The last couple months have been a crazy busy for us. We’ve been experimenting with new ideas and searching for the best startups to invest in. Soon, we will be announcing our new batch of startups and beginning the next phase of our 2017 cohort. Before our team dives into all of the fun and exciting things that lay ahead, we thought we’d take a chance to reflect on one of the experiments we ran this year, the NMotion Roadshow.
The idea behind the Roadshow was simple, we will travel to 9 of the top startup communities in the Midwest, share our story, and recruit startups for our upcoming cohort. Along the way, we learned more about what it means to create the right ecosystem to catalyze emerging businesses in cities not traditionally considered hotbeds for startups.
So what can the Lincoln community takeaway from all our travels?
1. Focus on your ecosystem’s strengths
Many of the communities that we visited understood that it is important to leverage the things they are already doing well to build their startup community. Two communities that took this principle to heart were Rochester and Minneapolis. Given their proximity to Mayo Clinic, one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world, they have resources that are tough to find anywhere else. Both startup communities have been very intentional about utilizing the number health professionals to help drive innovation and create new startups.
2. Create an inclusive culture
Every successful community that we visited had the philosophy of “giving back” ingrained in their DNA. Creating a culture that supports newcomers and gives them the ability to tap into mentors and veteran founders is a fantastic way to create a healthy ecosystem. Kansas City and Denver have proven this model to be very effective. Both cities have organizations that are supporting students, new entrepreneurs, and even founders who have already built successful companies.
3. Startups need access to capital
“How do I get funding/raise a seed round?” was one of the most common questions we received while on the Roadshow. In many cases, we argue that is the wrong question for startups to be asking, but we do believe that it is important for startups who need capital have the ability to get it. A great example of a community who is actively working to bring investors to their startups is Fargo. Every year, Fargo hosts the Prairie Capital Summit, an event that brings dozens of investors to Fargo to meet founders and discuss investments in the Midwest. This event gives both founders and investors a way to connect without having to drive to multiple destinations.
4. Cultivating new startups is just as important as financing
Not all cities have a lack of capital to invest in their startups. Some cities have a large supply of investors looking for early companies to place bets on, but what really matters is that a city has venture-ready startups. Madison definitely excels at this. Many of the startups we met with here were graduates of University of Wisconsin – Madison. Pulling talent from local universities creates a fantastic foundation for a startup ecosystem. Additionally, their community has several local programs that help guide new entrepreneurs and teach them what they need to know to be successful.
While there is always work to be done, we have a lot to cheer about in our community of Lincoln, Nebraska. Our university does a great job of fostering entrepreneurship among its student, we have several awesome events that support founders at all stages, and our entrepreneurial initiatives receive tremendous support from local community leaders. With the help of founders, investors, and government officials, our community has created a startup ecosystem that’s on the path to becoming one of the best in the Midwest.