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10 people to grab coffee with if you’re new to the DSM startup community

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While the Silicon Prairie may span several states and include vastly different types of companies and entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds (and football rivalries), supportive communities are one factor that tie them all together. Whether you’re in Omaha or Des Moines, Kansas City or Cedar Rapids, you’ll find people who really care about helping their fellow entrepreneur thrive.

That being said, it can still be intimidating to be the new kid on the block. So we wanted to help.

This week, we’ll share lists of the 10 people from each community who are go-to points of contact who can help a new entrepreneur, designer or developer get connected with the local scene. Thanks to everyone who helped us pull it together. There are many, many others worth connecting with—drop them in the comments—but you have to start somewhere.

Earlier this week we kicked things off with our Nebraska lists—Omaha and Lincoln—but today we head to Iowa’s capital city to meet some of the entrepreneurs and community leaders who can help get you plugged into Des Moines. Want to get connected? Shoot them a tweet, give them a wave or buy them a coffee the next time you see them at their favorite hangout.

We asked each community member to tell us a bit about themselves, what they’re passionate about and where you can find them. 

 Derian-Baugh

Derian Baugh

Founder of Men’s Style Lab

Twitter: @DerianBaugh

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

My specialty is branding, marketing and exceptional customer experiences. This comes to life through my startup, Men’s Style Lab, a concierge styling service that provides effortless style for everyday guys. We pride ourselves on making memorable experiences that our customers can’t wait to tell other people about.

What are you looking for in new connections?

I’m always looking for fresh perspective. I believe each person has unique experiences that inform the decisions they make every day. I enjoy tapping into those experiences and exploring ways to translate that into how I run my company or interact with customers. I also enjoy lending my own expertise and experiences where it makes sense. My goal is for every interaction to be a win-win.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

If I’m not in The Lab, you can find me at Gravitate or Scooter’s Coffee, but almost any time you need me, I’ll be somewhere in the Midland Building, Mulberry St. & 6th Ave.

 Tej Dhawan

Tej Dhawan

Co-founder of NestMint & interim director of the Global Insurance Accelerator

Twitter: @tejdhawan

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

Getting the product done while building a company that’s complete with skills, revenue forecasts and logistics. I abhor analysis paralysis!

What are you looking for in new connections?

Guts and perseverance.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

The YMCA or home.

 Max Farrell

Max Farrell

Co-founder of Create Reason

Twitter@MaxOnTheTrack

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

I’m passionate about empowering people to love the work they do. I launched Create Reason, a company that focuses on inspiring entrepreneurship inside other organizations to pursue this mission. We’ve built out a process to create a more innovative culture within companies through a series of workshops and an internal function called a Creation Jam to serve as the ripple to creating that culture.

Beyond that, I’m passionate about building a rad entrepreneurial community in Iowa (my stomping grounds) and Arkansas (my home state).

What are you looking for in new connections?

Innovators inside companies. Execs who are open to new ways of executing. Community builders. Good stories. Good people.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

My Pontiac. I currently split my time between Des Moines and the road. When I’m around the Silicon Prairie, you can probably find me at Gravitate in Des Moines. I’m also starting to spend some time in KC.

 John Jackovin

John Jackovin

Founder of Bawte

Twitter@Jackovin

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

I love product. Coming up with really cool ideas and figuring out how to monetize them.

What are you looking for in new connections?

Someone who is totally unique… their own person. Someone who is firm in their beliefs, but willing to listen and adjust. No people who think their shit doesn’t stink. I have kids and if anyone’s shit wouldn’t stink it’d be theirs, but it does.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

Gravitate in Des Moines or visit me at my CrossFit box at CrossFit 515.

 Andrew Kirpalani

Andrew Kirpalani

Product manager at Bunchball

Twitter:@_kirps

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

By day I’m a product manager, ex-developer, by night, weekend and non-existent free time. I’m a Startup Weekend facilitator and organizer. I’d like to thing of myself as a connector in our community with my hands in a variety of little projects. I’m known for beer, beards, Scotch, Cards Against Humanity and a damn loud voice.

What are you looking for in new connections?

I’m always happy to meet someone with new ideas or perspective. I enjoy mentoring new members of the community when it comes to plugging in and helping anyone when it comes to product or development questions.

I’m always on the lookout for something new or fun to be a part of as a product guy, developer, community member or drinking buddy.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

I tend to gravitate to Gravitate. See what I did there?

 Ben McDougal

Ben McDougal

CEO of Jet Set Studio, marketing director at Drake Homes & dmStartup Drinks and 1 Million Cups organizer

Twitter: @BENovator

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

I specialize in bringing people together.

