Silicon Valley Moved—Why Investors Went East

The 20th century has seen several creative epochs—times and places where movements flourished as geniuses gathered to work toward the same goals. The left bank of the Seine was host to such an epoch in the twenties. The Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco was another in the sixties.

Creative epochs aren’t limited to art and literature, though. What about Edison and Tesla’s electrical battles in upstate New York? The Manhattan Project under the football stadium at the University of Chicago? Revolutions in technology, mathematics and science happen in exactly the same way.


These places and the people that reside in them have shaped western thought. The cultural and scientific innovations they created are forever engrained in global consciousness. Almost everything we do today pays homage, be it wittingly or not, to the work that has gone before us.


What’s interesting about epochs is the way they spread. These technical and cultural revolutions begin with tiny flashpoints—small areas where luminaries gather. The fire never dims in these early areas, but it does grow and expand until it’s impossible to choose a single key area anymore.


By their very nature, epochs don’t last forever. Movements born in garages, coffee shops and laboratories soon attract wider interest and eventually become mainstream.

A City Built on Silicon

The tech boom in Silicon Valley may eventually be remembered as one of the greatest epochs of all time. The brightest technological and entrepreneurial minds in the world gathered around San Francisco to realize the unharnessed potential of the Internet. The innovations they produced are now so common and fundamental that we struggle to comprehend life without them.


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For two decades now, Silicon Valley has been a mecca for people with good ideas. San Francisco has become one of the youngest cities in America as recent college grads have gathered there in droves. Top-tier influencers like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have dictated the course of international business from their offices in Northern California. The Bay Area has been virtually the only destination for ambitious graduates and entrepreneurs for decades.


But that’s changing.

The Movement Spreads

“I love the Bay Area, and I never expected or wanted to leave,” says Andy Jenks, a serial entrepreneur and partner at a successful venture investment firm. “For 17 years of ups and downs, it’s been home…[But] I believe strongly enough in the power of the Midwest to transform American venture investing that I’ve pulled up my roots and made a move no one ever thought I’d make.”


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Jenks recently started Drive Capitol, his new investment firm, in Columbus Ohio. He’s one of many young innovators who, as demonstrated by the map below, are choosing to leave Silicon Valley and take their businesses and families to other growing tech markets farther east.


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“In the Midwest I see and meet entrepreneurs solving real-world problems that they are passionate about,” he says. “That’s how great companies get built, and that mentality is why I am here, ultimately.”


Cities like Salt Lake City, Boulder, Dallas and Cleveland have been increasingly attracting the companies that used to be exclusively interested in the Bay Area. The reasons behind the shift are complex, but the movement is real. Industry experts predict that in 20 years, 90 percent of the marketing cap in technology will be built outside of Silicon Valley.

Heading Out East

It takes a special sort of place to foster innovation. The Bay Area is ideal because of its excellent infrastructure. San Francisco is a pleasant place to live. Schools are good and crime is low. The legislature carefully protects intellectual property, allowing entrepreneurs to feel confident in their ability to monetize their ideas.


The University of San Francisco on the peninsula, UC Berkeley in Oakland and other large universities in the area provide a steady stream of tech talent. Finally, Silicon Valley has a twenty-year head start on other communities and a powerful reputation associated with it.


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The Bay Area’s position appears almost unassailable, but the same factors which made it a tech giant are also causing problems. San Francisco is crowded with innovators. The market is far from saturated, but it’s difficult to stand out. The sheer press of people makes daily realities like the commute to work a tricky ordeal. The fiercely competitive atmosphere leads to high burnout rates, as well.


“In the Bay Area, there’s been such enormous growth and opportunity that it’s created some challenges for happiness,” says Paul D’Arcy, Senior Vice President at


“Job searchers are always balancing opportunity and happiness. As people think about what the right fit for them is, housing, traffic and quality of life are really important factors.”


Here’s where newer tech centers like Dallas and Minneapolis have a major advantage. They offer a more relaxed lifestyle without compromising workforce quality or civic infrastructure. There’s still a certain novelty attached to the tech industry in these areas. Businesses can grow naturally without battling every day for air and sunlight.

The Future of Tech In America

When you drop a pebble in a pond, ripples spread. It’s foolish to try and restrict the movement of the water. The efforts of the Silicon Valley tech pioneers dropped a figurative pebble, and the movement has remained remarkably concentrated until now. However, the inevitable outward expansion is beginning.




Tech will become less locally concentrated in the future. Cloud-based platforms mean companies don’t need to worry so much about where they place their headquarters. Today, all you need to start a company is a fast Internet connection and supportive group of investors—and by no means are those resources limited to the Bay Area.

Silicon Valley will be relevant as long as there are tech jobs in America, but it’s no longer the only game in town.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.


