Yesterday afternoon, local entrepreneur and startup enthusiast Christian Renaud (left, photo from christianrenaud.com) gathered a group of 20 or so people in the back half of Java Joes coffee house in downtown Des Moines. The focus of the gathering, which I attended, was to explore the need as well as judge the interest level of creating a startup incubator in Des Moines.
Today, in a post on his blog, ChristianRenaud.com, he officially announced that he’s moving forward with the idea, which he’s calling Startup City Des Moines, for several a very personal reasons. “I watch new entrepreneurs struggle with the central Iowa ecosystem and try to get the things they want to create defined, built, and frequently, funded,” Renaud wrote. “This resonates deeply to me in knowing that my daughters would have the same problem were they ten or fifteen years older today.”
In his post, “New Adventures,” he describes the goals for Startup City:
[W]e’re going to build a ‘Startup City’. An incubator. A place where the new companies have the resources they need to get the best possible start. Fundamentally, an incubator is people, resources, space, and other startups to learn ‘over the wall’ from. No more reinventing the wheel. No more wandering from office to office locally gathering pieces of a puzzle.
I’ve been fortunate enough to run into considerable support for the idea, and last night had the first of many meetups with interested (and skeptical) parties that had even more ideas on how to improve the incubator. I’ve built a temporary home for it on the web at Startup City Des Moines, and am speaking with a number of local developers on finding a physical space to host the resources that have already stepped forward to kick it off. In the meanwhile, we’ll keep the conversation and momentum going with 1:1s and meetups with key groups of people. #SCDSM
Additionally, Christian announced the first tenant of the incubator would be his own startup, Athena, which is an “educational massively multi-player online game (MMOG).”
Christian is a Des Moines-area native who worked for many years at Cisco and various other technology companies in California before returning to Iowa. He most recently led Palisade Systems, a company in Des Moines who specializes in data loss prevention technology, where he hired me last summer in a business development capacity. I first interviewed Christian about Palisade and Des Moines’ entrepreneurial ecosystem last February prior to joining the company. See: “Christian Renaud of Palisade Systems talks technology, raising capital” and “Christian Renaud talks about the needs of a startup community.”