// Written at some point during a week migrating around New York with Shane Reiser trying to figure out what the hell to think of TechCrunch Disrupt and the New York tech scene. //

TechCrunch Disrupt was a enlightening experience for me. More so lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to duplicate what happened in Des Moines with Dwolla, in other areas.

That also comes with various questions like:

  • what’s next for Dwolla.
  • what makes sense for Dwolla.
  • what makes sense for me?

I think of myself actually as fairly irrelevant in the situation (We all know I’m going to do what needs to happen for the company) other than the fact that I know I need community.

So I went on this trip to do some exploring and experience something new.

I’d be lying if I said that this trip didn’t frustrate the hell out of me.

I feel like I lack a voice. I’ll work to acquire one.

I feel like I lack credibility. I’ll go get it.

I feel like I lack access. I’ll work to get it.

Either way. I’m going to acquire these things the same way I have always tried to, and I have no doubt that if I just work like I can and just keep going… Something is going to happen. I know that I could very easily act like this didn’t happen and just act like I didn’t feel this way but I’m a bad liar… It did happen… And I do feel like I liar because it has taken me so long to say anything.

What frustrates me so much is this. Acquiring attention in New York (at Disrupt) nets you a return on your time in ways that you have to see to believe. This conference isn’t about community unless you are presenting. Which is not a bad thing at all. The community radiates through the presenters and the support structure kicks in as you’re accepted to present. As it should. There is a process to getting in the door, being embraced, and then being allowed to shout your message to the world.

What conference can you launch a company at in the Prairie where just being on stage gets your first thousand customers lined up?

– crickets – – crickets – – crickets –

Well until you can give me an honest answer no one here has any right to do anything but help more companies from here, launch there.

If you don’t go… You’ll never know…

I’d argue I’m an active advocate for the Prairie but I know the above statement is going to drive negative responses and misunderstandings such as:

This is bad for the community, Ben!
Lying is better for the community? Lying to people in start ups who are putting their whole life into something is just like lying to your kids. They’ll eventually find out and they’ll be pissed as hell when they do. The difference is your kids probably won’t internalize the opportunity cost of what they did with the last 2 years of their life.

We should throw our own launch events! Then people would never need to go to something like Disrupt.
My answer… Yes. We should. We should also realize they should be used as a stepping stone for certain companies to get to events like this. We shouldn’t create fallacies in our eco-system that you have to do everything here so we can cast a net 1/20th the size and act like it was bigger because the people we told to launch their company this way, didn’t know any better but to believe us? Once again… They’ll eventually learn if they have the gumption to go see for themselves.

We should throw more:

  • Demo nights
  • Hack nights
  • Community events
  • Meetups

So that people can fine tune their skills, get word out on a local level, and get ready to present on a bigger stage. If we can embrace one another to help one another learn to connect to tech hubs, we will all be better off for it.

What about Big Omaha?

That isn’t a jab at Big Omaha or the Prairie. That’s not what Big Omaha does and it’s wildly successful at doing what it does. If you are in tech and in the Prairie, Big Omaha is the single most important community event of the year. The value of Big-O isn’t in launching a company. It’s in building community and doing it with people outside the Prairie. That has tremendous value. I’m hoping it continues to find new ways to connect people in the communities coming in… With the communities they are coming into.

I spent days letting this bounce around in my head…

Things that kind of rub me wrong that tell me some people who could, aren’t helping:

  • More than one person has asked me not to put their name into a list trying to help people in the Prairie understand who is who. If I can’t help people find you, why would they stay? Making people jump through more hurdles to find investors doesn’t weed out the hard workers. It confuses people who need your help! Wonder why venture hacks has done so well? It’s not because they’ve made finding money harder or had an elitist attitude about it.
  • I know some of you are making investments you’ll quietly take credit for in back rooms  but I don’t see you jumping into a conversation in public about the company. You might even be standing there listening to a conversation about the company, not knowing… That I know… You’re involved.. That says you don’t believe in it… Not that you’re humble. There is a reason outside firms and angels leverage their personal brands to get deals and if you aren’t willing to put your name on it what real faith do you have in the founder(s) and why should they take your money?
  • There is no such thing as us (DSM, KC, Omaha) vs. them (NYC, PA, SF). Do you know someone in the Valley or in NY who can help someones project here? Introduce them! Don’t try to save them from these places. Introduce them! You are being selfish when you don’t write the introduction. Not saving them! The good ones are going to leave and be pissed you didn’t tell them the truth.

With that said. I’d like say something positive.

Dear Prairie Tech Entrepreneur,

Building a company in the Prairie and looking for investors? Put it on Angel List. Trying to figure out how to launch? Don’t screw around arguing about whose idea is better with people in town… Get out in front of people and start talking to your customers. Want to really stir the pot? Apply to Disrupt… Put yourself out there so people can tell you how much it sucks.

Grow thick skin. Never stop making it better and keep coming back.

Someone is reading this thinking “why does your opinion matter”, and to you I say this…

It doesn’t.

The only difference between me and you is that I currently have a voice for whatever reason… My voice is no different than any other voice… Let yours out. Respond. Prove me wrong. Rustle some feathers. Make it interesting.