Why I'm Moving My Business From San Francisco To St. Louis

Jan 24, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The following was written by Jon, my old co-founder

I love San Francisco. I moved here from the UK about 4 years ago to start my last company, DailyBooth. It’s a wonderful city filled with interesting people doing amazing things.  It’s the city I grew up lusting over and when I moved here I wasn’t disappointed.

If you’re doing a startup and planning on raising money there’s probably no better place in the world to do it. However….

If you’re trying to bootstrap, being based in San Francisco is awful.

It’s no secret that rent in San Francisco is starting to get a little crazy. After living here for a while you start to lose context. Let me give you some.

The average price of a 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco is now $2,800 a month. This is for a pretty standard, unexciting, ~700 SQFT space. That’s $33,600 per year. The average yearly income in 2012 was $44,321. I’ve been here for about 4 years. 4 * $33,600 = $134,400.

Enter St Louis.

The average rental price for a 1 bedroom apartment in St Louis is $720. 3.8x cheaper than San Francisco. Moving to St Louis is going to almost quadruple my company’s runway. You can buy a really nice 1 bedroom apartment in downtown St Louis for less than renting in San Francisco for 4 years.

Cheap cities are startup friendly

The leading cause of startup death is running out of money. Moving to a cheap city and doubling (or more!) your company’s runway will more than likely vastly increase your chances of eventual success.

There’s a tech scene here!

Sure, it’s not quite on the same level as San Francisco but it’s something.

  • There’s this thing called Arch Grants which aims to attract entrepreneurs by giving them $50,000 in equity free funding. Marshall‘s last startup won one of these before being acquired. Applications are currently open for the next 20 grants!
  • There are over 75 startups in our building alone.

Something to think about

We’re an internet company. We don’t need to be tied to a specific location. Hiring remote and having a distributed work force is far cheaper than hiring locally and making everyone come into an office.

If you’re based in San Francisco (or any other big, expensive city) and thinking of bootstrapping a company there are other options. I invite you to seriously consider St Louis. You’re even welcome to come and work out of our ($275 per month) office for a few days and we’ll show you around.

You’re not giving up living in a cool city

St. Louis isn’t just ridiculously affordable, there’s also a lot to keep you entertained.

Need/Want HQ is located in the building on the far right

St. Louis is neighborhood-y. We’ll be living and working downtown (pictured), but St. Louis boasts 78 other neighborhoods, each with their own flair.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

Big money is going into the city. All the time. In only the past few years, billions of dollars have gone into renewing some of the City’s most recognizable institutions. The Peabody Opera House, Downtown Central Library, the St. Louis Art Museum  — up next, even the Arch itself — have all gotten updates and restorations in the past couple of years alone.


St. Louis repurposes things well. The exquisite restaurant and cocktail house Olio came out of an old gas station. You can take in your new movie releases on a couch in the Moolah Theater, an old Masonic Temple that also has a bowling alley in its basement . World-class climbing can be found at Climb So iLL, which used to be a hospital power plant building.

Moolah Theater / Climb So ILL
Urban Chestnut

St. Louis has a great culinary scene. After a flourishing of microbreweries like Urban Chestnut, when the city’s original beer entrepreneurs got bought out, food trucks caught on, and then coffee roasters started a scene (including one of @jack’s favorite spots, Sump Coffee).

Sump Coffee
The Contemporary Art Museum

Most attractions are free. From spring to fall, weekends are chock-full of free festivals. Plus, its top-ranked Zoo, Science Center, History Museum, and all of the art museums are free to the public. The attractions that aren’t free — like the world-class Missouri Botanical Garden, the seriously unbeatable City Museum, or even the surprisingly relevant World Chess Hall of Fame — are more than worth the cover charge. And you never have to wait in line.

Missouri Botanical Garden
City Museum, 4 blocks from our office

If you found this post interesting you can follow us on Twitter. We’re @Jon and @Marshal.

Our newsletter

Get my book for free

Learn how to invent & manufacture physical products.
Our newsletter

Learn To Create Physical Products

Combine sections from Ollie's vast component library and create beautiful, detailed pages.
Our newsletter

Choose what I write next

Combine sections from Ollie's vast component library and create beautiful, detailed pages.

Continue reading

My newsletter

I write about the nitty-gritty details of my businesses & investments.

Get my newsletter about making physical products, building businesses, real estate, investing, and more.
No spam!