Q&A: Renaud on StartupIowa, a statewide initiative launching today

StartupIowa, the eighth statewide "region" to join the Startup America Partnership, launches today in a closed event at Startup City Des Moines. Startup America …

StartupIowa, the eighth statewide “region” to join the Startup America Partnership, launches today in an open event at Startup City Des Moines.* Startup America Partnership CEO Scott Case and managing director of national partnerships Derek Holt, will join several local governments officials and business leaders from around the state. This is Case’s second trip to Iowa in recent months as he joined us on stage at Thinc Iowa in October where he talked not just about the efforts of the Partnership but also issued a personal challenge to the entire Silicon Prairie region.

Christian Renaud, one of the guiding principals behind StartupIowa and a mentor-in-residence at StartupCity Des Moines, described StartupIowa as an “initiative.” Other individuals involved with the initiative, according to a “Regional Plan” on StartupIowa’s website, include Jeff Curran of Iowa Workforce Development, Tej Dhawan of StartupCity Des Moines, Jamie Gyolai of Central College, Andy Stoll of SeedHere and Megan Pralle.

On Monday, we conducted an email Q&A with Renaud to learn more about StartupIowa, who’s behind it, who it will serve, what it means for the state and more. (Left, photo courtesy of Renaud)

Silicon Prairie News (SPN): What is Startup Iowa and how does it relate to the Startup America Partnership?

Christian Renaud: StartupIowa is a statewide effort to accelerate and encourage entrepreneurship across Iowa. With StartupIowa, Iowa joins the Startup America Partnership as the eight region in the country.

SPN: Who is working on Startup Iowa locally? Who will lead it after launch?

Renaud: There is no single owner for StartupIowa, it is a statewide effort. Over 100 people contributed to the regional plan from around the state, in the public and private sector. It is not a new or separate organization, but the aggregate of the resources that already exist within the state. Each of the efforts and initiatives that already assist entrepreneurs, from education to government to accelerators and incubators to professional organizations and venture firms is included as part of StartupIowa. Each of these are individually driven by their own teams with their own goals and objectives. StartupIowa is simply a way to unify those into a single perspective and vantage for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“There is no single owner for StartupIowa, it is a statewide effort.” – Christian Renaud, StartupCity Des Moines

SPN: What does it mean for Iowa to have specific startup region?

Renaud: I think it’s recognition of the amazing level of activity we have underway in a state of 3 million people. We have extensive resources available given the size state, population density, and traditional industries. Adding the StartupIowa feather to our cap provides recognition of this activity and tools for entrepreneurs.

SPN: Who is the audience for Startup Iowa? Who does the initiative serve?

Renaud: StartupIowa is ultimately about the aspiring entrepreneurs, “wantrapreneurs” throughout the state who are struggling to identify the resources they need to grow their company. The focus is on startups in tech/bio/materials, and not focused on traditional small businesses such as retail and service industries.

SPN: There was a lot of organizing and “getting ducks in a row” to get to the point of launch. How does the initiative work operationally moving forward?

Renaud: The organizing was primarily a matter of speaking with the various resource providers throughout the state and making them aware of StartupIowa. There is widespread interest throughout the state to think statewide, and not be territorially parochial.

Moving forward, the entity is not an entity other than to draw attention to the work being done around the state by private and public sector individuals. Think of StartupIowa more like Wikipedia than some sort of top-down hierarchical organization.

SPN: What sort of funding is involved to launch the initiative? Does it generate its own funds to cover operational expenses?

Renaud: No organization = no funding required. Launching has some light costs that are covered by StartupCity. There is no specific opex to running StartupIowa, as it is ultimately an aggregate of the great efforts already underway in the state, each of which are individually funded.

SPN: What have the national Startup America Partnership staff said about the startup climate in this Iowa as you’ve been working with them the last several weeks?

Renaud: I’d have to check the Thinc Iowa videos, but they’ve been verbally very supportive of our initiative and infrastructure. They have gone all-out to welcome us into the partnership and are actively participating in the launch tomorrow in Des Moines.

Here’s StartupIowa’s “Regional Plan,” which includes a subset of resources available to startups throughout the state of Iowa. (Plan found on startupia.org.)

*Update 10 a.m.: This post originally stated the launch event was closed but that was in error.


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