Don’t Build That Smartphone App

App development may seem like a perpetual goldmine, but like with all gold rushes, the majority of prospectors eventually leave both empty-handed and disappointed. There’s a joke going around the boardrooms of Silicon Valley and classrooms of Ivy League schools. Perhaps you’ve heard it a time or two:

A young man opens a bar in Silicon Valley. It’s revolutionary—nobody has ever seen or heard of amenities like the ones his bar has. With great fanfare, the young man throws the doors open and endless crowds stream in.

They gape at the beautiful design and the quality products on offer. They give the bar excellent reviews and tell all their friends about it. Soon the whole city is inside the bar, laughing, chatting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. The young man is the talk of the town.


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After a good while, people start to stream out again. They leave in droves, heading to new bars. The young man is left alone. The shelves are full. The bottles remain corked. Nobody has bought anything.

Unfortunately, this is more than just a pithy story. For many entrepreneurs and developers around the world, this tale hits close to home. Even the most popular and well-designed apps often struggle to pay for themselves. The worst can bankrupt their creators.

Should I Make a Smartphone App?

There was a time when app building was simple and lucrative. A few years ago, the business world had app fever. Entrepreneurs simply needed to build an application, upload it to the Apple Store and then put their feet up. On the crest of that wave, almost anything would sell.


Unfortunately, those days are over. Apps have lost much of their original novelty. They’re a standard feature on all smartphones. With few exceptions, they no longer elicit wonder and awe from their users. We’ve reached the high water mark.

Yes, there is still a time and a place for app building and a great deal of money-making good that can come from them. However,  it’s important to be absolutely certain of your business model before getting involved. The following are a few potential obstacles to consider before you build an app:

High Overheads and Low Profits

A common misconception among novice app-builders is that the process is quick and easy. Simply put, it isn’t—apps require a lot of overhead. A great deal of time, talent and money go into even the worst ones. If you’re looking for a cheap way to raise awareness for your business, you might consider an alternative. For example, for the cost of building one smartphone app, you could invest in a number of highly-targeted social media posts, ensuring that the right eyes are learning more of your business.


Ken Yarmoush, the Founder and CEO of Savvy Apps, has spent his entire career advising clients on the most efficient way to build their mobile applications. He says that cheap development projects start around $25,000. Million dollar apps are not a novelty; they’re a fixture.


Now, for some people this investment pays off quickly. The investors behind Uber aren’t hurting, for instance. However, it’s a mistake to assume that every app story ends so happily.


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In fact, Gartner Inc. estimates that less than one percent of all mobile apps ever become financially sustainable. The confidence some entrepreneurs have in mobile apps is founded more in groupthink than it is in research.


The goldmine metaphor holds true. Too many investors assume that a figurative pick and shovel is all they need to strike it rich. In reality they’d probably be better off investing in something else.

The True Cost of ‘Free’

That joke about the young man and the bar might not be all that funny, but it does highlight a very real problem. How do you make money with an app? There are a few traditional options.


For example, you can:

  • Charge to download the app
  • Make money from in-app purchases
  • Sell advertising space within the app
  • Charge a subscription fee for the app’s services

Most mobile app developers hope to recoup their investment from a mixture of the second and third options. They let you download the app for free, but not all the features come with it. To unlock premium features, users need to upgrade—for a fee of course.


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The same goes for advertising. If you want to get rid of the attention-grabbing ads running across the screen, you need to pay a fee. These models have worked in the past, but there’s a growing body of evidence which suggests they aren’t as reliable as they used to be.

Will Your Users Upgrade?

Flowspark Studios conducted research on in-app purchases and found that roughly 95 percent of users never make them. In the worst cases, less than half-a-percent of your users will ever upgrade. An app can be wildly popular while the developers and investors behind it struggle to make ends meet.

Walking the Advertising Tightrope

Advertising isn’t a safe bet, either. The marketing industry is reevaluating itself as ad blockers and the phenomenon known as “ad blindness” make digital advertising increasingly ineffective. In an industry that famously leaps from trend to trend, there’s no guarantee that advertisers will continue to focus on mobile advertising as they have in the past.


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Even if they do, advertisers are interested primarily in impressions. Until your app has thousands of regular users, you’ll struggle to find buyers for your ad space. With this in mind, do you have a way to pay for the app until you get there?

The March of Progress

Mobile apps have captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and businesspeople all over the world. They changed the way we think about gaming, social networking and business. They will continue to be relevant and helpful for a long time, but it’s foolish to assume that they’re the final step of tech evolution.


For users, there are several serious downsides to mobile apps.

