I just finished reading a 2 part series on Silicon Prairies News about the makings of a new startup scene. Here are the links if you’d like to read.

Part 1Part 2

My mind was drawn back to the entry below. As I quite frequently write entries and never hit publish or leave them 2/3rd the way finished I’m constantly left with remnants of previous entries or incomplete thoughts. This was one of them… But maybe it will have value for someone out there.

Below is the original text

// Right now I’m 3 pages into an email that involves 4 spreadsheets, 20 pages of reg docs, and an attorney’s email that I feel like I need cryptography expert to analyze. 

My brain is about to shift into perpetual ooze and I’ve gotta put my mind somewhere else for a minute. //

I took an evening off for personal time to attend a christmas party and go visit Santa Claus today, which has me wondering how people have any time to be home. I haven’t even made it home since mid week and I’m flying out on Monday for Dallas, New York, and then San Francisco. I know I’m out of clean clothes and since I shaved the other day with hot water and a razor… I’m aware I may also be out of shaving cream. 

I should be doing laundry right now or at Target getting supplies but as usual… I’m camped in the Midland. Momentarily I need a break from this document.

3 things happened to me last night (during my attempt at having a personal life) at this Christmas Party that even I didn’t expect. 

  1. Someone pitched me on buying packaged debt.
  2. I successfully got a picture of Joe Shannahan.
  3. I met someone young from the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

The third item is really the one bringing me to where my brain is meandering towards.

The time I spent in Newton drove me absolutely nuts because I knew of the economic value of the land which still sits vacant. Cedar Falls created real value in what they’ve done in the Industrial Park and in that action, I think set a strong precedent for the impact economic development can have, at least for me personally.

I see Des Moines doing something special and this particular individual represents something that I think is pushing others to take notice that there is in fact, something special happening in Des Moines.

The entire town also seems obsessed about not becoming another “insert city / buzz word / entity here” but becoming a better Des Moines. Everyone seems focused on the awkwardly unpredictable bubble that is DSM. The DSM tech scene in particular is like a guy going through puberty. It’s not grown up yet, it probably doesn’t fully understand itself yet, it trips sometimes, and it is constantly trying to kiss the hottest girl it can. It’s afraid grown up tech scenes know a lot of things it doesn’t. It is, at times, afraid to share things that it needs to because it knows it may be made fun of for sharing it, because the grown up will remind it how young it is and how much it has to learn. If anyone knows how much we don’t know here, will they take us seriously?

Obviously, like a guy going through puberty. The tech scene second guesses itself a lot and questions its relevance while trying franticly to demonstrate it’s value and assert itself as relevant. 

Inevitably, this awkward moment in time passes and it all grows up unless it gets off course and winds up in a series of cubicles talking about the good old days. We will all learn that to get our ideas out we have to share it and publicly put ourselves out there. We’ll start publicly admitting what we don’t know and start sharing what we do. And right in front of your very eyes, the tech scene will grow up or wither into irrelevance where it accepts it’s position in the cube it now finds itself in.

Ideas, tech scenes, communities… All start somewhere. It’s not something to be embarrassed of. It’s something to embrace and it is awesome to be a part of.

… Enough ranting…

I’m not saying that being older at IDED is a bad thing. I don’t even know if it’s called that right now. What I do know is this young guy listened to me go bezerk with my opinions on:

  • Why just giving away tax credits to angels might not be the best way to bring in dollars. Primarily because the really great investors may enjoy a tax credit, it probably won’t break a deal in a company they really love.
  • Attract entrepreneurs.
  • Evangelize what we have in Iowa.

More than one investor will not understand why I’m saying this. Sure, I like that I could make angel investments and maximize my investment by leveraging what the state could give me for free… But!… If it’s a killer company I’m going to invest anyway and my first question to a company is never “Can I get a tax credit?”. 

For example, there is a company in KC right now that I would love to invest in and I won’t ever take a second look at tax credits because I love the idea.

I’m also unlikely to start making investments in one company over another because the tax cut/incentive for me is slightly greater. Considering I’m not a great investor maybe I’m missing something but generally speaking, I just don’t think tax credits are the end all be all.

I think talent and execution far exceeds the value of tax credits. When the talent finds what we have here and selects it as the place to execute… We’re on to something.

If the idea is brilliant and the person behind it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when they pitch me. I’m in. If you’re only making angel investments because of a tax credit or you’re waiting to make one because you can’t get something for free… Maybe you’re not the right angel investor.

I don’t want you as an investor in my company if the only reason for you to invest is the government incentive. I want you as an investor in my company because you’ll work hard with me to make it tick. If those two happen to coincide in a beautiful scenario of unpredictable awesomeness, that’s great.

I think there’s a lot of ways to package tax credits to accelerate investments but that’s a conversation for another day.

If you have great entrepreneurs and people evangelizing what we have here, inevitably investors will come here becuase of the talent and thus, economic impact will ensue…

  • Talent attracts talent.
  • Success breeds success.
  • Good investors find the talent and returns.
  • The more people who understand and thrive, the better the community does.

What we want here?

  • Great investors.
  • Great entrepreneurs.
  • Economic growth.

Since we’ll never be the valley we really should just concentrate on being a better Des Moines and I love that the city sees that. Des Moines is an amazing place to be and the more people who see that (even if they don’t live here) are going to share that with the world.

I think Des Moines has a bed of talent. We need to concentrate on shedding light on that talent, on helping investors find the talent, and support all of them when they do.

Investors probably aren’t going to find the top talent because of a tax credit. They are going to find the talent because of an introduction.

Disclaimer. I have no idea who the person in the picture is but the TShirt is from Raygun.