Why I Moved to Detroit from Silicon Valley (And You Should Too)

By Kristin Hope | PIXO Group | 3/15/2017

When I packed up and left the west coast one year ago to move to Detroit, a lot of people didn’t get why I was leaving. I had a decent, stable job at a non-profit with good benefits. What was there to complain about?

But I felt like my career was floundering. I wanted to make an impact, but everything I tried to get off the ground was met with indifference. I saw myself becoming just another disenfranchised Millennial, with too much student loan debt to take a risk. But I knew I could work hard enough to make something happen. I wanted to be somewhere where it was the hustle - not the pedigree - that mattered.

So I started to seek out other areas of this vast country. I was in the middle of plotting moves to Minneapolis or Boston when I came across something strange online: Metro Detroit has as many tech jobs as Silicon Valley. Prior to that, my only knowledge of the area came from Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy, which, as I now know, does not represent all of the abundance and vibrancy this area offers.

I started applying for jobs and landed at PIXO Group in their marketing department. Two weeks after I had the offer, I packed up everything in my car and drove East. And I fell in love. PIXO was small. It was young. There was so much energy. There was so much work to do. And I was finally in a position where I could do anything.

A year later, the honeymoon continues. I’m more convinced than ever that not only was this the right move for me, it could be the right move for a lot of people who are low on funds but big on dreams. Here’s why:

It’s Affordable

This is the obvious one. My friends back home nearly faint when they hear my rent is one-fifth of theirs. And even with their jobs at prestigious global tech companies, they're still not making the $120,000 a year needed to live comfortably in San Francisco - just to share a house with 40 other people.

It's Accessible

If there’s a company you have your eye on, it’s not very difficult to meet the founders or C-suites at a local event. There’s so much going on across the state, and more often than not, executives are there and eager to chat. Over the last year, I personally attended everything from TechWeek and the record-breaking Startup Week, to hackathons and TEDxDetroit, to many fantastic events at Grand Circus and Bamboo and Automation Alley, to technology events at universities and community colleges and high schools, and even showed off our virtual reality at a dedicated tech space at Mo Pop - it’s super easy to make friends here.

It’s Inclusive

Women founding startups is on the decline in Silicon Valley, but women in tech in Metro Detroit are better represented and paid more than those in the Valley. While the 11 largest tech companies average 30% female employees, in Detroit, it’s 44.5%. And with events like Self.Conference, and organizations like the New Economy Initiative and TechTown, this area is receiving national attention for their dedication to inclusive economic development. It’s clear the opportunities are in Metro Detroit for women and people of color.

Its Government

First of all, we have Jill Ford. That’s pretty major. Another Valley transplant, the appointment of Ford demonstrates the City’s commitment to fostering tech. And I love working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office and Oakland County’s Tech248. Michigan was the first state to pass comprehensive legislation supporting autonomous vehicles. (Now, what about a Tesla dealership?)

Its Past and Future (and Grit!)

Detroit is a beautiful city. I mean, beautiful. The architecture, the history, the art! And I see the aesthetic beauty of the surroundings reflected in the people. While there is a lot of cliché talk in tech about “making the world a better place,” I think that ethos is genuine here. Detroit, and Michigan, are not without problems. But we have more opportunities here and more passion to fix things that matter, and I firmly believe we can lead the rest of the country by example. 

Kristin Hope is a content creator. For many years, she worked for a daily newspaper and edited a travel guide to Silicon Valley before graduating from San Francisco State University in 2009. She trudged through the Great Recession in a food truck by day, and edited software for major corporations at night. Currently, she is a copywriter and mastering the mercurial world of digital marketing at PIXO Group and ONU, both headquartered in Royal Oak. Visit her at

Categories: Business Growth (60)
Talent and Training (30)

Craig Johnson
Alan Stamm - good schools? Recent test scores have indicated that Michigan schools are near the bottom of the barrel!
3/28/2017 8:21:53 AM

Alan Stamm
More Detroit love: The March 27 comment below is from r/Detroit (Reddit forum), where a link to this is posted

It's from a Berkley resident posting as "Stratiform:"

"I may also be guilty of pretending to have moved to 'Detroit' while actually moving to Royal Oak, and now Berkley, but I'm also a Millennial ('86) who left behind a decent job in a semi-desirable metro to pursue life in Detroit.

"I find much of what the author says in the article to be accurate. I'm happier here. I have a young family, and they're happier here too.

"It's easy to get caught up in everything that's wrong with Detroit, but in doing so I think we forget the fact that regular people can buy nice houses in good school districts, people are laid back and take time to enjoy life or talk to strangers, you can go pick apples off trees or buy things grown/made locally, you can actually afford to visit the museums and the sporting events, the cities have character and charm -- they aren't just endless tracts of stucco and decorative plants.

"A year later, and the honeymoon continues for me as well."
3/27/2017 3:25:03 PM

I moved to Detroit for work. Easily one of the worst mistakes I've ever made. There are many cities in this country that are both affordable and nicer (and more fun) than Detroit.

"Detroit is a beautiful city..." if you can ignore rampant poverty and huge swaths of urban decay.
3/27/2017 8:11:43 AM

As someone who has moved away to Chicago and regrets it everyday, I appreciate this article and I makes me miss home.

Btw, you should fix the URL, I can't share this because both Twitter and Facebook can't handle the parenthesis in it.
3/25/2017 9:41:42 AM

Kristin Hope
Thanks everyone! This is that Detroit love I'm talkin' about :-)
3/17/2017 9:19:15 AM

Gabriel Currie
We are moving our little guitar company Echopark Guitars from Los Angeles to Old Redford. The only place left to have a future! ! Our new home is just a dream come true and the rich history of this city and comunity are wonderful change for myself and my wife and child...
3/16/2017 4:42:13 PM

Vera Devera
We also moved from Silicon Valley to Detroit in 2015. And my fiance worked at PIXO as well -- not sure you crossed paths though. :)
3/16/2017 1:39:45 PM

Laura Snyder
Kristin we are glad to have you! Spread the word. I am a third generation family business owner in Detroit and I can see the greatness Detroit's future holds! I admire you for adapting to our climate and hope others of like mind will follow.
3/16/2017 7:19:33 AM

James Stapleton
Kristin, as a fellow Silicon Valley transplant, it's great to have you here! I arrived in November 2014 as a lifelong Silicon Valley resident (born in SJ, Santa Clara grad), but came here for all the reasons you cite. I love it in Detroit and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
3/15/2017 11:06:59 AM

Julie Van Ameyde
We are so happy to have you here Kristin!
3/15/2017 10:46:36 AM

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