Joni Cobb, Founder and CEO of Pipeline; Joe Hadzima, Sr. Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
Venture capitalists and other startup investors regularly jet from coast to coast in search of the next big deal, routinely referring to everything in between as “flyover country.” While there has recently been more attention given to the heartland in terms of investing — such as AOL co-founder Steve Case’s new Rise of the Rest fund– there is still undeniably very little awareness of just how strong the entrepreneurial markets are in the middle of the country.
The entrepreneurial activity in the Midwest and Plains states — the middle of America, broadly speaking — may not be as concentrated as the mega-agglomeration economies of California’s Silicon Valley or Boston’s Route 128 region or New York’s quickly expanding borough clusters.
The activity is more spread out and it doesn’t hit you square in the face after leaving the airport, driving to and from appointments, past corporate parks adorned with the signs of famous tech companies and VC firms. But, it’s there in places like Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and other cities with growing clusters of startups involved in a wide range of tech activities.
Some of the startups, like FarmMobile in Overland Park, Kan., are, unsurprisingly, focusing on technology tied to industries traditionally associated with the heartland, such as agriculture and manufacturing. In the case of FarmMobile, it’s developing products to store, share and sell agronomic and manufacturing machine data.
But, there are other young and dynamic companies involved with technologies that have little or nothing to do with agriculture and manufacturing, such as Kansas City’s Zoloz (previously known as EyeVerify), maker of identification management technology for mobile devices. It was the first U.S. company acquired by China’s Alibaba Group.
In America, entrepreneurs are increasingly starting to play to their respective region’s particular economic strengths. Read More