Has your California dreamin’ turned into a high rent nightmare? If you work in tech, living in California almost seems like a no brainer. And while the Silicon Valley is certainly a match made in heaven for many entrepreneurs, the competition amongst startups and high cost of living can severely shorten the lifespan of even the most promising tech innovations.
Fortunately, if your goals for a career in tech aren’t panning out in California, there is a solution—and it isn’t moving back in with your parents. Make like the California Gold Rush in reverse and head in some other direction besides west. Here are five surprising tech hubs to consider moving to.
Des Moines, Iowa
If Iowa makes you think exclusively of cornfields, you might want to think again. Des Moines, a healthy sized city with a metro population of 611,549 and counting, is quickly becoming the new epicenter of culture, creativity and entrepreneurship in the Midwest.
For the tech industry, this pioneering area of the so-called Silicon Prairie offers jobs with a median salary of $51,200, plus a cost of living that’s 6% below the national average. Notable Des Moines tech companies include Men’s Style Lab, a curated subscription clothing service, and AgriSync, an app that helps farmers implement new practices (How Iowa is that?). The city also features an innovative co-working space where industry disruptors can build ideas and community. And when those ideas get off the ground, Iowa based angel investment group Plains Angels is there to offer capital.
Factor in an average commute time that’s literally a breath of fresh air if you’re used to California traffic (under 20 minutes), apartments that rent for less than $1,000 a month and a legendary state fair and you just might change your mind about Des Moines.
We all know that Portland likes to keep things weird, and fortunately for those in the tech industry, that means keeping things innovative. Some might argue that the entire Pacific Northwest is becoming a new tech hub, but the true rising star is Portland, the beating heart of what people are calling Silicon Forest.
In 2015, Google opened a large office in Portland, drawing waves of attention to the still emerging tech scene in Oregon. Today, industry leaders like Airbnb and eBay have offices in Portland, as do outdoor/activewear companies like Nike and Adidas. While Portland is certainly not significantly cheaper than major cities in California, it’s still less expensive and there’s no sales tax.
Consider Portland if you’re looking for a tech job that reflects the local culture of hipsters, artists, craft beer and open-mindedness. You can expect progressive work environments where employers focus on staff perks, work/life balance, and even ditch the office to go skiing occasionally.
With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, Lincoln, Nebraska has been called recession-proof. It’s also ranked positively in terms of educational attainment, which is good news if you’re an individual looking to work alongside smart coworkers and great news for tech companies looking to recruit qualified candidates.
Lincoln is home to tech businesses like Hudl, a software company that helps athletes improve through technology, Bulu Box, a nutrition subscription box and Travefy, an app that optimizes group travel planning. Local investment group Nebraska Angels plays a strong role in helping startups thrive.
Besides the low cost of living and high potential for opportunity, Lincoln is also experiencing a renaissance in its downtown. The once sleepy neighborhood is rapidly transforming from boring to hip thanks to new bars, restaurants and apartments where tech employees like you can work, live, have fun, and build a community together.
Living in Boston might make you feel like you’re a part of living history (it’s the site of the country’s oldest park, Paul Revere’s midnight ride and of course, the very historic Dunkin’ Donuts) but it’s also an opportunity to be a part of the future.
Like that pot of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, the tech scene in Boston has been brewing for awhile now. And it’s no surprise. The city’s 250,000 plus college students, who hail from local top schools like Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and Boston College (to name a few) provide tech startups with a wealth of bright young professionals. Notable tech businesses that call Boston home include review site TripAdvisor, online babysitting/pet sitting/dog walking site Care.com, inbound marketing engine HubSpot. Trendy startups, like nightlife app Tablelist, have also made it big in Boston.
On top of all the local talent, Bostonian entrepreneurs also enjoy great public transportation and walkability. Boston, after all, is often called “The Walking City,” so you can easily commute to the office on foot—so long as you don’t mind doing some of the commuting in the snow.
Kansas City, Missouri
If you need another reason to live in Kansas City besides the area’s famed BBQ, we’ve got plenty.
When Kansas City was chosen as the first city to have Google Fiber’s gigabit internet, many people wondered why. Those people clearly weren’t locals to Kansas City, which has quietly transformed into one of the best cities to live in if you want to work in tech. From 1990 to 2010, Kansas City had the third highest increase amongst large metro areas in tech startup density.
Garmin, Sprint and H&R Block may all have offices in Kansas City, but the real spirit of the tech boom is found amongst local innovators. The city is home to a unique startup village, which serves as a grassroots effort for entrepreneurs to network and collaborate. Think Big, a company focused on bridging the gap between local and national tech talent is another great resource.
And hey, if you’ve been in California long enough to miss seasons, you’ll be pleased to hear that Kansas City has got all four of them.