the PULL #221

October 11, 2017
I was recently at a meeting with some startup community builder friends and the idea came up that entrepreneurial ecosystems can really benefit from having a community "flag" to rally around and get all the elements—people, companies, investors, chambers, etc.—moving in the same direction.

The topic was suggested by a friend from Chattanooga, Tenn. who noted that their "Gig City" initiative (a community-wide public fiber optic network started in 2010) had been exactly that for their community. It's not that this fast internet necessarily solved all their problems or that everyone was even building solutions that utilized the network but the idea of it become a sort of base platform for the community.

VentureBeat wrote an overview piece on Chattanooga this week and saw the same thing. They describe it this way: "where Chattanooga has succeeded, however, is in taking one component of a tech ecosystem—fast, reliable internet—and used it as a building block for elements that the city was previously lacking."

A similar flag was planted in Kansas City when Google Fiber was first announced in 2012 and it looks like Fargo is in the midst of planting one now around drone technology.

This conversation made me think about where we can plant a flag for this community and the obvious starting point is data centers. I'll leave it to the politicians and economists to debate if recent incentive projects for Facebook, Apple and Microsoft make financial sense but—like it or not—this is a path we're going down and we should find a way to leverage it for the benefit of the startup community.

I bristle a bit when I see data center projects described as a buoy for our tech or startup community. Yes, the facilities are owned by major tech companies and its nice to be able to say that they're on the ground in Iowa but the network engineers they employ here are not the same as the software engineers and product managers they employ on the coasts. The latter groups are the ones much more likely to spin out one day and create their own companies, growing the ecosystem. If Apple had announced this summer that they were bringing application development teams to Waukee, I think this is a very different conversation and I would be all in on the idea that what we're seeing is the future of our tech community. However, data centers are what we have and I'm pretty excited about the idea of using them for our own "building block for elements that [our community is] lacking".

I mentioned this idea to my friend Tom Chapman, who does research on entrepreneurial ecosystems all around the country, and he suggested expanding it even broader to plant the flag on "data" and tie the data centers together with the big data initiatives going on in our insurance companies and at our large research universities. He even suggested a theme: "Des Moines is where data lives". Developing slogans and tag lines aren't my thing but I think he's on to something.


PS. One week from today, on October 18, we're hosting DSM Brew Coffee Co. for a talk on "How DSM Brew is Striving to Build a Truly Inclusive Workplace" at Gravitate Downtown (317 6th Avenue, Suite 102, Des Moines). I'm really looking forward to it, its a topic that many folks in our community and working on and I hope that you'll be able to join us. 
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Firehouse Software acquired by Texas company ESO Solutions
Clay & Milk (Joey Aguirre, October 4)

A 20-year-old software company, Firehouse Software of Urbandale, was acquired this week by Austin, Texas-based ESO Solutions, Inc. Firehouse Software developed "incident reporting and records management" software for fire departments and counted more than 11,000 such agencies as its customers prior to the acquisition, according to reporting by Clay & Milk. ESO plans to retain all of Firehouse's employees.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
AgTech Acquisition: EFC Systems Purchases AgSolver
Farm Journal/Ag Pro (Margy Eckelkamp, October 5)

In similar news, an Ames software company, AgSolver, has been acquired by EFC Systems of Brentwood, Tenn. Dr. Dave Muth, a Vice President and co-founder at AgSolver, will lead a new EFC division formed by the acquisition.

AgSolver was founded in 2013 with ties to the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University. According to CrunchBase, they raised a Series A investment round that year led by Monsanto Growth Ventures with participation by Dallas Venture Partners.

Terms of this deal were not disclosed, either.
New invention protects piglets
Wallaces Farmer (Joey Aguirre, October 2)

SwineTech, the makers of a piglet saving device "described as a cross between a Life Alert device, a shock collar for dogs and a fitness tracker", continues to rack up awards in collegiate competitions. Most recently they won the "Arrow Innovation Prize" and were named a finalist for the National Inventors Hall of Fame's 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition.

SwineTech has raised over $1MM, according to Wallaces Farmer, and launched their initial product "SmartGuard" on a limited basis. It retails for $1,219 per device and the company plans a wider launch at the 2018 World Pork Expo.
Meet LadyDev
Women Who Code told Jesse Benson that Des Moines is too small of a market to start a chapter of their organization so what did you she do? Create her own thing, of course. Meet LadyDev and learn about their first event PLIBMTTBHGATY (yep, PLIBMTTBHGATY).

The Full Riker
DMACC West (West Des Moines) announced the full speaker schedule for their 2018 ciWeek event coming March 5-8. The line up includes a mix of scientists, explorers and TV stars including "Number One" himself, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Johnathan Frakes.

Startup Weekend is off
The Startup Weekend Iowa City organizing crew announced this week that they were scuttling their 2017 event "due to low interest and a number of other factors." Dude.

Startup Weekend is on
Startup Weekend Cedar Falls is a go, however, and it starts this Friday, October 13 (spooky). Tickets are still on sale and they are less than $25! Sweet.

Get well Debi!
Debi Durham, Iowa's economic development director, told the Sioux City Journal that she has been battling cancer for the past eight months and that the prognosis is good. Debi has been a great supporter of the startup community since she was appointed in 2011 and we're all relieved to hear the positive news.
  • 10/12 — Gravitate Member's Coffee (Downtown)
  • 10/12 — Chair Massage Day (Downtown)
  • 10/12 — Gravitate Member Potluck (Valley Junction)
  • 10/12 — Iowa State University Entrepreneurship Club Visit (Downtown)
  • 10/13 — FRI13TH: Horror Movie Marathon (Valley Junction)
  • 10/16 — Rerun Mondays: The Office (Downtown & Valley Junction)
  • 10/17 — Show & Tell Lunch Hour (Downtown)
  • 10/18 — Lunch Hour: How DSM Brew is Striving to Build a Truly Inclusive Workplace (Downtown)
  • 10/19 — Open Coffee (Valley Junction)
  • 10/19 — Third Thursday [Free] Coworking Day (Valley Junction)
  • 10/19 — Gravitate Community Happy Hour
  • 10/23 — Rerun Mondays: The Office (Downtown & Valley Junction)
  • 10/24 — Group C Digital Marketing Seminar (Valley Junction)
  • 10/24 — Founder Fireside: Brian Sauer of Saturday MFG (Valley Junction)
  • 10/25 — DevOps DSM Monthly Meeting (Downtown)
  • 10/26 — Drink + Think (Downtown)
  • 10/30 — Rerun Mondays: The Office (Downtown & Valley Junction)
  • 11/3 — First Friday [Free] Coworking Day (Downtown)
  • 11/3 — Gravitate Community Happy Hour (Downtown)
  • 11/6 — Rerun Mondays: The Office (Downtown & Valley Junction)
  • 11/8 — Gravitate Member Potluck (Downtown)
  • 11/9 — Gravitate Member's Coffee (Downtown)
See the full Gravitate calendar
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The Pull is curated by Geoff Wood and produced with help from Megan Bannister. I'm not superstitious ... but I am a little stitious.

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