SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento region traces its history to the gold rush, when so many came from afar with a dream of striking it rich.
Now the area wants to attract another type of fortune seeker: startups. Placer County Supervisor and entrepreneur Kirk Uhler is one of those leading an effort to make an area known for politics, agriculture and a perennially mediocre basketball team as a tech hub.
He outlined the collaborative strategy last month at the Interface Conference, with examples of how a coordinated effort between various government agencies has lured in some who want to ditch the traffic, high costs, and congestion of the San Francisco Bay Area. From prototype development to seed funding to IP protection and market development, there are significant resources for start-ups in Sacramento, he maintained.
Interface is a conference series for IT professionals focusing on the latest developments in information security, IT infrastructure and communications. The event continues today in Portland, Ore.
In addition to his role as a county supervisor, Uhler is past CEO of the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA), and was a founding employee for CarsDirect.com and Solar Power, Inc. During his talk, he outlined the pitch to startups and other companies who might be feeling the pinch of the Bay Area, and the need to build more home-grown businesses in the region.
“We need indigenous business, ones who can recognize what the growth opportunities are,” he said. “These are part of our continual outreach. We have emissaries from the Sacramento region who are meeting with VCs [venture capitalists], accelerators, who can explain Sacramento’s value proposition.”
The region has significantly lower house prices, but has a well-regarded downtown and easy access to the Lake Tahoe and Sierra Nevada mountain range.
“You’re already coming up here every weekend to get away. So why not just make the move permanent?” he said.
Another benefit is being so close to the seat of California’s power. A report from Rich Forman in the Google-sponsored Startup Grind said the high number of college graduates and the access to the state government can be essential for a business. Such a location can, “give you an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with state legislators and lobbyists that can help your efforts.”
Uhler agreed with that sentiment, as he urged entrepreneurs to take into account how their plans to disrupt an industry might impact their relationship with government.
He cited the trouble that Lyft and Uber have had with city, state, and some national governments who have objected to the loss in revenues brought on by the falling taxi industry.
“You can disrupt anything you want with an industry, right up until you disrupt revenue streams for government,” he said. “We get to enforce laws at the barrel of a gun. You better be on the side of the taxman.”
If that’s the case, then Sacramento could be a great place to be. But even with the high traffic and crazy rent, the Bay Area is still where a lot of the mindshare is on the West Coast.