What are the big differences between the mid-west and San Francisco for an entrepreneur? DotLoop founder and CEO, Austin Allison explains the challenges of founding a company in Cincinnati and why he’s making the move out west.


Baby, if you ever wondered, wondered if your company should make the move to Silicon Valley, then check out this video with DotLoop founder and CEO, Austin Allison.

DotLoop, a startup that wants to simplify all of the complicated paperwork associated with large transactions like buying a house, was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio and recently opened up an office in San Francisco. For startups outside of the Valley, Allison offers insight as to why he is making the move. According to him:

  • Conservative midwestern towns don’t foster the risk-taking nature of entrepreneurs
  • Cincinnati has great marketing talent, but there is more technical talent out west
  • Employees in Cincinnati don’t quite understand the mindset of working at an early stage startup environment

Allison isn’t entirely down on his (former) hometown. Cincinnati does have much cheaper real estate (less than $10 per square foot), and because DotLoop is a hot company in Cincinnati, there is a loyalty there that can’t be matched in the Valley, where hot, new companies sprout up every day. But we’d love to hear from other entrepreneurs in the midwest. What do you think of Allison’s assessment and reasons for his move? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  1. Cincinnati Person Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    Good luck hiring those mythical seasoned 90-hours-a-week silicon valley ninja programmers at Cincinnati intern prices. Seriously, the talent is in Cincinnati but you have to pay for it just like anywhere.

    1. As an engineer who started in Columbus and later moved to San Francisco by way of Sarasota, Florida: I have to respectfully disagree. Expertise with fantastic, more bleeding-edge tools (think Cassandra, Mongo, Redis, Scribe, etc) is dense here among engineers in a way I never experienced elsewhere. The pay is obviously much higher here, and so is the cost of living. Though outside of the earliest pre-series-a startups, there’s not many “90 hour workweeks.”

  2. This article on Cincinnati.com kind of paints a different picture. http://enterchange.cincinnati.com/2012/05/22/dotloop-closes-7-million-funding/

    1. Chris Albrecht Wednesday, May 30, 2012

      That’s awesome. Know your audience! But he’s moving out here, that has to say something.

  3. Wherever he goes, Austin has a lot to learn about being a CEO. You should never waste valuable media coverage to go negative on something–especially an entire city. Note how DotLoop finally gets some top-notch press coverage here, but the story has zero to do with his business!

    1. I wouldn’t say “finally” gets “top-notch press coverage.” Would two live national TV spots on the Fox Business Channel in six months count? ~ http://youtu.be/p2kxqZldOvU

    2. Rocks and Glass Houses Friday, June 1, 2012

      Which is way different than trolling comment threads with sour grapes snark about a company that CincyTech clearly fumbled a deal with. You had a point about maximizing the value of national press coverage, but couldn’t resist obsuring it with a condescending personal jab. Well played, sir.

  4. Scott Felblinger Thursday, May 31, 2012

    I hate to see such a negative light being cast on the technology, innovation and entrepreneur scene here in Cincinnati. There are plenty of smart technologists in this region, and as mentioned by Cincinnati Person, you just have to pay for them AND create a culture that makes them want to work there. If you want technology employees to work “start-up hours”, you’d better be offering them compensation and benefits that make it worth their while. There is a great demand for smart, local development talent in Cincinnati, so technologists are going to choose an 8 – 5 company every-time over sweat-shop mentality unless it’s really worth their while and they’re being compensated for the additional risk. For the record, Cincinnati programmers are using the exact same “cutting edge” technologies as their San Fran counterparts… choice of programming LANGUAGE rarely has anything to do with creating a “cutting edge” PRODUCT.

  5. Dear viewers and followers. I want highlight that things don’t always come off as they are intended in the media. Throughout the rest of the interview (which didn’t make the cut through editing), I discussed the strengths of Cincinnati and how our intent at DotLoop was not to just establish a presence in the Bay Area, but to blend the best of both cultures to build a more diverse/well-rounded team and ultimately… a better business. Cincinnati is a great place to build a business and it will remain the HQ for DotLoop; and as the video highlights, San Francisco also has a lot to offer which is why we are aggressively pursuing it as the first expansion location for DotLoop. Both Cincinnati and San Francisco have things that the other doesn’t… neither approach is right or wrong and neither location is “better” than the other. I realize that this interview (once edited) did not effectively convey this message and I am sorry for that, as it was not my intent. Thank you for understanding that no one is perfect, and I look forward to building a great business with our teams in both San Francisco and Cincinnati during the many months and years ahead! Austin Allison

    1. Chris Albrecht Thursday, May 31, 2012

      Great comments, everyone. The passion people are expressing is amazing. Makes me want to come to your city to meet other founders.

