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Silicon Prairie: The makings of a new startup scene – Part 1

In an article featured on Forbes.com on Monday, Anneke Jong of The Daily Muse spotlights seven regions around the country that are burgeoning hubs for startup activity, including our very own Silicon Prairie. Each region has a name that plays off of the "Silicon" in Silicon Valley, which Jong describes as "a metonym for the

Screenshots from forbes.com.

In an article featured on Forbes.com on Monday, Anneke Jong of The Daily Muse spotlights seven regions around the country that are burgeoning hubs for startup activity, including our very own Silicon Prairie. Each region has a name that plays off of the “Silicon” in Silicon Valley, which Jong describes as “a metonym for the entrepreneurial spirit that’s fueled (Silicon Valley’s) growth for decades,” combined with something that’s locally distinct.

Jong’s post is well done, and it’s one of the best we’ve seen that conveys the meaning and intentions behind the work that we do here at Silicon Prairie News.

The Next Silicon Valley?

Speaking of the work we do at Silicon Prairie News, it’s important to note that our goal has never been to create the next Silicon Valley. It’s a misperception that has been attributed to our region mainly because the national media, other than Jong, is looking to anoint such a place. The name we’re championing for our region is intentionally similar, and I imagine that every economic development group in the region gets to mark the “next Silicon Valley” checkbox when the claim is made.

You know where the “next Silicon Valley” is? No? Neither do I. But reporters in East London think it might be East London. Reporters in Australia think the same of their home turf. Facebook’s growth in New York has reporters there thinking it’s The Big Apple. Even Russia puts a claim on the title. And those are just the first few Google News search results that came up on a recent Tuesday night.

Screenshot from news.google.com

What we’re working towards here in the Silicon Prairie is not the “next” but rather something that is different. It’s an iteration on what we already love about this place (the lack of commute, the cheap office space, the change of seasons, the informed political climate, the educated workforce, and, yes, even the corn and beans) combined with an “entrepreneurial spirit” that is so characteristic of the Valley but just starting to show its face, at least in a substantial and hopefully long-lasting way, locally.

Silicon Prairie as a ‘Center of Innovation’

I describe it as “Center of Innovation,” and that’s what the entire Silicon Prairie community is building. It’s a region of the country that is gaining traction in regards to its ideation and its execution. It’s a place where a guy in his 20s with a shaved head and Ramones T-shirt can create a new system to transfer money that goes around the credit card network. It’s a place where three grad students can ask a football coach about the worst part of his job and turn that into software that’s now in use by one of every three high schools nationwide. It’s a place where a team can build a digital coupon platform, raise more than $10 million one month and be acquired by an internet giant the next. And it’s a place that can support a growing tech and community blog (that’s us!) that already employs five people full-time with a need for more.

While those stories aren’t typical of the region, yet, they are all true and serve as inspiration to so many others who aren’t quite on a similar trajectory.

The second portion of this two-part opinion piece will appear on Silicon Prairie News on Friday.

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