  • They require constant updates
  • They clutter screens with hundreds of icons
  • They take up bandwidth
  • They have questionable security
  • Most mobile games work on a planned obsolescence model


Already, innovators are looking at more streamlined options. Many marketers are moving to browser-based apps, which received twice as much traffic as their mobile cousins in 2015. These apps are potentially cheaper and more efficient than the traditional iPhone or Android versions.

How long will it be before the next step of the app evolution takes over? Needless to say, the indicators say sooner rather than later.

The Bottom Line

Mobile apps are an appealing way to make money, promote businesses and engage potential customers. However, they are not a panacea. They are not a failsafe. Before you rush into app development, make sure you know your boundaries. With the time, money and energy it would take to build a mobile app, you could almost certainly find a more efficient option.

So, what do you think? Is the age of mobile apps over, or are they still a viable option for startups and small businesses? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.


SEO: More Than Smoke and Mirrors

It can be difficult for businesses to truly understand what they’re getting when they sign up for an agency’s search engine optimization (SEO) services. Complex terms like co-citation, page segmentation and semantic distance can make the discipline feel unapproachable. All these businesses know is that the Internet’s digital marketing battle is being waged on Google & Bing, and they want to get involved.

Because of the widespread confusion that often can accompany SEO engagements, disagreements between clients and partners are not uncommon. These disputes often center around the timing of results, quantifiable improvements, or implemented techniques. After a poor engagement, false presumptions may be made about the validity of the SEO industry as a whole. Left with a bad taste in their mouths, some chalk up SEO as a smoke-and-mirrors marketing tactic, providing little to no value for those duped by its appeal.

Unfortunately, there are SEO agencies out there who are better at selling the sizzle than delivering the steak. They avoid accountability, have little or no transparency into their techniques, and earn backlinks and keyword rankings for their clients by dubious means. However, they by no means represent the entirety (or even the majority!) of the field.

As a business, if you’ve been burned by an SEO service provider in the past, know now that there are better options out there. And the first step to finding one is to be better informed.

SEO Is an Evolving Entity

Through a series of both minor and major updates to their interface, algorithm and system deployment, Google is always changing in an effort to provide users with the best search results possible. As a result, in the world of SEO, the methods that used to yield improvements (and even the ways we measure them) are changing, too.

Methods that used to be commonplace can now cause more harm that good. Keyword stuffing, link bombing with anchor text, and inter-linking website farms are just a few examples of these outdated tactics. They’re easy-to-implement quick fixes that fail to provide long-term answers, and may even prompt the dreaded “manual penalty.” Use them at your own risk.

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For businesses that have been holding steady for dozens or even hundreds of years, constant change in SEO may feel like a sleazy sales tactic or smoke and mirrors to weasel more money out of unwitting clients – but it’s not. Like any other reputable industry, SEO is one that’s subject to change to account for the newest needs of its customers and to provide a better, more stable product or service—just like your business does. For agencies, this often means that when Google releases an algorithm change, advice to clients has to pivot, even to contradict recommendations that seemed firm just a few weeks ago.

Where We’re at Today

So, what does SEO look like in 2016?

Providing a simple answer to the fairly convoluted question is Digital Strategist Warwick Bettles,: “The heart of SEO is understanding Google’s motives. They want to connect the world with relevant information as easily as possible. Provide that and earn authority and your site will rank.”

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If you think that sounds too vague to base a search strategy on, we agree. That’s why we’ve highlight four more defined, actionable recommendations for improving your search performance this year. While there is no one-size-fits-all SEO strategy, the following four points contain the basic directives you’ll need to gain positive momentum:

1) Valuable Content Continues to Be Important

It’s become an overused digital marketing buzzphrase of sorts, but content is king. It always has been, but with each algorithmic update—most recently Google’s well-documented Panda and Penguin updates— quality, user-focused content has been given even more power. No matter the type of content you and your marketing team produce (blog posts, e-books, videos,infographics) the more your content addresses your customer’s intent, the better.

2) Take Advantage of Localized Content

Google’s Panda and Penguin updates were certainly important, but for local businesses, the search giant’s Pigeon update was a game changer. A portion of the Pigeon update dealt directly with local companies and their content creation, giving localized information more value with generated search results. Needless to say, if you run a local business, direct your content towards the needs of the community in which you work.

3) Artificial Intelligence Craves High-Quality Websites

As previously made mention, high-quality sites that regularly produce meaningful content will always receive the help from Google they need to more frequently connect with potential customers. This first became a priority in late 2014 when Google began searching and indexing sites with newsworthy headlines.

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Then, in late 2015, Google took things a step further, experimenting with artificial intelligence to more accurately determine what high-quality website looks like. Think about it – when was the last time you saw an unattractive site with poor user experience (UX) ranking first page for even a moderately competitive term?

So, while it’s important to concern yourself with off-site SEO strategies, pay special attention to the overall look, usability and value of your own website. It can make a tremendous difference.

