What it’s Like to be a Startup Outside a Major Tech Hub
Kristina Proffitt

If you mention that you work for a British technology startup, most people assume that you’re based in London, or at the very least, a major city like Manchester or Birmingham.

But Cronofy isn’t. We’re based in Nottingham, and our team is distributed across England.

Adam Bird, our CEO, chose Nottingham as the base for Cronofy because it’s his home city and he’s had previous success creating and growing Esendex from there.

We also have offices in London and New York, although none of us live there. We use these offices to hold regular company meetings and to meet prospective clients.

While companies can be based anywhere, there’s no denying that a lot of major customers will be based in cities like London. It’s therefore important to find ways to adapt when you’re based elsewhere.

Here are some of the reasons why we’re based outside of London and the ways in which we’ve adapted to life outside of it.

Talent is more important than location

When it comes to starting a new business, the people that you hire are more important than the location of your office. By limiting yourself to people within a certain area, you miss out on a huge pool of talent.

There are many reasons people choose not to live in a large city, from the quality of life to schools, to being closer to family. That doesn’t make those people any less talented, though.

Basing your company outside of your typical tech hub taps into a talent pool that’s just as good, but has fewer companies competing for the best employees.

Allowing team members to work remotely opens up the talent pool ever further. While there might be a concentration of talent in a particular area, that doesn’t mean that equally talented people don’t exist outside of it.

Technology makes everything easier

Meeting up with a big client used to mean travelling to meet them at their offices. While this is still sometimes necessary, in many cases, meetings can now be held online using software such as Slack or Zoom. Meeting with clients virtually means that our team has more time to spend on building our product and helping our customers as they’re not travelling as much.

Utilizing technology also means that it doesn’t matter where our team is, they can work just as efficiently as they would anywhere else. Whether it’s on a flight, in one of our offices, or from the comfort of their sofa, they can achieve just as much.

Technology also means team members can stay in touch with each other wherever they are. Advice from a colleague is just a call or a message away.

Big cities are just a train ride or flight away

We travel a lot by train at Cronofy. We have monthly all-hands meetings where everyone gets together to share the latest updates, and our developer team meets up once a week in London.

Having good transport links is crucial if you don’t work in a big city. In Nottingham we have trains, trams, and buses that make it easy for us to travel to everywhere from Edinburgh to London to Paris. Our nearest airport is just on the outskirts of the city, too.

Travel time doesn’t have to go to waste, either – it can be used for everything from catching up on emails, to writing drafts of code or blog posts, to going over notes before a big meeting.

Many trains and flights now have access to Wi-Fi too, meaning that you can still stay connected to co-workers while en route.

Everyone knows everyone

The first years working for a startup are critical to its success. It helps to work with people you’ve worked with before or know from the local tech community because you already know their strengths. This familiarity allows teams to hit the ground running and therefore grow faster.

If you don’t know someone who fits what you’re looking for, there’s a high chance that someone in your network already does, which is great, because the best hires come from employee referrals!

Meet ups don’t just happen in London

While many major events still happen in London, it’s a misconception that they only happen there.

Nottingham has many regular technology-related meet ups including Tech Nottingham, Women in Tech, and Nott Tuesday. These were created by people who are a part of the community and wanted to meet like-minded people in their home city.

Living outside of the big city is cheaper for everyone

Big cities like London, New York, and San Francisco are expensive to live and work in.

Renting an office somewhere like Nottingham is far cheaper than renting one in London. There’s also a high chance it will come with more space, more windows, and a better view.

Higher salaries often attract people to bigger cities, but the higher rent and travel costs can cancel this out.

In Nottingham, your salary will go further than in any other city in the UK. You’ll earn less than in London, but on average you’ll have more left over after bills, living costs, and rent or mortgage payments are taken out.

This means that everything from the cost of someone’s commute to how much they pay for lunch is less. Companies therefore don’t need to pay extortionate amounts just so that employees can afford their rent or mortgage – they can invest their profits on product development instead.

Conclusion

There are many benefits to basing your technology company outside of a major tech hub. You don’t have to live or work in a big city to hire the best talent or keep in touch with your customers. Technology makes working outside of a major tech hug easier for everyone.