Office Location Key, Even For Online Businesses

Even if your business is virtual, location has to be strategic.

Cedars Online Locates in Vanocuver | BCBusiness
Cedars Online’s Aman Datta locates his cosmetic surgery company in Vancouver for its livability and proximity to talent.

Even if your business is virtual, location has to be strategic.

Location, location, location is the mantra in the real estate industry, but it can also apply to other business models. It’s extremely important for a retail business, for example, where a distance of half a block can be the difference between success and failure. But it can also apply to tech startups, which, if they’re more than a stone’s throw from a clutch of venture capitalists, can face an uphill battle. However, as Cedars Online Ltd. – a company new to Vancouver – is showing, there’s much more to locating strategically than simply following the rest of the pack.

The Problem

After the New York branding agency he was a partner in was sold, Aman Datta focused on a new market: the $14-billion-a-year market for cosmetic surgery. He saw an opportunity to unite a fragmented industry linking millions of doctors with baby boomers intent on hanging on to youth. Cedars Online soon had two popular websites for plastic surgery and related beauty treatments that offer information and access to doctors all over the U.S. But, Datta realized, despite its virtual presence, the company still needed to be based somewhere that made sense in light of his ambitious plans.

The Solution

At one time, picking a location for a business was easy: Find the best high-traffic location you can afford and throw open the doors. Businesses in related industries, such as banking and other financial operations, will often cluster in one location.

But the rise of the web has changed these common strategies for finding a location. Today many companies operate globally, and so must base their choice of physical location on factors such as the availability of talent, livability, culture and connection to specific submarkets.

Datta knew from his market research that California had the highest numbers of customers for beauty products and procedures and typified the U.S. beauty culture. So the logical conclusion was to set up his new company in Los Angeles or San Francisco. But both cities were overcrowded and lacked the kind of talent – technological or otherwise – that he wanted to recruit.

Further, his strategic plan included expanding internationally, especially in Asia, where beauty is very big business, so Datta also needed a base from which to drive that expansion.

Eventually, Datta decided on Vancouver because it met many of his strategic criteria: it is rated one of the top cities in the world for livability; it is loaded with technology talent or has access to top talent nearby; it has few big companies that can obstruct his hunt for talent; and, with its large Asian population, Vancouver is an international city.

Cedars Online moved in last year, and is investing $1 million in redesigning a 10,000-square-foot office in the new Vancouver Convention Centre. It currently operates two clinics in the U.S. and has recruited about 40 staff, posting jobs on LinkedIn and other online vehicles. Senior jobs that can’t be filled in Vancouver are staffed from Seattle or San Francisco.


• Look for consolidation opportunities. Whether you’re going to consolidate an entire industry or only conquer one part of it, ask: What can I do to make industry practice better?

• Choose a location that meets your goals. Let location follow the business strategy, rather than follow what others are doing.

• Identify an accessible pool of talent. Online-based operations require several different kinds of talent, which are not always easy to find in one place.