October 15, 2012
Amanda Schnieders, Kauffman Foundation
'Thinc Iowa' Promotes Startup Growth in Midwest Region
In the morning light of Oct. 10, words such as “burn rate” and “venture capital” spilled out over coffee and donuts. Web developers and hackers coded during breaks in morning sessions and speakers. The dress code was jeans as entrepreneurs swapped business cards in every direction possible, picking up new friends and problem-solving contacts. This would sound like your typical Silicon Valley event, if it weren’t set smack dab in the middle of Iowa.
Started in 2011 and created by Silicon Prairie News, Thinc Iowa, Oct. 10-12, rolled into its second year in Des Moines with a rambunctious crowd and enthusiastic speakers. From first time founders to serial entrepreneurs, the speakers reiterated a theme of focus whether it was on finding the right people to work with, or knowing when it was time to let go of an idea, product or marketing campaign. Conference attendees came from all over, representing Silicon Valley, New York, Kansas City, Omaha, Iowa and beyond.
Despite differing home fronts, there was a general consensus in the room: there was something cool going on in the Midwest. The majority of people who keep up with entrepreneurs and startups will tell you that a lot comes out of Silicon Valley and its techie atmosphere, but Thinc Iowa is looking to throw a new contender into the right, and that region is called Silicon Prairie. This includes places in the Midwest such as Kansas City, Des Moines and Omaha. These areas are making noise in the entrepreneurial world as startups are building a collaborative network and community among the entrepreneur community.
Whether it’s Silicon Valley or Silicon Prairie, entrepreneurial activities need to be happening all over the U.S. There should be encouragement to create an entrepreneurial community in every corner of the states, so that our country holds onto something that has made us a leader since our founding—innovation. Americans created Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, programs used all over the world, and all of these people were entrepreneurs. They saw something missing in a market, and sought to fix it.
This is exactly what Brad Feld, conference speaker and leader of the Foundry Group in Boulder, Colo., talked about at Thinc Iowa. He explained his “Boulder Thesis” and topic of his new book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, explaining how each city in America essentially started as a startup idea, and therefore, already has everything it needs to be entrepreneurial. Feld said that entrepreneurs can create and foster a startup community with a collaborative network that supports these entities and initiates innovation.
With Google Fiber starting construction in Hanover Heights in the next couple of weeks, Kansas City is entering into a prime opportunity to foster a startup community with an advantage over every other city in the nation, because of this technology we will be receiving. People will flock to this gigabit speed from all over, and they will be looking for an entrepreneurial community to lean on for support and help getting started with whatever world-changing idea might be around the corner.
This is the time for the Kansas City community to stand in support of the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that truly make Kansas City great. With collaborative entrepreneurs leading the way, Kansas City can affirm what Iowa got people thinking: something is happening in the Midwest.