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Well, this assumes that the x %ile in smaller markets is interchangeable with the x %ile in the more expensive ones like SF, Seattle, NYC, Boston. But I know lots of people from cities like St. Louis who live in these much bigger tech cities because if you’re in the higher range in comp. for your years of experience, it’s just a much better deal being in the more expensive city. So I would guess that in these smaller cities, you will miss a lot of the top 10-20% developers

The cities I mentioned (St Louis, Minneapolis, Raleigh) and comparable cities like Austin/Columbus etc are not podunk small towns. They are all major metros that are host to big universities and local colleges and as such producing a large amount of talent. I don't disagree that many devs from these cities move on to bigger cities, but I'd wager that a large majority of college grads from universities in these cities stay there and work for local companies (and them staying there is not a reflection on their talent level but more about the ties to the local community).

Even if I concede to your assertion that a vast majority of the top 10-20% of developers from these cities leave for the big tech centers- most startups are not doing the kind of work that requires their tech team to be made up of "rockstar" top 10-20% developers.

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