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Innovation Chamber: A stack of aces

This week I was discussing the need for Nebraska to rebrand itself with a friend, when we struck up an idea that I would like to float out to the Silicon Prairie News readers. Currently our economic development leaders and minds are focused on recruiting companies to the states within the Silicon Prairie. What if

About the Author: Tom Chapman is a regular guest contributor to Silicon Prairie News. In his series Innovation Chamber, Chapman draws on his professional experiences to lend advice, share observations and provide milestones to the entrepreneurial community in the Silicon Prairie.

Currently with Nebraska Global, a Lincoln, Neb.-based software investment company, Chapman previously held the role of director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Throughout his career, Chapman has worked with hundreds of local (and some non-local) new ventures, many large companies seeking innovation advice and a host of funders looking for deals.

You can find Chapman on Twitter, @tchap623, or contact him at tchapman@nebraskaglobal.com.

Editor’s Note: Eric Dinger of Lincoln, Neb.-based Thought District, a brand and sales strategy company, co-authored the following post.


 

This week I was discussing the need for Nebraska to rebrand itself with a friend, when we struck up an idea that I would like to float out to the Silicon Prairie News readers. Currently our economic development leaders and minds are focused on recruiting companies to the states within the Silicon Prairie. What if they shifted that focus to recruiting (back) Silicon Prairie-grown successes – business people, entrepreneurs and innovators – who have plied their trade in other parts of the world and been successful? [Obviously, I believe that efforts to grow local entrepreneurs are vital and should be continued, but I am positing an alternative strategy for “recruiting” human talent.]

Before I go through the idea, I would simply like to acknowledge that I have had many similar discussions with friends over the last half-decade. What was interesting about this was the ability to really galvanize and empower the crowd to help all of us recruit “the right people.”

First, my friend and I’s idea (mostly my friend’s – Eric Dinger of Thought District) was to model the program off of the U.S. Military’s playing card deck with terrorist leaders. Let’s find the 52 or 54 (depending on whether or not you include Jokers) most important “recruits” for our state. (Above, a sampling from this future deck, this ace of spades features Neb.-native Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter. Graphic courtesy of Chapman.) This exercise in and of itself is probably fairly valuable. Identify those minds, talents and people that are economic development engines by their very being. In some instances, their personal impacts will be highly undervalued by their current regions. Moreover, there is an exponential recruitment effect created by landing some of these people because they, in turn, make it easier for others to move into a comfortable haven that appreciates and nurtures them.

So, here is where the crowdsourcing begins. I am looking for help in generating a list of 100 former Silicon Prairie people that could juice our economy by returning (if you can provide personal information – even better). For example, the Wikipedia page on Evan Williams tells us quite a bit about his personal life – has a wife and young child, is originally from Clarks, Neb., and he also attended University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a little over a year. This is highly useful and could be placed onto the card – or some sort of central repository. Moreover, even if someone fails to make the cards, having the information (and potentially contact information) – makes this immediately usable and useful.

Here’s some other uses for this data. I am consistently asked to find speakers for events in entrepreneurship, innovation, etc. Often we’d like to get someone with local ties, but we (the planning group) very rarely have deep connections with someone so that we can ask – if we even know them to begin with. Second, when you lose brains at a trickle, it is difficult to recognize what that loss amounts to from an economic perspective – particularly because you often lose seeds rather than full-blown trees. This will help us highlight the missing Nebraskans, Iowans, Kansans, etc. Third, it sounds fun and cool and gives us something that we can all contribute skills and efforts towards. Plus, you never know when showing the love is exactly what a superstar (or their spouse) needs to hear.

So Just to Restate the Ask:

Please help us generate the 100 Silicon Prairie Peeps that we should recruit to return. Let’s attempt to put name, current location, part of the Prairie that is affected (Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas) and any other contact information.

Let’s build this list together.

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