December 8, 2018 | Diversity & Access

An overlooked and untapped source of talent is about to get a boost

Greg Sands

Written by

Greg Sands

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The Jefferson Odd Fellows Lodge will be remodeled into a new office that will employ 25 to 35 full time workers.

While most of us live in a highly connected world, twenty-three percent of American households do not have a high-speed Internet connection. Moreover, six in ten people living in rural areas feel their values don’t align with those living in cities. If we all think the world looks like Silicon Valley, we should think again.

And while more than half of all farms do not make a profit, farming communities have a slightly higher median household income than the US as a whole. In other words, while farming may be a tough business, those doing it have no shortage of talent, ingenuity, and capacity for hard work.

Which means rural areas could represent one of the most untapped talent pools out there. Not only is there huge potential for skilled people, but pulling from these different communities helps diversify our thinking to create and build more innovative companies. Companies need to get out of the habit of believing that ‘Tier 1’ markets like San Francisco and New York are the only place to find talent; competition aside, the cost for equivalent productivity and talent can be significantly different.

That’s why we’re excited to announce our partnership with R3: Revive.Rebuild.Restore, which is bringing epicenters of collaboration, creativity and tech to rural communities across the nation by establishing “Forges,” or centers of technology in small towns and cities across the country. Today, R3 launches their first Forge in Jefferson, Iowa, whose population is now lower than it was during WWII.

R3 recognizes that young people in rural areas today are eager to build careers with growth potential, but don’t have access to those opportunities in their communities. Cities, by contrast, are growing, with an average population increase of three percent, year over year. Even if young professionals like where they live, they’re forced to move elsewhere to have fulfilling careers. R3 is seeking to reverse this trend by establishing “Forges,” in rural areas instead of the more obvious major cities.

Many companies in Silicon Valley, including many of Costanoa’s portfolio companies like Quizlet and Kenna Security, are starting to turn to these areas to start satellite offices, but don’t know where to start. Which city? Who will run the office? How big of a space? The need for a repeatable expansion framework for growing companies is clear. That is why we are also thrilled to partner with Founder Madhu Chamarty (M-cubed.) as he builds BeyondHQ, an “expansion ops” solution that enables a turnkey approach to help fast-growing companies build distributed teams in locations across the country, outside of expensive Tier 1 markets.

Together — R3, BeyondHQ, Costanoa and other great partners, including U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna; and fellow venture capital firm, Foundry Group — we’re committed to making a concrete contribution to bring career and education opportunities from places like Silicon Valley and New York to rural communities like Jefferson.

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Supporting technology talent centers in rural areas is not merely a good thing to do, it’s a strategic decision to find great people and new ideas — and perhaps even make a small effort to bring a country that sometimes seems too divided back together again. That’s why we’re committed to this effort and invite anyone with similar interests to take part as well.