Monetery Tech Summit 2019: Setting the bar for ecosystem building advocacy in the Midwest

May 21, 2019, was not just another rainy Spring day in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines, but also Day One of the highly anticipated Monetery conference where hundreds of tech entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem builders gathered to exchange ideas in the historical downtown space of the Temple of Performing Arts. Monetery was first launched…


May 21, 2019, was not just another rainy Spring day in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines, but also Day One of the highly anticipated Monetery conference where hundreds of tech entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem builders gathered to exchange ideas in the historical downtown space of the Temple of Performing Arts.

Monetery was first launched in 2018 by Des Moines-based financial technology company, Dwolla as a forum “to connect with thinkers, share ideas with visionaries and find the people who are committed to creating tech value in the Midwest” as is stated on the conference website.

The overarching mission of this event is to foster the creation of a sustainable competitive tech ecosystem. One that will not only draw but also retain tech talent from all around the country while boosting the local economy here in the Midwest.

According to Dwolla founder, CEO and Monetery organizer, Ben Milne, in a recent press release, “All of the opportunity is here. We have the resources, we have the ingenuity, we are starting to have the infrastructure. As companies are beginning to divest in places like Silicon Valley, there is no reason why the Midwest can’t fill that gap. And if there is a reason, it’s that Midwesterners don’t realize it’s possible. That’s what Monetery is for.”

Local and national support

There has been tremendous support from local businesses for Monetery. Founding sponsors include Bow & Arrow Communications, Brown Winick Attorneys at Law, Corteva Agriscience, Delta Dental, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Grinnell College, Grinnell Mutual, Next Level Ventures, Principal Financial Group, the Technology Association of Iowa and Workiva.

Community sponsor, Amazon Web Services provided tickets for students and community members who otherwise would not have been able to attend. While Google for Startups, as the Connection lunch sponsor, ensured all participants had an opportunity to network while enjoying a delicious meal at one of Des Moines top five restaurants

Presentations by nationally renowned speakers, expert interviews, panel discussions and networking gatherings dominated the first day’s proceedings. Organized into five sessions held throughout the day, topics such as the critical decisions required to build and grow a tech company, the measures of start-up success, team building strategies, the impact of current policies on the tech industry and the approaches to building ethical software were examined.

Promoting diversity

Speakers included Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, Martina Lauchengco, operating partner at Costanoa Ventures, Lindsay Knight, Director of Platform and Chicago Ventures, Albert Wenger, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, Dave Tucker, Senior Vice-President of Technology at Workiva, Sherri Davidoff, CEO at LMG Security & BrightWise, Inc., Harper Reed, Hacker, Entrepreneur & former CTO for the Obama 2012 campaign and Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2020.

There was much emphasis on facilitating innovation, building relationships, creating collaborations and particularly on encouraging inclusivity. According to the website, “Growing an inclusive tech ecosystem,” is the Monetery 2019 mandate.

Monetery’s campaign promoting diversity was further highlighted during the conference closing remarks for Day1 when $10,000 contributions each were presented to two Des Moines-based non-profit organizations, Pi515 and Iowa Safe Schools, that promote support for youth from populations that are underrepresented in the tech industry.

Pi515, an after-school program empowering refugee and underserved youth through tech education, was represented by founder and Executive Director, Nancy Mwirotsi.

“Nancy Mwirotsi, Pi515 and these students are such an inspiration,” said Stephanie Atkin, Dwolla’s VP of Marketing in a recent press release. “As we grow our tech ecosystem, an important piece of that is having local talent to hire. Nancy is cultivating that talent — she just needs some help. We are here to help.”

Executive Director, Nate Monson, received the second donation on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools, an organization whose mission, as stated on their website, is, to provide safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ and allied youth through education, outreach, advocacy, and victim services.

Additionally, Dwolla also took the opportunity to announce its launch of the Transition Forward Project, an initiative that supports the development of policies and guidelines inclusive of transgender and gender non-conforming employees.

Day One wrapped up with an evening networking reception hosted at The Republic on Grand.

Connecting innovators with capital

May 22, 2019, Day 2 of Monetery was reserved for one-on-one meetings between venture capitalists and innovators. Participation by 17 venture firms and 39 start-ups yielded at least 106 scheduled engagements which were all held at Dwolla offices through the day.

Below are some of SPN’s favorite comments from various speakers heard throughout the day’s sessions:


“Smart people are creative and they find ways to get the information they want, but I’m pessimistic about our internet, where it will get more controlled and the hysteria of the bad things are going to make us forget about the good parts of the internet,”

~Matthew Prince


“At the end of the day it’s not what’s in your head, its not what you think is right. It’s what the customers want…always focus on what customers are telling you.”

“One of the real measures of startup success is finding and building a system that works for you and your team.”

~Albert Wenger


“Find your way of threading your own needle and what works for you.”

“It’s not a mistake as long as there is learning.”

~Martina Lauchengo


“The smartest founders are those that actively seek out help and mentoring. If Tony Soprano is ok with therapy and personal development, founders should be too.”

~Lindsay Knight


Not everything is going to work, and that’s ok. It’s a really easy thing to say that. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do that.”

~Dave Tucker


Monetery‏ (@moneterysummit).“The job of the leader is to make sure there is trust throughout the organization.” @SherriDavidoff follows the 3 C’s of trust: competence, character & caring. #monetery. 9:38 AM – 21 May 2019. Tweet


“And what is oil of the 21st century? Data, technology, AI. What they’re doing with oil in Alaska, we can do for the entire country. It starts as something that seems far out but becomes vital the more you look into it.”

~Andrew Yang


“Always think about the person on the other end of your startup.”

“I think that everytime one of us invests in a startup, or maybe it’s even three or four startups, we should throw a check to a college that has a good ethics program. We have to train these young people who are obviously smarter than us to be the leaders that we need in the future.”

~Harper Reed


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