The other day one of our fellow Heretics asked me:
“When you are constricted to a small city — how do you find mentors and advisors that you can go to? When you are a big fish in a small pond, all the other fish want your advice, when you are actually dying to meet bigger fish and grow yourself. And: Does staying in a small city hurt you? If you have the desire to be somewhere else, should you bring your business there?”
Here are my two cents (and take this with a grain of salt — there surely is no universal truth in this):
Growing up in Germany and having lived in a couple of European cities — for me geography matters. A lot. The moment you are in an environment which supports you, which allows you to easily find and interact with others who are either going through similar trials and tribulations or have been through those already, is incredibly helpful.
I keep telling the following story about Silicon Valley: To this day when I tell people that my first startup went up in flames during the first dot-com boom & bust cycle, people in Europe (and specifically Germany) often ask me how I could deal with such a blow-back and express their sympathy. The very first time I told that story to someone in Silicon Valley (who happened to be pretty much a stranger I just met at a Starbucks), he said with a big smile on his face: “That is awesome. What did you learn?”
Attitude, culture, access to resources and the sheer network of likeminded people is something which I personally find invaluable. Silicon Valley might very well be the first place I found where people don’t tell me I am crazy.
Can you have this in other places? Of course! New York, Tel Aviv, Berlin, London and many, many more places offer a similar outlook and infrastructure. But doing what you’re doing in a place which doesn’t support you is just hard. Not impossible — but probably unnecessarily hard…