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With inspiration from Brad Feld, meetups emerge in Omaha, Iowa City

Venture capitalist and author Brad Feld speaks about his book “Startup Communities” at Thinc Iowa 2012.

As the Silicon Prairie startup community develops, one of the ways collaboration and connections occur is through consistent opportunities to engage with one another.

A strong community, moreover, is lead by a group of actors who are passionate around building our cities and region into something greater, and they take steps to make that happen.

Actions by three individuals in the wake of our Thinc Iowa 2012 event in October – the creation of two new meetup groups – embody these two community characteristics.

In Omaha, Travis Graham initiated a group called Omaha Coffee and Startups in November. Reflecting on Brad Feld‘s talk about startup communities, Graham said that he realized there is a group of people that only get together at major events. “I think that is unfortunate,” Graham said on the meetup’s blog. His desire is to continue many of the conversations and connections that began at Thinc Iowa and elsewhere, and develop those over time.

The initial event brought together almost a dozen people, most of which Graham hadn’t met before, and even more powerful, hadn’t met each other before.

Omaha Coffee and Startups takes place the first Tuesday of each month. Its next event is 9 a.m. Dec. 4 at Legends Comics.

In Iowa Ciy, Josh Cramer and Joshua Bass organized the city’s first Open Coffee on Nov. 14 at Capanna Coffee & Gelato. At that event and the two that followed it they had an encouraging turnout, averaging between 20 and 30 people.

Iowa City Open Coffee (right, logo) is held every two weeks from 8-9 a.m. For the next event, stay tuned to the meetup’s Facebook page.

I asked Cramer to share the background of activities the led toward the decision to start Open Coffee and I was inspired by what he shared. Here’s what he had to say via email:

I spent the month of August in Boulder and participated in their startup community’s activities including Boulder Open Coffee. It was a place where you simply showed up, introduced yourself and talked about what you were up to and what you were working on. I thought, we need to do this in Iowa City, because I know there’s entrepreneurs here and people who are working on starting companies as well, and it can be a lonely road when you’re first getting going.

The act of coming together once every other week and seeing other entrepreneurs who are fighting the good fight is tremendously encouraging to people.

Part of it is knowing that every two weeks you can show up, have coffee with other entrepreneurs and know that you’re not alone. That’s very important, and one of the main reasons I decided to start the event in Iowa City.

Major kudos to these individuals, and others, for taking the initiative to not only consider what’s needed or missing, but to move forward and work to strengthen the community.


Credits: Photo by Anna Jones | Art of Photography and Phillip Harder.

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