      To clarify,

      This article and video was not written to bash Cincinnati. The question of whether or not you need to be in Silicon Valley to build a successful tech startup is a question that arises often.

      I wanted to talk with Allison because he was an entrepreneur building a company in a city not typically associated with tech startups. Allison was also of interest because he was moving from Cincinnati to Silicon Valley. Did this reinforce the notion that you have to be in SF to scale a tech business?

      This line of questioning was thoroughly explained before the camera started rolling. “See Founders Run” is a video series about entrepreneurs and how they run their businesses. I wanted to know what was driving this decision for him.

      The bulk of edits made were to remove my off-camera voice from the video.

      1. Chris: If no one has extended you an invitation yet, consider this a standing (friendly!) invite for GigaOM to visit Cincinnati. You’ll find we’re all in agreement that Cincinnati is not Silicon Valley. No one here would make that argument.

        So why visit? There’s a definite entrepreneurial spirit here that will be of interest to GigaOm readers.

        Dot Loop is a tech startup focused on real estate transactions. But there’s a larger landscape of consumer marketing focused startups in town, and a funding environment to support them, that you need to check out.

        I’m a mentor with The Brandery – a seed stage consumer marketing venture accelerator that’s ranked as one of the top 10 programs in the nation. It’s also part of TechStars global network and The NYTimes just singled out this local community as well.

        The Brandery, along with programs including CincyTech, Cincinnati Innovates, Bad Girl Ventures, UpTech and even a university-driven program called Inkubator, are all part of Cincinnati’s local startup community.

        Do we face challenges Silicon Valley doesn’t? Yes and SV faces challenges you won’t find in CVG as well.

        Bottom line is there’s more of a story here that Dot Loop couldn’t speak to. And it’s why your story is creating a healthy level of discussion.

        So we’d love to walk GigaOm through it. Come see why the phrase “flyover country” is one of the most misleading, oversimplified and misinformed in the entire English language.

    2. Cincy Startups Thursday, May 31, 2012

      Austin, you have a ton to learn. Moving from Cincinnati to SF is not your problem. Culture, drive and leadership starts at the top. Grab a mirror.

  6. Cincinnati Native Thursday, May 31, 2012

    I’d love to see the unedited interview, just to see everything in its entirety. Can you post it, Chris?

    1. Chris Albrecht Thursday, May 31, 2012

      Cincinnati Native,

      I can’t do that. You’ll need to trust that I have no skin in the Cincinnati vs. Silicon Valley game. I do not get a kickback from the Bay Area to attract businesses here.

      Additionally, if you look back at the comments from just about any story I’ve written in the past five years, you’ll find few complaints from subjects.

      My integrity is the most important thing to me, and I would not do anything to damage that.

  7. This piece at first glance makes it seem like DotLoop is moving its HQ to SF.

    For Cincinnatians, seeing this is disappointing because a lot of people are working hard to make the city a great place for startups.

    Having spent a couple years in CA near the Valley, I liked a lot of things, but found a general perception that nothing worthwhile comes out of the Midwest (“You’re from Ohio…are you a farmer?)

    1. CincinnatiNative Thursday, May 31, 2012

      It’s also sad to the taxpayers of Cincinnati, who gave DotLoop a liberal tax advantage to move into Downtown Cincinnati from Blue Ash.

      (The rumor is that Austin was tired of driving from Downtown to Blue Ash every morning, so he moved the offices to save commuting time…for himself)

  8. 40-Hr Week Java Dev Thursday, May 31, 2012

    Cincinnati is rich with talented technologists who are dedicated and have what it takes to build bleeding edge software. It doesn’t take any effort to find seasoned talent, but like with everything else, talented people cost money.

    Austin, having no tech background, is basing his statements on one endeavor with a team of entry level developers.

    Best of luck trying to find talented folks that will work for nothing in a city where demand is at an all time high.

  9. You Know Who Thursday, May 31, 2012

    Matt Vorst, DotLoop’s Cincinnati CTO extraordinnaire, actually invented everything DotLoop sells, right here in Cincinnati. Austin is the butt of many jokes in the Cincinnati entrepreneur network, his superiority complex and sense of entitlement are hilarious to see in action. He’s very fortunate to have been born on third base. He still thinks he hit a home run of course, but what can you expect? Way to crap all over the people who helped you build your company, Austin.

  10. Cincy Entrepreneur Thursday, May 31, 2012

    Dot-who? Cincinnati is an amazing place to start, own, and grow a business. You don’t need to be in Silicon Valley – the valley floor is filled with companies that thought high priced, valley location would solve their growth problems. Full interview or not – 8-12 months would be a great follow up stort on how he things about it now.


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