Mark Flickinger is COO at BIP Capital, one of the most active and successful venture capital firms in the southeastern United States. With a team that specializes in operations and strategic guidance for early-stage start-ups, Mark enjoys focusing on an organization’s post-investment talent acquisition and scaling businesses efficiently.
As a Princeton graduate and former competing member of the U.S. National Rowing Team – our conversation with Mark reflects how he runs his businesses – looking for competitive advantage and opportunities for acceleration.
M.R. Rangaswami: What is behind the exodus from the traditional Innovation Hubs like Silicon Valley and New York City?
Mark Flickinger: A number of factors have made it possible for entrepreneurs starting businesses and the tech workers employed by them to live outside of Silicon Valley and the other traditional Innovation Hubs. For one, successful technology businesses are now being launched from all corners of the country. That wasn’t always happening. Couple that with advancements like cloud computing where programmers can now work collaboratively “in the cloud” from anywhere, and you’re going to see a diffusion of talent.
The pandemic has also rapidly accelerated the use of the work-from-home model. All of those factors are “pulling” talent to opportunities around the country. With the high cost of living and other perceived disadvantages to living in the Innovation Hubs “pushing” as well, the location of the tech talent pool is realigning much faster than expected.
M.R.: What US cities are you seeing a tech accelerate in?
Mark: There are established tech centers that are already fairly well known, such as Atlanta and Austin, Texas. That being said, new centers are rising in other places that have the elements tech businesses require to be successful—including access to talent, both experienced and newly graduated, and a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem. These areas are also providing a lower cost of doing business and a better cost of living than the traditional hubs. A Google search on top tech cities will locate a number of rising innovation centers in places like Denver, Dallas-Ft. Worth, St. Louis, and other areas.
M.R.: Are you seeing a redistribution “where” capital funds are located?
Mark: In the past, startups pretty much had to be located in the traditional hubs where it was easier to raise money. This was because the large funds were based in the hubs. With both capital and startups based in the same place, VC funds did not have to look farther than their backyard for great investments. These days, while there are still many large, established funds located in the traditional hubs, it’s not as important for startups to be based there too in order to get funding.
This is due to the influx of capital in the private market as more investors recognize its value to their portfolio. Established funds are now based all over the country and new funds are being raised close to the rising tech centers, funding businesses locally. With more private capital chasing innovation, there’s less advantage in being based in the traditional hubs than there used to be. My own firm’s The State of StartupsSM in the Southeast report explored this premise, revealing that the increase in capital in the private market is driving higher valuations and larger funding rounds in the Southeast. It’s likely the same trend is occurring in other places around the country.