Moving to Colorado

February 28, 2008

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.

Personal Reasons

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.

Business Reasons

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.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

steven February 28, 2008 at 11:57 am

Shoot. Gonna miss yah around here Tom.

Tom Markiewicz February 28, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Thanks Steven. I realize I didn’t write about our timeframe in the post. I should be around until June so we’ll have to get lunch before I leave the area.

James Glenn February 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Tom, sorry to hear about you leaving, but am glad to hear about the opportunities for you in Boulder. You’ve certainly shared some good insights with me relating to my business and I’m sure that you are on the cusp of doing something big.

Tom Markiewicz February 28, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Thanks James, I appreciate that. Good luck with the business and keep me posted on developments.

Doc March 6, 2008 at 8:29 am

Tom,

Wish you success and a bright future in Boulder.

Cheers,

~d

Corbett March 7, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Tom, best of luck to you on your new endeavor. I’ve been travelling out to Boulder on business quite a bit the past few years and I think you’ll enjoy the area. Let me know if you ever want to get back into Engineering and I’ll pass along some of my contacts at BATC

-Corbett

Tom Markiewicz March 12, 2008 at 8:36 am

@Doc – Thanks. We just returned from a house hunting trip and absolutely love it out there. We can’t wait to move out permanently this summer.

@Corbett – Thanks as well. You ever stop by to see Schumacher at Ball when you’re out there? We just spent the weekend with him.

George March 12, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Wow! Congrats on the decision to move to Colorado. I really enjoyed the Blacksburg area, but I now feel like I am at home in Tennessee. Thank you for giving me the chance to work with you, I truly enjoyed it and in my spare time, I have been thinking of possibly doing a startup. Anyways, good luck on the move.

Paige March 12, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Great post! I grew up in NOVA, went to VA Tech (beautiful area but definitely limited job opportunities), moved back to NOVA and now in Loudoun County. Our family has been toying with the idea of moving to Boulder County (Lafayette, Louisville, Superior)for 3 years. Hoping one of these days we’ll take the plunge, until then, I enjoy reading other folks thoughts and suggestions about moving to Colorado. Good luck with the move. Go Hokies!!!

Jeff M March 17, 2008 at 5:03 pm

The ‘burg will miss you Tom.

But Boulder, Colorado! How can you go wrong with that? I’ve only heard good things about Boulder. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

It was wonderful working with you. Stay in touch… hah. Thanks to facebook/twitter/rss feeds/INTERNET, I’m really not concerned that I’ll never hear from you again.

Rob April 9, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Hi,

My family and I lived near Seattle for several years and wrestled with the idea of Colorado Springs for a move we made last July. At the last minute, we opted for NoVa.

The decision ended up being based on the best location for our industry, technology, excellent schools, beauty…one decision point that is not too much of a surprise for those of us moving from Washington state was the weather. NoVa with its sometimes severe winters and humidity in the summer almost lost out to someplace out west. Had it not been for some family near, we may not have come. All in all, though, life is life no matter where you are.

Rob

Tom Markiewicz April 11, 2008 at 8:24 am

Rob, interesting choice. I lived in Northern Virginia and metro DC for about 10 years, most recently Alexandria, Va and progressively disliked living there.

I have to strongly disagree with your statement that “life is life” – yes, certain aspects of life remain the same regardless of location, but you imply that location doesn’t matter that much to day to day living.

I can honestly tell you that even though I’m moving away from Blacksburg to Boulder, no matter how big the problems I faced the past three years I woke up every morning in Blacksburg and said to myself “at least I’m here and not living in NoVa anymore.”

Location choice is personal and in my opinion can absolutely affect all other aspects of your life. I’m glad you’re happy with NoVa, but I’m surprised there isn’t more of a mass exodus out of the area with all the issues I saw while there.

Alan Daniels July 2, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I lived out on the East Coast in D.C. and Northern VA for a couple of years and could not be more happy about moving back to Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is amazing how much I missed the shorter drives, lines, less traffic, and nice home prices.

Chris Hammond August 12, 2008 at 1:24 am

Tom, I ran across your blog this evening (night I guess) while doing some playing around online. My wife and I are starting to plan a move to Colorado ourselves, I look forward to seeing how things go for you out there, we aren’t looking to make the move for another 9 months or so.

Tom Markiewicz August 18, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Chris, so far so good as we made it to Colorado this past weekend. I’ll try to write up a follow up post soon with what we’ve learned and thought so far.

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