By Hubert Thieblot, CEO of online game portal Curse Inc.
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Things at Curse Inc. have never been better. As an organization, we have several rapidly growing products, we have just obtained the funding needed to take our company to the next level and we have created a technical infrastructure that will scale with our growth for some time. However, success comes at a price.
As we have grown, the biggest challenge we face is to grow our team to keep up with our company. And while that is a great problem to have, it’s still a pretty big problem. As a result, we looked at the environment surrounding talent and decided we couldn’t just “slug it out” with the very large and very well-funded companies that exist in San Francisco, where our headquarters used to be.
Instead, Curse decided to make its own path. We made the decision to break away from the stereotype of the Silicon Valley and look for a home that made more sense to us. We looked at over 10 different cities in the US, including Huntsville, Alabama. The factors that were most important to us were the following;
1) Talent Pool
2) Work-Life balance
3) Business environment
4) Cost efficiency
First and foremost, the talent pool needed to be there. It doesn’t make sense to move to a location and not be able to find talented potential employees. We needed a location with a strong tech presence but not so much that competition would make securing employees prohibitively expensive or take so long that it slows down our production.
We also wanted to create an environment at Curse that produces happy employees and a sustainable work experience. In order to do this, we need a location that supports the lifestyles of our staff. Our company is younger, active and educated. Our location needed to appeal to and be reflective of this demographic.
Curse wanted to find a permanent home. It was important to us that we find a location that would not only welcome us to the area, but also assist us in our efforts to grow our organization. It isn’t fun to be a fast growing, successful startup and yet be only a drop in the bucket in a larger market. We also didn’t want to follow the herd in search of the trendy place to be from a corporate standpoint. Curse would rather blaze a trail toward an up and coming community and be a part of its evolution from the very beginning.
As with any business, the key isn’t to simply save. We could put a team in another country for that. Rather, we wanted to get the most bang for our buck, allowing Curse to build an infrastructure in a location that would be efficient.
Finally, we wanted a location that had real potential. Here at Curse we dream big. In our mind, we want to be a part of the establishment of the great “Silicon South” here in Alabama. As companies are starting to trend away from the high cost and difficult recruiting options in more established markets, we searched very hard to not only find a place that worked for us, but that would work for other companies similar to ours. If Curse could find a place that met this criteria, it wouldn’t be long before others would follow suit.
For Curse, all roads led back to Huntsville.
We were very impressed by the pool of local talent that exists here, primarily as a result of the aerospace industries and NASA. The level of expertise and education here is very good and we are filling significantly more of our positions locally than we expected to. The social and entertainment options in Huntsville are fantastic and there is a thriving business community that allows our staff to feel comfortable and happy here.
The local and state government have been incredibly helpful with our transition and have made significant resources available to Curse. Moreover, we see our presence here as wanted. There is no more “small fish–big pond” mentality, and we are grateful for that.
‘Huntsville is the perfect location from a cost standpoint. It feels a little bit like Austin, Texas, about 10 years ago, when it started on its way up. Corporate real estate is inexpensive, the cost of talent is reasonable and housing for our staff is incredibly affordable.’ – Curse CEO Hubert Thieblot
As for potential, it remains to be seen what Huntsville can ultimately become but the future looks very bright. I’m confident that we have put ourselves in a place that has all the opportunity in the world to take off and become that tech hub that we are hoping for. For our part, we are talking to other companies and the venture capital community in our space and telling our story of Huntsville.
Often, we will bring teams down to have a look at what we are doing and to enjoy the nightlife, activities and environment that Huntsville has to offer. We are pleased, but never surprised, to hear the positive responses to the experience.
Huntsville was the right solution for Curse. We are grateful for all of the support we have received from the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Huntsville, the City of Huntsville and the Commerce Department at the State of Alabama. They have truly helped us to create an environment in which Curse can thrive.