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Guest Post: Starting a business in Iowa … isn’t hard

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Ben Milne, co-founder and CEO of Dwolla, a Des Moines-based peer-to-peer payment system. Milne, who is building his second startup in Central Iowa, is a vocal advocate of the “Silicon Prairie” as a place to build companies.

Milne can be found on Twitter, @bpmilne, or reached at ben@dwolla.org.

(Photo courtesy of Milne. Photo by Anna Jones | Art of Photography.)


I read this and I was really inspired. My inspiration felt something like wanting to rip my shirt off and scream, “What the hell?!”… But I’m not strong enough to rip my shirt off and I really like American Apparel T’s … of which, I just happen to be wearing.

I wasn’t inspired by the bitter comments or by the perceived lack of support for entrepreneurs by the local government, but the message the article was sending. It’s not hard to start a business in Iowa or anywhere else. A matter of fact, it’s a fallacy that starting a company is hard at all.

It just takes some balls.

I don’t want anyone to lose any faith thinking, “If I wait then it might get easier.”

I’ve done it here, and I’m the dumbest guy in the room. If I can, you can too. Just like any other state, we have:

  • LegalZoom
  • Really freaking smart people
  • A vocal community who provides valuable feedback
  • The internet
  • People who tell the truth if your product sucks
  • People who will pay for a good product if it doesn’t suck

These sound like advantages to me, not disadvantages. Throw in an exceptionally hard-working community with affordable knowledge, and you’ve got a big win.

I write all this not to impress you, but to impress upon you that if you have a passion to start something it’s not as hard as some people will lead you to believe. Don’t let that article make you wait, just go do it.

It’s having the gumption to go do, rather than make excuses, which sets entrepreneurs apart.

I don’t care what state you’re in, if you’re waiting for a handout, someone to approach you, the “right environment,” or just waiting in general… You either shouldn’t be an entrepreneur or you haven’t found the passion, yet.

Want to start a great business? Here are a few tidbits (and you can quote me on them).

  • Great ideas aren’t about geography or tax abatements. Great companies are about hard-working people, brilliant minds, and the naivety to truly believe you can change something.
  • If I fall on my face, it wasn’t because Iowa made it so darn hard to succeed. In fact, I think Iowa is one of the big reasons I’ve gotten as far as I have with my recent project.
  • I’m glad I started it here.
  • I’m glad I’ve stayed here.
  • If I start another company tomorrow, I’ll probably do it in Iowa, and you should too.


Lynn did a stellar job of curating some of the great things going on in Des Moines making it easier to get moving. I just fear that a few others may have looked at the context wrong, like I did.

Startup City, IDED, and specifically the people inside the eco-system driving it forward: Christian Renaud, Tej Dhawan, Geoff Wood, and Mike Colwell are doing great work in DSM.

To the state of Iowa,

I think you’re doing a darn fine job. Keep it up. Having the opportunity to give feedback to my local government about how they can help me is something that is totally new to me. I feel fortunate that I have that here.


Go build something!!!

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