4) PR and SEO Are Gradually Coming Together

With the passing of each algorithmic update, one thing is for certain—Google’s most favored websites are industry-leading authorities. And while Google obviously takes a number of factors into account when determining domain authority, much of the score hinges on the number of backlinks to the host site, referencing it as a credible source.

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This is where digital public relations (PR) becomes involved. Now, more than ever before, the ability to acquire inbound links from authoritative sites is extremely important. Because of this, developing relationships with industry-specific publications is vital for solid SEO.

It’s Not Magic – And It’s Not a Scam

At one point or another, we’ve all been duped by a skilled salesman using smoke-and-mirrors sales tactics to pocket our hard-earned money. And while there are black-hat SEOs out there who earn cash without providing any real value in return, the vast majority of SEO specialists are hardworking digital marketing professionals. Give your SEO expert the time and flexibility s/he needs to deliver results. Soon enough, when done the right way, you’ll have them.

Do your search rankings need a desperate dose of TLC? Or maybe you’re doing well in search, but wonder what your next steps should be? We have a powerful, comprehensive SEO Audit that evaluates a number of ranking factors and provides you with a simple, actionable, prioritized to-do list. If you’d like to learn more, let’s get started.


How Live Chat Software Helps SMBs Better Connect With Potential Clients

Though the Internet is an incredible place for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to sell products and services, the outlet certainly provides its fair share of challenges.

One of the biggest stems from the potential disconnects that take place between an SMB and its customers.

While the popularity of brick-and-mortar shopping is certainly on the decline, one advantage of the traditional business model has always been the face-to-face communication that takes place between an employee and a customer. Concerns are heard, questions are answered, doubts are resolved and sales are made—it’s really that simple.

However, all is not lost for SMBs looking to better connect on a more personal level with potential clients. Thanks to brands like Olark, ClickDesk, SnapEngage, Intercom and WhosOn, there’s now a solution to such a pervasive problem—live chat software. If your website has yet to include a live chat box as part of its main user interface, there are a few reasons you may want to take action soon.

Convenience Is Key for Customer Conversion

You don’t need to be a UX designer to understand the importance of convenience in new customer acquisition. In fact, according to a recent Forrester study, 44% of online consumers reported that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase or commitment is “one of the most important features a website can offer.”

The reasoning behind this finding is simple. When shopping online, it’s common to encounter technical problems, content confusion or questions about what’s being delivered. With a responsive online chat system in place, finding an effective solution takes only a matter of moments.

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Contrast this experience with having to dial a 1-800 number for help. After listening to a canned list of responses and navigating a phone tree, if your call hasn’t accidentally been dropped, you can speak with another person. But in a digital age, response time, informational accuracy and on-demand availability trounce the value of chatting with a phone rep.

Constant Availability Boosts Sales

To improve sales using live chat software options it’s important that your SMB have a team of respondents on-call should a user become confused or a system malfunction take place, to ensure your team can help site visitors instead of losing them.

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But that’s not everything live chat can do for you— you can leverage your team’s social, psychological and sales skills to both provide excellent customer service and suggest additional product and service options, when appropriate. The end result is obvious—a welcomed boost in sales.

Discover New Customer Pain Points

Most SMBs already use email lists, surveys, social media or industry-specific forums to discover pain points. It’s another thing, however, to do the same thing while speaking directly to your ideal customer in a real-time conversion moment by way of live chat.

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Think about it—when customers take to live chat, the topic of conversation is often about the efficiency of a product or service, promotional offers and discounts or to share their complaints with an official company representative.

To maximize the efficiency of your live chat services, don’t only train your staff in the ways of subtle upselling techniques. Make sure you teach them how to handle customer critiques and grievances, both extracting and organizing as much valuable information as possible in the process.

An Additional, Unexpected Benefit

Still not ready to devote a corner of your home page’s precious real estate to a live chat box? Take a moment or two to consider how live chat could very well help your SMB save money. This is made possible in two different ways.

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If you’re like most SMBs, you have a contact center. Believe it or not, live chat has been known to noticeably reduce average interaction costs.

Also, live chat allows multiple conversations to take place at the same time with a single rep. As such, by making live chat a cornerstone of your client communication program, you won’t need to staff nearly as many customer representatives.

Using live chat software for your SMB’s conversion-driven website is great for connecting with customers, but the addition could also very well be the advantage your business needs to gain a competitive edge over your larger, more experienced competitors.

Ready to start chatting?
Hopefully you see the potential value that live chat can offer to small and mid-sized businesses. If so, you’ll want to stay tuned, because coming soon we’re going to tackle the design and development of deploying live chat on your website. Don’t forget to subscribe, so you receive the post in your inbox!