Building a tech startup in a small city

Fargo tech startup co-founders Brandon Medenwald and Bill Burgess.

Fargo, North Dakota, tech startup co-founders Brandon Medenwald and Bill Burgess.


Simply Made Apps is a tech start-up based out of Fargo, North Dakota, population 110,000. They reached out to us because although that’s not really a small town, it is definitely rural and remote. Co-founder Brandon Medenwald talked about what it’s like to run a high-tech business in an isolated small city, far from the “usual” startup centers.

What has been a challenge about your location?

Hiring is definitely a challenge. North Dakota has an extremely low unemployment rate, so the few programmers living in the area already have jobs. Remote employees are a possibility, but as a start-up it’s not necessarily a good idea to use valuable resources to fly applicants in for an interview. Maybe once we’re more established we can hire someone just based on a few Skype conversations but right now that is very risky. A bad hire would just set us back too far.

There is very limited access to investors so we are bootstrapping all the way. Although, we’ve heard our fair share of venture capital horror stories, so maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. ;)

Surviving the freezing cold winters. Seriously though, running a start-up is stressful enough without having to worry about shoveling snow, bad road conditions, and dead car batteries.

What is actually easier or better about being in Fargo?

The cost of living is ridiculously low compared to Silicon Valley and other popular areas for tech start-ups. That means we can pay employees less and we can rent office space for not a lot of money.

It’s such a supportive community. It seems like everyone we share our story with wishes us the best and wants us to succeed.

Going back to hiring, a few of the schools in the Fargo/Moorhead area offer various technical and engineering degrees. We just hired an Android intern who’s attending classes at NDSU.

How have you connected with other rural/sorta rural start-ups?

The small business community is pretty strong, but definitely more centered around brick and mortar shops. Within the last couple of years, the tech startup scene has really started to unfold. Fargo just held its second annual Start-up Weekend, there’s a monthly networking event, and probably a couple more things I can’t think of off the top of my head. There’s definitely potential for more tech start-ups if the community continues to foster those kind of events.

Thanks to Brandon from Simply Made Apps for talking with us, and to Michelle Vasicek who helped coordinate our back-and-forth. 

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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