Sioux City has a history as a tech leader, and history is about to repeat itself.
For those that don’t know, Sioux City was once a hub of cutting-edge technology employing thousands of tech workers.
In the late 1980s, Ted Waitt launched Gateway 2000 from his father’s Sioux City cattle farm. The Fortune 500 eventually moved to North Sioux City, S.D., where – at its height – employed 5,700 tech workers. Gateway has since been absorbed by Taiwan-based Acer Inc., but it’s past still influences the city’s burgeoning tech scene.
Sioux City’s tech companies today are a mix of small start-ups and growing conglomerates that, with the support of community-wide initiatives and events, have worked together to create an innovative network of movers and shakers.
Tech Forward Companies Taking Charge
Chatterkick came on the Sioux City tech scene in 2011 as a new type of social media agency. What began with two employees and a desk, has grown to 22 employees and four locations in Sioux City; Baton Rouge, La.; Des Moines and Sioux Falls. In the spring of 2018, Chatterkick moved to a shared creative space with Mod House Interiors and PLaN Architecture, nestled alongside the up-and-coming Pearl Street District.
Chatterkick is just one of a handful of local tech companies that are changing the landscape of Sioux City’s business scene. Within the last decade, lienwaivers.io launched its seamless lien waiver management and payment experience for contractors and construction companies. Its cloud-based construction disbursement software saves builders time and money while reducing operational risk. The company recently introduced xTier, an automated system for managing lower-tier lien waivers and payments.
Insulights located near Sioux City in Akron, Iowa, is another company utilizing technology to make its mark. Insulights are an affordable agriculture electric fence insulator that helps livestock and orchard managers protect and manage their electric fences. Insights are the only blue insulator equipped with a flashing LED light that warns farmers and ranchers of their damaged electric fence and helps them find the break in their circuit.
Sterling Computers, which employs some of the former Gateway Computers top executives, set up shop in North Sioux City to provide tech solutions to government and education customers. This past year Sterling announced plans for continued expansion for its North Sioux City campus.
Ways to Get your Foot in the Door
Many of Sioux City’s newest companies sprouted and grew with the help of community-wide initiatives and events. Briar Cliff University’s Swimming with the Sharks business competition was launched more than seven years ago and provides small grants to start-ups and college students. Swimming with the Sharks is just one of several business idea competitions available to local entrepreneurs to get their foot in
the door in Siouxland. Others include the Innovation Market put on annually by the Young Professional Network, SCGO and Dream Big Grow Here.
Along with competitions, the community plays host to several networking and collaboration events like Sioux City Launch Week, a week of events, held every November, relating to innovation and entrepreneurship, that give an invaluable leg-up to local businesses. The Iowa West Coast Initiative – focused on building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northwest Iowa – plays a huge role in this networking event and others like it.
For example, Entrepalooza is a two-week event held each February and Food Truck Fridays, which features locally-owned food trucks in downtown Sioux City, is held every Friday during the summer. The Sioux City Show, produced by Honeywave Media, gives local entrepreneurs, artists, musicians – anyone who’s doing cool things in Sioux City – a platform to get their message out. The Technically Iowa Podcast is also a Sioux City Built Brainchild of Beth Trejo and the Technology Association of Iowa. It features conversations from Iowa women tech entrepreneurs and leaders throughout the state.
Places to Get Sh*t Done
Those that have grown their idea and put it to work have the option to set up shop in two co-working spaces. Springboard Coworking is located in downtown Sioux City on 4th Street and Nucleus, launched in 2018, is located in the Ho-Chunk Centre. These co-working spaces give start-ups a professional office, without the expense. Started a little more than a year ago, Sioux City’s very own, Makerspace which gives hobbyists, inventors, artists and other innovative people a space to share their enthusiasm and knowledge.
Blow Off Some Steam
With all the tech companies that are coming to the area, it’s no surprise supporting businesses have quickly followed. Stone Bru is a local coffee company that recently opened a new location in Dakota Dunes, S.D. Brioux City Brewery is a small-batch brewer that brews craft beer out of Marty’s Tap on Court Street. Another brewery, Marto Brewing, announced their new home downtown Sioux City. Speaking of libations, Sioux City has added several new restaurants and craft cocktail bars to its repertoire, such as The Diving Elk, Table 32 and Bar Louie.
To top off the fun, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City announced more live shows to its venue this past year; there were 98 concerts from November 2017 to December 2018, giving Siouxlanders another place to have some fun.
These signs all point to a reboot of the local tech scene and a playground for new businesses and start-ups that will continue to drive the Sioux City Metro region forward.