After 10 years in web development, I pivoted into a marketing position at Drake Homes. As a progressive home builder in Des Moines, it’s been a pleasure building our brand to match the quality of homes we build.

Along with this community-driven work, I continue to build Jet Set Studio, which is an established startup that develops interactive video game events around North America and manages Tournament Seeker, which is an innovative search engine for tournaments.

My work at Drake Homes and Jet Set Studio also has allowed me to better plug into the Des Moines tech and startup community. With a passion for bringing great people together, I’ve worked within the community to organize dmStartupDrinks, 1 Million Cups, Des Moines Tech Week and the I/OWA conference.

What are you looking for in new connections?

The power of an engaged network is unmatched and I believe that if you’re a connector, you become connected. With those two fundamentals in mind, I find it most effective to not have any objectives when meeting new people. I focus on learning about others and the rest falls into place.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

I live in the Internet and I’m easy to find. I always enjoy meeting sharp new people with interesting stories and invite you to reach out to have coffee (or cocktails) together soon. Cheers!

 Amanda Morrow headshot

Amanda Morrow

Designer at Change

Twitter@amandamorrow

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

I consider myself an expert in user experience and user interface design, especially when it comes to mobile. I love sitting down with someone and breaking down what problem they’re trying to solve and who they are trying to solve it for.

What are you looking for in new connections?

I enjoy chatting with people who are really passionate about what they do. I’m always looking to learn something new and gain a different perspective on how things can be done.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

Most often, you’ll find me at the Change office, just outside of downtown Des Moines. Around lunch time, I frequent places using Change, our point-of-sale system, like Tacopocalypse, New World Cafe and Fresh Cafe.

 Amy Jo Myers

Amy Jo Myers

Associate director of outreach programs for the University of Iowa

LinkedIn: Amy Jo Myers

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

I am most passionate about helping students and entrepreneurs. I have the unique opportunity to work in two different areas at the University of Iowa. I work with JPEC (John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center) students and particularly help them with their professional development for their careers. I help them make connections, discover how to translate what they have learned in school and done professionally into real-life application and getting jobs. Our students are awesome and I could spend hours helping them. My other passion is strategic planning and PR. I teach in the MA – Strategic Communication program for UI. Again, I have the opportunity to work with really bright students, and help them understand how to translate what they learn into winning strategic marketing and PR plans. I help them learn how to think really big and understand how to build strategies that can be competitive.

What are you looking for in new connections?

I like learning, and in particular about art, literature, gardening and history. I am also passionate about my connections who are interested in sharing what they know and their journey with students and newcomers. I like people who can slow down, enjoy the moment enough to listen and look around to see the beauty in each day. I admire people who are generous with their time, kind to everyone and have an easy smile to share.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

At my office at the UI Pappajohn. In my garden, pulling weeds. With my family making jewelry or reading. Playing with my treasures: antique dishes, majolica plates and bibelots.

 Tom Swartwood

Tom Swartwood

Assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Drake University

Twitter@Tswarts

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

Pitching startup ventures. Getting started. Teaching. Collaboration.

What are you looking for in new connections?

Constantly looking for new expertise, especially in innovative digital media, health science, sports and entertainment. Always happy to expand and share my network.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

Drake University Entrepreneurship Center. Mars Cafe. Fernando’s on University. I also hope to be a regular at Gravitate.

 Geoff Wood

Geoff Wood

Founder of Welch Avenue & Gravitate

Twitter@GeoffWood

What’s your specialty? What area do you work in or are passionate about?

I try to look at everything that I work on through the lens of whether or not it will grow the Iowa startup/tech community. It’s what I’m most passionate about it—be it raising the profile of local startups through telling their story, helping identify Iowa expats and keeping them involved in their home state or most recently opening the Gravitate space.

What are you looking for in new connections?

I do my best to take at least one meeting or call with anyone who asks—especially those new to the area. A lot of people have done that for me over the years so I try and repay the favor. My mind naturally goes to connections and I think about who could potentially help them execute on their idea, so that’s usually where I take the conversation next. New connections help expand my network and it usually pays off for everyone involved.

Where can we typically find you? (i.e., a favorite coffee shop, co-working space, neighborhood, etc.)

I spend as much time as I can at Gravitate, the entrepreneurial center of gravity in downtown Des Moines, but you can also typically find me on Wednesday mornings at 1 Million Cups at Green Grounds Cafe in Valley Junction.

 

Want to get plugged into another community? Check out our lists from across the region.  

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