Rural entrepreneurship

On Saturday, I’ll be speaking in Kanab about technology enabling rural entrepreneurship.

I have spoken at a few rural business conferences in Utah in the past. Usually I talk about how internet marketing (Google AdWords, affiliate marketing) and social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook) can help rural businesses grow. But this time I’m hoping to address the opportunities rural entrepreneurs have to use technology to build companies and create jobs.

Rural Success Stories

I’ve been scouring my personal knowledgebase and a database 4,500 company histories for examples of rural startup companies that made it big. I’m finding a few, such asĀ Backcountry.com (Heber City, Utah) and MyYearbook (New Hope, PA). But I’m not finding very many.

I remember when John Bresee, co-founder of Backcountry.com told me that his company had grown to about 65 employees and had become one of the largest private employers in Heber City. Later they moved to Park City. Now they have 625 employees and revenues of more than $250 million.

Can you imagine how a single company like this could transform a rural community’s economy?

Wal-Mart may be the best historic example of a rural startup that changed a community. But it may not be all that relevant to today’s modern technology entrepreneur. Still, it’s interesting. Bentonville, AK grew from 19,000 population to 35,000 in the past 10 years. I have heard that many product companies who want to sell through Wal-Mart have opened offices in Bentonville or located employees there. Makes a lot of sense. Facetime with Wal-Mart buyers could make all the difference. (I just found that I’m connected on LinkedIn to 151 Wal-Mart buyers, so maybe we don’t all have to move to Bentonville.)

But I need help finding more examples of rural entrepreneurs building high-tech companies.

Do you know of any? Think about software, app development, manufacturing, alternative energy, or any web-based business. Please let me know if you can think of any good examples.

I’ll be looking through the Internet Retailer Top 500 Directory of e-commerce companies, and I expect to find some rural examples there. But I could use help from anyone out there.

Thanks to a suggestion from Gregg Blanchard, Les Prall from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development just gave me a half dozen rural Utah technology companies to look into, and I was excited to learn about them. (Thanks, Les!)

What rural high-tech startups have you heard of?