Updated: Dec 10, 2020
As entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystems emerge all across the globe, it is becoming more apparent that start-ups no longer have to be in Silicon Valley or New York to achieve great levels of success. Entrepreneurs now have a multitude of choices of different ecosystems, each offering their own unique advantages and disadvantages. While there still are few ecosystems that can match the fundraising potential and ability of Silicon Valley, most start-ups do not need the ability to raise tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in a short period of time. Many, if not most, business models thrive on more steady growth, so entrepreneurs should research the varying benefits of emerging start-up ecosystems like accessibility, competition, and location.
Kentucky, especially Lexington and Louisville, offers many benefits that should encourage entrepreneurs to begin their business venture in the region. Known for its bourbon, horse-racing, and college basketball, Kentucky is flush with unique entertainment outside of working hours. Beyond the booze, betting, and basketball, Kentucky is a region of untapped potential with growing support for the entrepreneur and start-up culture. Here are five reasons why you should choose Kentucky’s start-up ecosystem.
1. The People
In Kentucky, the people say “hey, how y’all doin?” as they walk past each other. Most hold doors open for others, and many will go out of their way to lend a helping hand to strangers on the street. There is a common, friendly, helping attitude among Kentucky’s people, including her entrepreneurs and business owners, that brings them together. This common attitude is a two-fold benefit. First, it means that good-intentioned, hard-working entrepreneurs will always be able to find a way to become a part of the community instead of being treated as outsiders. Second, once an entrepreneur is able to embed herself or himself in the Kentucky community, then the people of Kentucky will be there to lend a helping hand throughout all stages of your start-up's journey.
2. Collaborative Environment
Kentucky’s start-up ecosystem is young, developing, and not yet overflowing with competition, which allows Kentucky entrepreneurs and business owners to create a collaborative environment. In an ecosystem with willing-to-help players and sparse competition, there is no entrepreneur, business owner, or investor tied to the region who is more than one or two phone calls away. If you want a sit-down with a leader or expert in your space, you can make that sit-down happen. Entrepreneurs in Kentucky’s ecosystem simply want to see more and more entrepreneurs succeed here and are willing to help those entrepreneurs along the way. While this benefit may diminish as competition within the ecosystem grows, it will never go away because the collaborative environment is more than just a product of sparse competition. It is a direct product of the kind, helpful nature of the people who live here.
3. Centrally Located
On top of the low barriers to entry in the Kentucky entrepreneur ecosystem, Kentucky is within a day’s drive of over 80% of the US population. This benefit has massive logistic upsides for start-ups looking to distribute products or provide in-person services. It means that the shipping and transportation cost of importing material or exporting products will be significantly lower and that there will be more potential delivery options available. Especially important for US Agtech, this logistical blessing allows fresh produce to reach a massive client base while still fresh without having to harvest prior to the produce being ripe.
4. Cheap Cost of Living
Of emerging ecosystems in the United States, Kentucky’s cost of living is among the lowest, even in Louisville, the state’s biggest city. When an entrepreneur is able to find business space, housing, and other living necessities at prices that would be considered dirt-cheap relative to Silicon Valley or New York, the entrepreneur is able to pour more money into, and take more risk with, the start-up. In many cases, there won’t have to be many major lifestyle sacrifices throughout any phases of the start-up. Further, it means that fewer dollars can be spent on employee salaries while still being able to provide those employees with strong standards of living.
5. Gorgeous Nature
It’s already known that Kentucky has an unbelievable amount of opportunities to enjoy bourbon, basketball, and betting on horses, but few people realize how truly gorgeous the state is. With rolling hills and old deciduous forests comes big lakes and picturesque sunsets. In Kentucky, a gorgeous hiking trail or relaxing lake can be reached within a half-hour drive from almost anywhere. And even if you’re not big on the outdoors, Kentucky can still offer you bourbon, basketball, and top tier horse racing in young, up and coming areas. The mental and physical health benefits of being able to temporarily unplug from an entrepreneur’s fast-paced life are undisputed but often sacrificed because it is simply too difficult to get away from many of the large, established start-up ecosystems. That sacrifice simply does not have to be made if you bring your start-up to Kentucky.