubator program. While in the program, I launched EvolvePoint’s second product (FeedCraft) and learned a great deal in the process. Unfortunately, after about 18 months the market for RSS feed marketing was not what we had forecast. While the product was a technical success and we have thousands of customers, we’ve not gained enough traction to make this the sole sustainable focus of the business.
My business passions lie in the Internet and in creating web applications. There are few companies working in this industry here in Blacksburg (though there are some great success like Mailtrust and Click & Pledge). In the Boulder/Denver area, however, there is a very strong Internet and technology startup community. Simply take a look at the related events listed on Meetup.com to see how strong. Just basic things like finding partners, employees, and other like-minded people will be easier when there is a much larger community.
The final issue is having a backup plan when being an entrepreneur. If my next venture fails, I need to recognize the fact I’ll potentially need to find a job. Regular jobs with big companies are pretty much out of the question at this point in my career, so I’d be looking for something with a startup in the Internet space if it ever happens. Once again, there are many companies of this type in the Boulder area which provides some safety net knowing there will be opportunities.
Finally, I hope readers of this post don’t take away that Blacksburg is a bad place to live or do business. This area is a great place to live with many qualities that have been attracting an increasing number of residents each year. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t meet my personal and business needs anymore so we’re making the move.