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We’ve been hinting about Thinc Iowa for over three months now and I’m excited that our team has finally given me the go-ahead to spill the beans about what we’ve been working on.
On October 20-21, we’re bringing an important national conversation to Des Moines. Over that day and a half, we’ll be gathering some of our country’s greatest minds in The Temple for Performing Arts to talk about the common ground between corporations and startups.
Let me back up a bit. In the nearly two years since I returned to Des Moines, I’ve had the great opportunity to meet with and write about hundreds of entrepreneurs and their startups. I’ve met with community leaders, service providers, advisors and others throughout the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and around the Silicon Prairie. In these discussions, I noticed one thing that I didn’t expect kept coming up: a divide between “big corporate” and the “startup community.” Often times, the two communities either weren’t aware of each other or just didn’t see the need to overlap.
Take for instance financial startups in Des Moines like Dwolla and SmartyPig. They were two of my earliest interviews and I asked them both how the local established financial community responded to their innovations. Their answers – at the time – mirrored each other, “we didn’t think to ask.” Obviously, there were gains to be made by having those relationships, as Dwolla founder Ben Milne told me months later after he had brought Suku Radia onto his board. Radia, the CEO of Banker’s Trust, suggested a different way for Dwolla to partner with financial entities that reduced the capital they needed to go nationwide from $7 million to $1 million.
Last October, we decided it was time to do something about it and, teaming up with the like-minded folks at Performance Marketing, started planning what would become Thinc Iowa.
Thinc Iowa will be a time for established corporations to learn from startups about what it takes to be nimble and innovative. Those same startups will learn from the corporations about what it takes to be successful over the long term. We’ll all learn about how the two communities can work together to better the ecosystem as a whole. We want the end result to be more conversations like those between Milne and Radia.
The event will be centered around eight or so speakers from both sides of the conversation. You’ll hear directly from the people making it happen in the hottest startups and also from the leaders of the largest and most notable corporations in the country today. Each will have a unique story and present a different angle on this “common ground” and how it has made their business thrive.
(Photo: Thinc Iowa will feature speakers with a message pertinent for both startups and established corporations, something Jason Fried of 37signals delivered two years in a row at Big Omaha. Photo by Malone & Company.)
And, it’s happening right here in Des Moines. We expect this event to draw from across the state of Iowa, around the Silicon Prairie and from both coasts. I’m excited to show off our community to a group of people who have likely never been here and may not have considered a trip otherwise.
I want you to be involved.
We don’t have all the logistics worked out, yet, but we’re right in the thick of putting everything together. Tickets won’t go on sale for several weeks and we don’t even have the website finished. We’re still working on venues and booking some of the speakers.
Here’s what you can do now.
First, spread the word. Tell your friends at Nationwide, Principal, Wells Fargo, Hy-Vee and the other large corporations that make their home in Des Moines. Do the same for the folks at Rockwell-Collins, ACT, and John Deere in Eastern Iowa and all around the Silicon Prairie. Tweet it to the folks at places like Proxibid, Zaarly, and Dwolla and don’t forget your contacts all across the board in NYC, Boulder, Washington, DC and Silicon Valley, too. Have them all sign up to receive more information at thinciowa.com.
Second, get involved. We’re actively recruiting sponsors and have several great ones on board already. Show your commitment to furthering the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and to having this important national conversation take place here in Iowa by joining in.
Thinc Iowa is going to be something amazing and I’m so excited for you to join us.