Where to Start a Company

It is a myth that the best (only?) place to start a company is in Silicon Valley.

In Silicon Valley, venture money flows mostly to twenty-something males who graduated from certain schools (Stanford, MIT) and, most importantly, are connected.

Connected means they or good friends have worked for Google/Facebook/Twitter, etc. This is necessary to get a warm introduction to an angel or VC.

If you are older, female, let alone an older female, you are looking at a brick wall.

In fact, funding criteria in Silicon Valley can get really silly — Peter Thiel won’t fund/do business with anyone who wears a suit.

Another point to think about is what you are trying to do.

Andrew Wilkinson, who bootstrapped his company, Flow, says it best when he talks about being a horse, instead of a unicorn.

Meanwhile, there are thousands of internet businesses out there, quietly making tens, and even hundreds of millions of dollars, who have taken the same path as In-N-Out. They don’t need to be first, second, or even tenth, in their space, and have instead chosen to focus on a small percent of a massive market. They answer to customers, not investors, and focus on making their employees, customers, and themselves happy.

So where can you start a company?

Anywhere. And here is proof. (For additional proof, check out the Dell Founders 50 encompassing 14 industries from around the world.)


Location: Bogota, Colombia / Amsterdam, Netherlands

Bomberbot is a startup that is part of a growing global network of international investors and advisors. It  is an online game targeting children that teaches programming by helping them recognize the patterns and sequence structures involved in writing a line of code.

Natural Pad

Location: Montpellier,  France.  

The startup develops serious games for medical practitioners. They combine video games and motion capture to offer  fully configurable and individualized tools, which provide patients with a playful and efficient experience for rehabilitation and fitness.

Kaspersky Lab

Location: Russia.  IT security company founded in 1997

Kaspersky Anti-Virus earned top marks in top ten anti-virus-software-reviews installation testing. It is a frequent source of security warnings and has discovered dozens of dangerous bugs in popular apps and products.


Location: Montpellier,  France.

HTTPCS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Certified Secure) is a web vulnerability scanner capable of detecting all kinds of vulnerabilities in a web application, analyzing risks, analyzing ISO27002 control impact and proposing countermeasures.


Location: Malaysia (where it’s known as MyTeksi).

GrabTaxi went from soliciting business door-to-door in Kuala Lumpur to raising US$340 million in funding – a quarter of a million of which is from Softbank – and entering six markets across Asia in under three years.


Location: South Africa.

An e-commerce startup that provides cloud-based warehousing and delivery solutions to online shops. It has raised ZAR20 million (US$1.7 million) in investment in order to grow its operations and increase its client base.


Location: Nairobi, Kenya.

Established an innovative system to make life-changing energy solutions affordable to low-income customers. Its first product, a solar-powered home system, will address the energy needs of up to 300,000 low-income households. M-KOPA is a pay-as-you-go sales model, using mobile payments that help low income consumers purchase products easily.

So don’t trip yourself up by buying into the Silicon Valley myth. Startups are the product of innovative brains, initiative and grit, none of which are geo-dependent.


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