City for Dreamers vs. City for Hustlers

I had a conversation with an early founder who’s spent time in Atlanta’s and San Francisco’s start-up ecosystems. He’s trying to decide which will be his home base. I’m a huge advocate for Atlanta, so I was curious to hear his perspective on the two cities. He shared a variety of things, and the main thing he said stuck with me: San Francisco embraces dreamers; Atlanta embraces hustlers.

From his time in San Francisco, he learned it’s a city that respects big, outlandish visions. Even if it sounds crazy, people (investors and other founders) will support it. There’s a belief that the outlandish can become reality, have a big impact on society, and generate massive financial returns. Atlanta, he said, is a city that respects action and execution. Getting stuff done and moving things forward matter most. People prefer execution to big visions.

I’ve never heard anyone make this comparison before, and it got me thinking. I haven’t spent enough time out west to judge San Francisco, but I do know Atlanta well. I’m not sure that I agree with him. I think Atlanta embraces big-picture thinking but is also pragmatic. The pragmatism is rooted in the exits local start-ups have had. As those exits have increased in size, so have beliefs around what’s practical (for better or worse). As more founders have larger exits, I think we’ll continue to see bigger dreams embraced by the city.